Master Strokes - 405 Magazine

Master Strokes

OKC’s rowing presence still growing.

Riversport OKC held 47 youth races over three days for the USRowing Central Youth Championships.

OKC’s rowing presence still growing.

Earlier this year, May 6-8, over 800 athletes gathered at the Oklahoma River and the Riversport OKC campus to compete in the USRowing Central Youth Championships.

USRowing is the country’s national governing body for the sport, and the nonprofit organization promotes rowing at all levels of competition, including the Olympics. Members include juniors, college students, masters and those who row for fitness, fun or competition.

The sport of rowing is growing, and Riversport OKC provides a top-tier facility. The training facilities and apparatus of River sport’s OKC National High Performance Center rank among the best in the country. The Devon Boathouse, located on the Oklahoma River, is a $10 million, 33,000-square-foot facility that includes a dynamic propulsion rowing tank, a high-altitude training room, an indoor propulsion swimming pool, ergometers, RP3 machines, a variety of cross-training options and strength and conditioning gear.

The Oklahoma River has also been developed into one of the world’s top urban waterways. Athletes can train on a buoyed racing track year-round because of the area’s temperate climate. It provides rowers with a 2,000-meter (eight lane) buoyed race course and a 4,800-meter training course.

The Oklahoma River allows for a eight lane 2,000-meter racecourse, which is Olympic length.

Rowing teams for races are classified by the number of rowers and whether they row with one oar (sweep rowers) or two (scullers). A coxswain sometimes serves as the captain and the on-the-water instructor on sweep teams. If there’s no coxswain, one of the sweep rowers controls the rudder with his or her feet. Sweep rowing teams can be found in pairs, fours and eights, the latter of which always have a coxswain. Sculling competitions are divided into three categories: single, double and quadruple.

Rowing competitions are based on segment lengths. Sprint contests at the national, collegiate, international and Olympic levels are 2,000 meters — like the Oklahoma River track. Each 500-meter segment of the racecourse is divided into six to eight buoyed lanes.

Riversport OKC is also an Olympic and Paralympic training facility for canoeing and kayaking. “Some of the (youth) athletes have Olympic aspirations,” said Riversport OKC chief marketing officer Elizabeth Laurent. “Many will go on to row at the collegiate level and, from there, try to qualify to get into a high-performance training program like the one we have here at Riversport. We partner with many national and international governing bodies in rowing and canoe/kayak to host regattas. We’ve had as many as 30 countries competing in flatwater sprint international races (canoe/kayak) and have hosted many national and international teams for rowing events.”

Competitions such as the Central Youth Championships not only promote youth sports but are a boost to the local economy. With Riversport located near the entertainment district, athletes, their families and fans fill hotel rooms and attend many of OKC’s prominent restaurants and other venues. Hundreds of spectators attended this year’s youth competition, including Mark Cuban. In all, 47 youth races took place over three days. Winners advanced to the USRowing National Championships in Sarasota, Florida, on June 8–11.