Rowing spring slate about to heat up

jdill@bradenton.comFebruary 9, 2014 

The Sarasota Crew prepares for practice in Sarasota Bay ahead of the Sarasota Invitational Regatta later this month at Benderson Park. JASON DILL/

OSPREY -- The Sarasota Invitational Regatta is in less than two weeks, which means the first big race of the spring rowing season will gather clubs from around the country at Benderson Park for top-notch rowing.

But preparing for the event is different depending on the club.

Most seek medals and the stature of winning races.

The Sarasota Crew is different. Rather than consuming themselves in the results business, the Crew has focused on setting personal goals for each rower and attempting to meet those.

The Sarasota Invitational Regatta will be no different.

"We make it a fun regatta for ourselves," Crew head coach Casey Galvanek said. "We never have any expectations about winning or medals. So it lightens the mood a little bit. We put our eights together based on our singles development throughout the fall and winter, so the boats aren't set or practiced beforehand. ... It's mainly to get into the groove of what we expect to see for the season."

Mainly composed of rowers from around Sarasota County schools, the organization has also attracted rowers from Lakewood Ranch High.

Tracy Roberts is expected to compete in the varsity eights, and she got into the sport after looking for something new to do.

"I really like the different aspects of the sport," Roberts said.

The move into rowing has helped Roberts land a scholarship to Stanford University, which won a national championship in 2009.

Roberts is a senior and has gone through the sprint season before.

For Natalie Earp and Hailey Todoroff, the experience will be new.

"We haven't been through it before, so just figuring out how it all goes and how it's different from our previous races," Earp said.

The duo from Lakewood Ranch is competing in the novice division races.

For those three and others from Manatee County, the commute south to Osprey and Sarasota Bay, where the Sarasota Crew is based, can be arduous.

However, it's one that is necessary to get the desired training. And the results have paid off with Roberts earning herself a college scholarship to Stanford and other rowers heading to powerhouse rowing spots such as Harvard and Yale.

"I think there are 13 kids this year that were recruited on some level," Galvanek said.

The Crew represents one of 37 clubs competing. The other two area competitors are the Sarasota Scullers and Sarasota County Rowing Club, the latter is playing host to the two-day event that starts Feb. 22 and concludes Feb. 23.

The Crew has the second-most entries with 30.

Clubs from Florida make up the majority of entries, but there are representatives from New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York as well as Washington, D.C.; Indiana; Texas; and Washington State.

The meet starts at 8 a.m. Feb. 22 and 9 a.m. Feb. 23. The event is scheduled to wrap up in the afternoon both days.

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