MANATEE -- Rowing fever has hit Manatee County, with another area high school launching a rowing program.
Southeast High School had its first practice last week, officials said Tuesday. And they’re talking about starting a program at Manatee High School.
“It’s still brand-new,” said Southeast’s athletics director Paul Maechele.
The school followed the lead of Palmetto High, which started its rowing club in January, and by April, was competing in the Florida Scholastic Rowing Association state championships.
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County Commissioner John Chappie said the school board has allocated $30,000 in support of the sport.
Last winter, some of the nation’s most prominent college teams elected to practice at a new county rowing facility at Fort Hamer Park.
“It’s a great opportunity for these guys,” Chappie said during a county commission meeting.
A group has also met at Manatee High to discuss starting a program, says Trish Jackson, head rowing coach for both Palmetto and Southeast high schools. Jackson had expected about a dozen people to show up, but at least 50 attended.
“I know there’s great interest,” Jackson added. “Manatee is waking up to the potential of what it can do for the community, as well as the student body.”
Teams from Palmetto and Southeast will work out together on the Manatee River, but will compete during regattas against each other, Jackson said, predicting,
“It’s going to be awesome.”
High school rowing here entails three seasons, beginning in mid-August and lasting through June, she added.
County employee Susan Kulbersh said her daughter, Dana, 17, had taken up the sport at Southeast, and was enthusiastic about it.
“We’re in the process of getting equipment, used shells and blades, (which) will be reconditioned by the end of the month,” said Kulbersh.
Manatee and Sarasota counties have become partners with the Benderson Development Co. in hopes of offering world-class competitive rowing facilities across both counties that could eventually attract thousands, or hundreds of thousands, to racing events.
Last winter, college-level teams arrived from the north to train at Fort Hamer Park, south of Parrish; and at two affiliated Sarasota County venues: Nathan Benderson Park, near the intersection of Interstate 75 and University Parkway; and Blackburn Point Park, in Osprey.
In other commission news, a public hearing about the county budget is slated for 6 to 9 p.m. today at County Center; a second public hearing on the same topic is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 15.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.