A Day on the River: ‘Hey, we’re going rowing’

Morgantown Dominion Post
5 June 2011
By Devon Unger

Sculls and sweeps darted up and down the Monongahela River on Saturday, during the Monongahela Rowing Association’s National Learn to Row Day festivities.

The event, in its second year, gave members of the public a chance to take a free crash course in rowing, and people of all ages showed up for their chance to get out on the water.

“I’m going to sign up and take the classes,” said Carol Lagodich, 58, of Morgantown. “I haven’t done much in the way of team sports and that was definitely working as a team. I have a much better appreciation for the difficulty after actually doing it.”

Lagodich rowed on the first eight-person sweep to take the water. In a sweep, rowers use one oar in groups of two, four or eight and may use a coxswain. The coxswain is a nonrowing team member who steers the boat and helps synchronize the rowers.

As well as a four and eight-person sweep, there were two person sculls and a few single sculls for people to try out. A scull uses one, two or four rowers without a coxswain, and each rower has two oars, one in each hand.

Gabrielle Lafata, a 19-year old Morgantown resident and student at West Virginia Wesleyan, said she saw fliers for the event while rollerblading on the trail and decided to check it out. She was one of the first to try the single sculls.

“I did track for four years and cross-country for three years,” Lafata said. “I learned how to row today, and if I get in tomorrow I think I’d get a better workout and be able to enjoy the scenery a little more.”

The MRA youth program also was able to gain a few members. Twins, Daniel and Aaron Flowers, 12, of Morgantown said they were surprised to find out they would be learning to row.

“My mom woke me up this morning and said, ‘Hey, we’re going rowing,’” Daniel said. “It’s harder than it looks, but its pretty fun going back and forth. It’s good exercise.”

Aaron said he also had a lot of fun on the water, but was caught off guard by how hard it was, and almost got pinned to the boat by one of the oars.

“My oar got in the water and it was in the square position [perpendicular to the surface], and it got stuck and it kept pushing me back,” he said. “But it was fun.”

MRA member David Rosen, 56 from Morgantown, has been rowing since he was 16. Rosen is disabled, and uses an “adaptive” boat specially designed to work with the leg braces he must wear.

Rosen said rowing is an excellent way for him to stay in shape because he can adjust how he rows to put less stress on his legs.

“The wonderful thing about rowing is, you can row with your legs, row with your arms, and row with your back,” he said. “I can get a good cardiac workout, and feel the rhythm of the river beneath me.”

MRA President John Duarte said he was pleased with the day’s turnout. By 2 p.m., 18 people had signed up to take the Learn to Row course offered by MRA, and another four people had signed up for a full membership.

“We got a lot of people that wanted to try it,” he said. “For the morning, this was a really good turnout. We managed to get two sweeps out at the same time, so that was eight and four [people] right there.”

He said he would like to see 100 people come down to try out the sport, but said if that did happen he probably wouldn’t have enough boats. He also said he hopes people sign up for the course because it is so difficult to become proficient in the limited time they had.

He hopes to start a class teaching people to row on single sculls on Monday, depending on the number of people who sign up.

The course costs $300, $150 for the course itself plus a $150 membership fee to join MRA, and members must be able to meets some physical requirements.

For more information about the Monongahela Rowing Association visit www.monrowing.org.