WORCESTER, Mass.- For years, masters rowers have been defying the stereotype that aging is accompanied by a less competitive lifestyle.
Race after race, the 2012 USRowing Masters National Championships' competitors challenged one another and proved skeptics wrong.
As the second day of racing got underway, several combinations of 2,000 fit, athletic masters rowers dueled with their competition down the 1, 000-meter course on Lake Qunisigamond.
Most races remained close through the very last stroke.
“At the end, I had the feeling we were just going to go for it,” said Dawn Carey of Upper Valley Rowing Foundation. “We joke about it, if a coxswain falls into the water, we have to be able to execute the plan.”
Unable to hear their coxswain calls due to an equipment malfunction, Murphy and her boatmates in the women’s open four c with coxswain event kept to their race plan and battled through the final 250 meters in the first of four close heats.
Like many of their competitors, these women have been training several months for this four-day regatta and won seat races to get into one of the club’s designated competitive boats.
“One of our coaches provides winter workouts including weights and cardio, like dreaded spin classes,” said Carey. “Some of the rowers form our club trained for the C.R.A.S.H.-B. [Indoor Rowing Championships] this year to avoid getting bored.”
After putting significant effort into preparing for the national championships, a mere equipment malfunction was not going to be the deciding factor in Upper Valley’s racing success.
All day long, competitors varying in age from 21-89 years old came together to contest like-minded people with the same enthusiastic pursuit of victory.
Among the group of spirited sportspeople at this year’s regatta are first time attendees and several returning rowers.
The general consensus among the females with prior masters national championship racing experience is that not only has racing expanded but it has increased in intensity over the years.
“When I came her last, five years ago, I won a couple events,” said Veronika Platzer of Great Lawrence/Merrimac River Rowing Association. “I’ve been to three masters nationals since, and this is the stiffest competition yet.”
Platzer thinks the tougher competition on the women’s side is related to the infusion of younger rowers into the masters mix.
She sees the event as a lasting effect of the Title IX Act passed in 1972. The law came into existence to decrease discrimination by educational and public institutions. It is best known for a positive externality of increased female participation in varsity athletic programs.
Many of the women racing at younger ages are or were at one point female collegiate rowers, in programs created due to Title IX, who have opted to row on the masters level.
“If you look at lineups, there are young kids peppering boats in older categories. There are so many collegiate athletes in the C eight and C four,” said Plazter.
Jane Morse of Cambridge Boat Club began rowing later in life like a large portion of the athletes.
She learned to row in her fifties when she had more time on her hands. These days, she notices many people picking up the sport at various points in their adult lives for a variety of reasons.
She believes the number is expanding and attributes the tougher competition, particularly in the upper age brackets, to this increase in interest.
“It seems that the more masters that get involved, the more competitive the racing gets,” said Morse. “There were three other competitors in the G single last year and this year there are three heats.”
Perhaps it is a combination of the two groups of new competitors adding depth to the contests.
“You don’t have to be slow because you’re older. Fast is fast,” said Community Rowing, Inc. coach Matt Lehrer.
Community Rowing's masters program is an example of how increased interest for the sport in multiple age brackets has upped the overall competition level.
Roughly half of female sweep rowers at CRI are under 30 years of age and the remainder are over that threshold. It exemplifies the wide spectrum of competitive individuals racing in masters sprint events.
“At CRI, our program is not structured by age and our priority boats are our fastest boats. They are not decided by a certain race category we would like to be in,” said Lehrer.
He also added that it is important not to look at it as if an individual is “fast for x, say fast for 50.”
From the coaching perspective, Lehrer sees more and more talented people of all ages joining as the sport gains more exposure. The increased participation then yields increased inter-team motivation and competition.
As racing ended early due to unsafe weather conditions, rowers can look to the resumption of races at 7:30 a.m., Saturday morning for another dose of lively competition.
For a complete race schedule, updates on the regatta and links to results (as available), visit http://www.usrowing.org/Events/MastersNationals.aspx.
Finals can be viewed live each day beginning Thursday, August 9, at http://www.ustream.tv/usrowing.
Press coverage of the event will be available at http://www.usrowing.org/Pressbox/Inteventcoverage/12MasterNationalsCoverage.aspx.
The 2012 USRowing Masters National Championships is the first of two masters’ championship regattas USRowing will host over the next two months. The first-ever USRowing Masters National Head Race Championship will be held September 16 on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio. Currently home to the Head of the Cuyahoga, the 4,800-meter course involves strategy, curves, and fun. In addition to five major river turns (including an S-bend), gorgeous views of the Cleveland skyline are situated throughout the course. To register, visit www.regattacentral.com.
USRowing is a nonprofit organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the governing body for the sport of rowing in the United States. USRowing’s official suppliers include Boathouse Sports, Vespoli, WinTech, Filippi, Croker Oars, Rudy Project, Concept2, Nielsen Kellerman, PowerHTV and Ludus Tours. USRowing also receives generous support from the National Rowing Foundation and its corporate sponsors and partners ANXeBusiness Corp, Voxer, EZ Dock, EMCVenues and The Perfect SNAQUE. For more information, visit www.usrowing.org. USRowing has created The Row to London to engage sponsors leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games, with proceeds going to help ensure the U.S. team’s success. Opportunities also exist to partner with America Rows – supporting diversity initiatives and adaptive programs. For more information, please contact Beth Kohl at firstname.lastname@example.org.