MANATEE -- When the Palmetto High School rowing team competes in the Sarasota 5000 rowing regatta Sunday in Osprey, it will mark several firsts for the young team.
It will be the team’s first head race, or time-trial competition, and it will also be the longest race, by about 3,000 meters.
“That’s a huge difference,” said Coach Trish Jackson.
The regatta also marks the start of the first full season of rowing for Palmetto, which had only three competitions in its initial season last year.
About 40 students turned out for the team this year. The most advanced of those will be taking part in a competition in Philadelphia on Oct. 29-30, she said.
Southeast High School will join Palmetto as the second Manatee County school to take up rowing this year.
But Southeast is, literally, waiting for its boat to come in.
Make that two boats, both of which are in Philadelphia awaiting delivery to Manatee County.
Students at Manatee High School and Lakewood Ranch high schools have also expressed interest in rowing, but there is no seed money available.
Bob Gagnon, Manatee principal, said he is hopeful that his students who are interested in rowing could participate this year with a program at Palmetto or Southeast.
That would be a wiser course during a difficult economic time, and if interest seems strong, perhaps seed money could be found in a subsequent year, Gagnon said.
Some 355 participants from rowing teams around Florida are expected to take part in Sunday’s competition at Blackburn Point Park, 800 Blackburn Point Road, Osprey, said Kathleen Schulte, a board member of Sarasota Scullers.
The youth rowing program is good opportunity for students of all kinds, she said.
“It’s a full body workout and there are a lot of scholarships out there,” Schulte said, adding that she is happy to see the growth of the sport in Manatee-Sarasota.
“The more the merrier,” she said.
Sunday’s event is set for 8 a.m. -noon and will include high school, college, and master rowers.
Competition starts from Mile Marker 16 of Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Teams launch from Fishermans Island or Dryman Island .
The course is about 4,700 meters long.
For best viewing, spectators may bring blankets, binoculars and folding chairs.
Spectator boats are also available on a first-come-first-served basis.
Admission is free.
Information: www.Sarasota5000.com or call (941) 966-2244.