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New rowing club launches season

Becky Vargo • Mar 29, 2017 at 12:12 AM

Spring Lake Crew’s Emma Boersen won the women’s novice competition at the Grand Rapids Spring Sprints, a high school rowing event without water.

Competitors used ergometers, more commonly known as rowing machines, at Forest Hills Central High School on March 25.

Ergometers are used by rowers for winter training until the teams can get out on the water.

Boersen’s pace was so fast that she would have placed fourth among all of the women in the event, according to Crew coach Paul Winter. Boersen is a Grand Haven High School junior.

The novice event for women is a 1,500-meter race, while the rest of the events go 2,000 meters.

Also scoring points at last weekend’s event as a novice rower was Tyler Harms of Grand Haven. He finished in eighth place.

Spring Lake Crew finished in sixth place of the nine teams entered in the competition. Rockford was first.

Spring Lake Crew is the newest high school rowing program in the state and had 20 students entered at last weekend’s competition. Most of the teams have at least 30 competitors and are from Class A or large Class B schools, Winter said. Rockford has nearly 100 on the team.

Spring Lake Crew consists of 19 boys and eight girls, with an even mix from Spring Lake and Grand Haven high schools.

The Crew started in spring 2015. The club team grew out of watching Grand Valley State University’s Lubbers Cup Regatta, which takes place on Spring Lake each April. It will be held April 8-9 this year.

The Crew, with fall and spring seasons along with winter conditioning, became a reality after a number of meetings and a lot of fundraising, Winter said.

“This program was started not just as another sport, but as an educational experience — to give students the chance to participate in college, for girl rowers to get scholarships, and to get a kid into a school that they would otherwise not be admitted but for the fact they are a rower,” said Elyse Winter in a presentation made recently to 100 Women Who Care. 

Because this is a club sport, Spring Lake Crew receives no money from the local high schools. Their expenses are covered by participation and maintenance fees and donations. 

The club, which has been rowing out of the Conestoga Campgrounds along the Grand River, is returning to the Spring Lake Yacht Club for the 2017 spring and fall seasons.

Rowers did a “wet launch” off the beach on the Grand River, but are trying to raise funds for a floating dock to use at the yacht club in Ferrysburg.

Winter said 60 feet of floating dock should cost between $8,000 and $10,000. 

The club is also trying to raise enough money to purchase a couple of “doubles” so they have enough shells for the state competition, where students from different schools have to be in different boats. Spring Lake Crew currently has two eights (seats eight rowers plus one coxswain), four fours, one quad and one single. All of the boats have been purchased from other rowing programs.

Most of the shells are sweep boats, meaning that each rower has one oar. The quad is a sculling boat, which means each rower has two smaller oars.

Winter said two boats have been professionally refurbished and shoes in all boats have been replaced. They paid $400 for a coxswain box, which allows the coxswain to communicate electronically with the rowers.

Rowing is an expensive program, Winter admits, but it’s one in which students can become involved in at any stage in high school and still be competitive in college.

Anyone interested in learning more about the local organization, or in donating, can check out the club’s website at www.springlakerowing.com or send an email to springlakerowing@gmail.com.

The team does its indoor training on rented ergometers at Ferrysburg City Hall.

Winter said they hope to be on the water after spring break. Club members will also be helping at the upcoming Lubbers Cup.

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