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Local high schools hit the water today for a rowing championship



Oklahoma is famous for its love affair with sports.

People "Thunder Up" for basketball, get in fights for hockey and curse as loud as they can at football.

But one sport is moving its way quickly up the Oklahoma River to stake its claim as one of Oklahoma's next premier sports.

Rowing teams from Northwest Classen, U.S. Grant, Putnam City, Capitol Hill and Santa Fe South high schools will wrap up their fall season with the OKC Riversport Youth League Championship from 4 to 6 p.m. today in the Boathouse District on the Oklahoma River, 725 S. Lincoln Blvd. The winner will take home the SandRidge Cup.

Kelley McGuire helped develop the league, now in its second year, and said the goal was to get kids that normally wouldn't have the chance some exposure to the sport of rowing.

"We just wanted to let kids know that there are other sports out there that they can try and succeed and they can go far with," she said. "We just wanted to introduce the sport of rowing to kids of all walks of life, all different economic backgrounds and parts of Oklahoma City just so they can have the opportunity to try it."

The teams have been training since the end of August and have had help preparing from some of the best rowers in the world.

"We have some of our high performance athletes that are helping out with the teams. These are people that have devoted their life to rowing, and they are moving to OKC to train to be a part of the Olympics and the national team," McGuire said. "They are giving back to our community "¦ The kids are getting to meet these athletes who "¦ have decided to take rowing to the next level and are pursuing a career in it."

OKC Boathouse Foundation spokeswoman Sherry Andrusiak said that, with all the renovations to the Oklahoma River, there is no reason why rowing can't become another varsity sport in the metro.

"We are hoping more schools will embrace this sport, because we have such fantastic facilities and equipment," she said. "That is kind of our goal with the program is to just put it on par with other varsity sports and to really get a strong inner high school championship league going on here."

Andrusiak said the high school teams have really taken to the sport because everyone starts on the same playing field.

"Rowing is the kind of sport that, whether you are athletic or not or have had success at another sport, you can really find success at rowing because you have to learn everything from square one," she said. "You have kids that never thought they were great athletes coming out and really excelling, and it builds their confidence and builds a lot of team spirit and even leadership skills. Just introducing those aspects and values to more youth is awesome."  

photo Students from Northwest Classen and Capitol Hill high schools swing past the new Devon Boathouse during rowing practice on the Oklahoma River recently. Photo/Mark Hancock

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