Athletes from the Orlando Area Rowing Society have received national recognition this summer.
One of the best ways to determine a program’s success is by looking at its ability to help get its athletes to the next level.
In that metric, the Orlando Area Rowing Society is easily one of the best.
This summer, 16 athletes from OARS were named to the USRowing’s Olympic Development Program in Jacksonville, and three others were named to USRowing’s Junior National Team Selection Camp. Perhaps most impressive are OARS’ Meagan Goldsmith and Victoria Grieder, who will represent the United States on the Junior National Team in August in Bulgaria.
“We’re super excited that we got two of our athletes going on to represent the U.S. on an international stage,” OARS Director Kirsten Anderson said. “This is like your final moment. This is what you aspire to do, so we’re super excited for them.”
Anderson said Goldsmith and Grieder are among the best rowers in the nation. Goldsmith will row in the Straight 4 category, while Grieder will be coxing the 4.
After this summer of racing, they both will continue rowing in college — Goldsmith at the University of Virginia, and Grieder at Rutgers University.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Anderson, now in her 24th year with the program, said this level of growth reflects the work of everyone involved in the program.
“I am very proud at how much we’ve grown since our beginning,” Anderson said. “It has really taken a group of people — alumni, rowers, parents and the community — to make our growth possible. We are definitely not finished. We would like for many more people of all ages to learn and love rowing.
“I’ve always had an idea in my mind of what our club could become,” she said. “It does take careful and deliberate planning to achieve this success. Every new class of rowers that we bring in has to be stepped in to our program with care. I believe that is what our great staff of coaches can do. We take athletes from where they are at and develop them in to great rowers and people.”
In total, OARS has sent more than 100 kids to compete either collegiately or nationally.
One of its most notable alumni, Christine Cavallo, rowed at Stanford University, made the national team and went on to break two national records. She also rowed at the world championships for multiple years.
But even with all of the accomplishments, seeing students develop and having athletes come back to coach are two of Anderson’s favorite parts of being the director at OARS.
Competition is only a part of the OARS program. During the school year, students in middle school, high school and even adults have the chance to be involved recreationally. During the summer, OARS hosts camps that allow students in middle school and high school to learn to row.
“We have one-week learn-to-row camps that are designed for anybody really in middle and high school (who) have never rowed before and want to learn about the sport,” Anderson said. “What’s cool about our learn-to-row class is that the majority of our team members come and help. You get to row along with people that already know what they’re doing.”
Along with the opportunity to learn, participants also experience the positive impact rowing can have both physically and mentally.
“Rowing is one of the greatest whole-body workouts that’s low impact,” Anderson said. “Really, anybody from age 11 to 90 can row. It’s a lifetime sport, so you can enjoy it for years. … Rowing is definitely a team sport, so you learn how to work with other people, you learn how to master your technique and work with a bunch of people toward a common goal.”
So far for the summer, there are about 175 kids participating in the summer camp. That number usually increases to about 200 during the school year.
A COMMON GOAL
While the summer mainly consists of camps, the fall and spring schedules are filled with races. OARS usually participates in four to five tournaments in the fall and another 10 in the spring.
“Our whole team will travel to the race, and there are different categories that we enter them in,” Anderson said.
Even with the growth and success of the program, Anderson’s main goal is to keep on increasing the number of athletes in her program while also forming a team-friendly environment for everyone.
“Ultimately, we’d like our program to grow to have 300 kids, and we can do it,” Anderson said. “We really would like to be the No. 1 team in the South, and you do that through numbers, the size of having more kids join.
“More than anything, (the goal is) to introduce people to the sport, to teach them the sport and let them grow within their level of enjoyment … and ultimately when we get to the competition, just to be this strong team,” she said. “Not just necessarily how we play but (also) how we are supporting each other and working together toward a common goal.”