- June 21, 2017
WINDERMERE — Five rowers from the Orlando Area Rowing Society were invited to camps through USRowing Juniors this summer, making for a memorable three weeks away from home.
Three girls — Lina Rak, Becca Pulsifer and Jaimie Armitage — and two boys — Sean McKinney and Darrian Lopresto — made trips to Connecticut and Maine, respectively, from mid-June to mid-July.
The five campers all have returned to the Windermere-based rowing club now with a new outlook, inspired by what they learned.
“You all had the same goal, and that goal was to be the best boat,” Rak said. “I was glad to be in that atmosphere. Motivationally, I definitely came back and I strive every time when I get on the water to be better than I was when I left that camp.”
FAR FROM HOME
None of the five rowers had been away from home as long as they were this summer, but all enjoyed the experience.
“It was a great insight, because I’m going to college next year,” Pulsifer said.
Beyond improving skills on the water, the local rowers got the chance to make friends from around the nation and develop social skills. Armitage made friends from as far away as Washington and said she looks forward to seeing more familiar faces at regattas with out-of-state teams.
“At first it was scary, because you didn’t know anybody, but after a while you got to know people, and it was fun,” Armitage said.
MAKING A NAME
All three girls traveled to Connecticut. Rak, who competes as the coxswain for the boys team for OARS, and Armitage were assigned to the developmental camp and Pulsifer to the high-performance camp.
It wasn’t long before Armitage, a junior at West Orange High who has been rowing for just two years was promoted.
“Becca, we knew she was going to be at that level … she’s such a strong rower and athlete,” OARS coach Kirsten Anderson said. “Jamie actually went in at a lower camp level, but within the first week, she was bumped up — that was a nice phone call.”
The atmosphere at the high-performance camp proved to be beneficial for the two local rowers.
“I learned pretty quickly that the way to improve was to ask questions,” Pulsifer said. “Before this summer, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to even row in college … being able to go to camp showed me, ‘Yes, I can totally do this and have a lot of fun with this.’”
Armitage and Pulsifer also were among 21 rowers who made it to the U.S. Rowing National Club Championship Team, and both came out of their races with bronze, silver and gold medals.
“It helps them see that there’s a level beyond what we’re doing here in high school,” Anderson said. “They both are walking a little bit taller around the boathouse.”
While the girls’ camp was a little more competitive and intense, the boys’ experience in Maine was rooted in learning — which came in handy as both Lopresto and McKinney have picked up the sport only within the past year or so.
“I thought it was going to be kids saying, ‘Oh, I’m faster than you,’ but everybody was friendly and nice,” McKinney said.
What’s more, the two rowers both reported having an improved outlook and being more confident upon their return.
“My mentality definitely … changed,” Lopresto said. “I developed as a person and as a rower.”
One thing all five rowers came back with is an appreciation for their home club.
“Our coaches know what they’re doing,” Lopresto said. “When I was at the camp, they’re telling me the same things that our coaches tell us here. They’re really good coaches.”
For Pulsifer, who has her eyes on a rowing scholarship and possibly making the national team next summer, having Anderson for a coach is a huge advantage.
“Kirsten has connections all over the country; OARS has connections all over the country,” Pulsifer said.
Moreover, the club has made a point of maintaining a welcoming environment even as it has grown in its 25 years.
And whether it is someone such as Rak, who came to the sport because she thought she was “short and un-athletic,” or someone such as McKinney, who stands 6-foot-5, they all have found a place in the program and feel they have the tools to excel.
“The best part about this is it’s one team under one roof,” boys coach Justin Knust said. “All of those kids going out there really helped build OARS as a national brand.”
The Orlando Area Rowing Society will be hosting an open house from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 29, at the OARS Boathouse, 2457 Maguire Road, Windermere.
For more information, visit oarsrowing.com.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected]