Nationals, here they come
Jun. 3—Seated in a small power boat at 5:30 in the morning, with one hand on the steering wheel and a megaphone in the other, Sydney Bichsel fired various commands to her students rowing on Emigrant Lake before they caught the morning bell at school Wednesday.
But Bichsel, the interim head coach of Rogue Rowing, could be no more clear when it came to one instruction: "Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!"
If it sounds like Bichsel was being tough on them, that was only partly true. She explained that her four students — Benjamin Sandow, Elijah Anders, Amelie Requejo and Mira Jacobs-Grisby — are entering the "taper period" of workouts to help their bodies prepare for the USRowing National Championships in Sarasota, Florida, June 9-12.
"Last week was a little bit more intense, and this week, as every day goes on, it will get slightly less so," Bichsel said. "It starts to allow them to get a little bit of active rest and recovery, where they're still moving, they're still doing the things that they have to do, but the volume is not as much. (So they will be) primed and ready to put a full, rested, 100% (effort) down the race course in Florida."
While competing in the USRowing Northwest Regionals in Vancouver, Washington, four Rogue Rowing athletes earned spots to compete at the Youth National Championships.
"We took a pretty heavy toll from the pandemic, as most clubs did, so to come back swinging and say, 'Hey, we're still a small club from Oregon, and we can still send some boats to compete with the big boys in Portland and Seattle' is something we're really proud of," Bichsel said.
What's in store in Florida? A high profile venue — Nathan Benderson Park, where this year's NCAA rowing championships were held. The venue is something the four rowing team members agree is one of the most exciting aspects of competing in a national competition.
"I'm looking forward to seeing where we stand, compared to other teams and getting to row where all the big competitions happen," said Reguejo, an Ashland High School student.
Anders, who attends South Medford High School, said he is looking forward to the competition, as well.
"If I keep with this sport, it definitely looks good for me," he said.
Jacobs-Grisby, who attends Logos Charter School, said she is excited to visit Florida. Her goal has long been to compete in nationals — even as she battles pinched nerves that cause severe pain while she's out rowing on the water.
"It definitely hurts. At the same time, it's a good kind of pain," Jacobs-Grisby said, before adding, "You've just got to keep on going and think about your goals."
Bichsel called qualifying for Nationals "a culture-building moment" for the team, which used to be the Ashland Rowing Club before switching to its current name.
"It just helps to direct the energy of the team and helps to direct their goals — goals that are obtainable because now they've seen them be obtained," Bichsel said, referring to the national competition.
Whether they win in Florida, the rowing coach said the four rowers who qualified for nationals should be proud of their accomplishment.
"Even bigger than themselves, it's something that's really, really cool for younger and newer folks to look at them and say, 'Hey, that's really cool! I want to be able to do that one day, as well,'" Bichsel said.
Requejo said competing will bring more name recognition, and perhaps more members, to Rogue Rowing. "Right now, it seems a little small, but we want to get more people," she said.
For now, though, it's all about fine-tuning the rowers' skills during outings on Emigrant Lake, Bichsel said.
"I'm looking at the small details of their technique; I'm looking at the small details of their speed and just seeing if we can get just a few more seconds faster in the two weeks that we have since regionals and nationals," Bichsel said.
Out on the water, Sandow said he hopes to perfect teamwork and "getting our blades in and out (of the water) as clean as possible."
Anders said he felt Wednesday's rowing session went well and the crew is perfecting its connection.
"It's a lot better. We're faster than we were before," he said.
Anders added that Emigrant Lake is a good place to train for a big competition.
"When you have one oar, little changes can make bigger changes," he said. "You have to have your mind on the boat; you can't think about anything else."
Jacobs-Grisby said, "Even if you're tired ... you still gotta keep going. You have a team in the boat that's relying on you. It's not just about you."
The team has a GoFundMe page to help raise money for their trip. Donations can be made at http://bitly.ws/rXUt
Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.