By Jim Rogers
The Atomic Rowing Junior program at Oak Ridge Rowing Association has qualified two rowers for the 2016 USRowing Youth National Championships based on their medal-winning performances at the USRowing Southeast Youth Championships earlier this month. Sarah Kate Rogers of Oak Ridge won a silver medal in the Women’s Youth Single (WY1x) and, rowing with Clara Hay of Knoxville, won a bronze medal in the Women’s Youth Pair (WY2).
In the single event, Rogers—competing against young ladies from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee—progressed easily through the 2,000-meter heats before narrowly losing in the final to Mikayla Dutton of Inverness, Florida, a 2016 University of Tennessee signee.
In the Women’s Youth Pair final, Rogers and Hay earned bronze behind strong performances from experienced crews from Nashville and Jacksonville, Florida.
At next month’s national championship in West Windsor, New Jersey, Rogers and Hay will defend their strong regional championship performances in both events, competing against as many as 24 other competitors through both heats and semifinals for a coveted spot in the grand finals.
USRowing Youth National Championship competitors qualify from seven separate national districts, and they represent powerhouse rowing programs from the East Coast to the West Coast and the northern United States to the southern United States.
The race strategy for the national championship shifts substantially from the regional event. Every 2,000-meter race is hotly contested across all six racing lanes, and any rowers that do not advance to the semifinals from the heats must come up through the repechage. Precious energy is expended on a compact racing schedule.
“Nationals is absolutely packed with very fast and very experienced rowers,” Rogers said. “I have to know everything I can about who is lined up next to me, and adapt my race plan every single time to give me the best chance to advance.”
Most competitors choose a single discipline at the national level, so the decision for the Atomic Juniors to race Rogers in two events turns up the pressure even more. Rogers and Hay train on Melton Hill Lake six days a week, alternating between the sweep rowing pair, and the sculling single.
“It takes a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work to get to this point in the season,” Coach Shannon Moore said. “They balance both the competitive intensity and teamwork that are necessary to be successful at this level.”
Rogers is no stranger to the USRowing National stage, successfully representing Oak Ridge Rowing Association’s Junior Atomic Rowing program at the USRowing Youth National Championships in both 2013 and 2014, and placing sixth nationally in the Women’s Youth single in 2015. That experience will prove invaluable as she and Hay prepare for this year’s championships.
Although this is Hay’s first trip to nationals, she has been rowing and competing in competitive local and regional events for several years.
“I am very excited to reach nationals in the pair,” Hay said. “We both love racing, we’ve been training hard and we are going to put it all out there on race day.”
Rogers will join Boston University’s Lightweight Women’s Rowing program beginning in August 2016. Hay, a rising junior at Catholic High School, will bring this wealth of experience back to a growing and competitive Atomic Juniors Team.
The 2016 Youth National Championships will be held June 10-12. They will be hosted by Princeton National Rowing Association at Mercer County Park in West Windsor, New Jersey.
For more information on Oak Ridge Rowing and the Atomic Rowing programs, visit orra.org.
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