SARASOTA -- It is said that with training, any high school crew can row a strong opening 500 meters.
But to be champions, or to be in the hunt at the finish line, it takes ruthless dedication and excellent technique over the next 1,500 meters.
Palmetto High School believes its Boys Varsity 4 boat has the right makeup of individuals this year to challenge the best in the state to the very end of every race.
The boat got its chance to prove it Saturday during the first day of the 43-school Florida Scholastic Rowing Association Sweep Champions at Nathan Benderson World Class Water Aquatics Park in Sarasota.
The Palmetto boat came through, scoring a second place to qualify for a spot in the semifinals at 10:16 a.m. Sunday.
"All the members of our Boys Varsity 4 are strong," said Trish Jackson , coach for Manatee County Youth Rowing, which includes Palmetto, Manatee and Southeast high schools.
Members of the Palmetto Boys Varsity 4 boat include junior Todd Chastain, 17, senior Trevor Lovett, 18, senior Luke Myhree, 18, senior Grant Fletcher, 17, and senior coxswain Emily Whisenant, 18.
Whisenant said the team is comprised of a good mix of individuals.
"Even though Todd is the youngest, he has maturity and encourages us," Whisenant said. "Trevor, who we call 'Tea Time' and is co-captain, was a novice last year, but this year is is pushing himself and the boat.
"Luke is my fellow captain and he's physically very, very strong," Whisenant added. "He also gives us a lot of leadership. Grant is the humor of the boat. He dances to his own drummer. He'll sense if we are having an off day and get us back on track."
As for Whisenant, Lovette said she gets a lot of credit for the boat's success, which includes a first place finish in a Tampa race earlier this year and fifth at the 11-team Sarasota Invitational.
"She gets us through it," Lovette said. "She keeps us in line."
Manatee High's Women's Junior 4 made it into Sunday's semifinals from their Saturday heat, from which they finished second.
The boat included junior Jennifer Zebracki, fresh-man Erin Gilbert, freshman Isabelle DeMino, fresh-man Alexis Earhart and freshman coxswain Sydney Estes.
Manatee High's Junior4 Division boat also did well Saturday.
They made it into the semifinals Sunday, coming in third in their heat.
The boat includes junior Jarrett Tsai, 17, sophomore Cole Tomin, 16, sophomore Joshua Swan, 17, sophomore Alex Martinez, 16, and freshman coxswain Cody Tsai, 15.
Jarrett and Cody are brothers.
"Cody is new to the team but he jumped in and does an amazing job of motivating," Jackson said. "He takes no junk on the water. For a freshman, he can critical-think better than some older rowers."
Jarrett and Alex rode in a doubles boat prior to joining forces with the other two young men.
"Alex is strong and sets the pace," Jarrett Tsai said.
Palmetto's B Boat, a second foursome, also qualified from the semis.
That boat includes sophomore Gus Brouwer, fresh-man Courtland Higgins,sophomore Clayton Flour-noy, junior Bo Wessel and junior coxswain Jackie Roberts.
The Palmetto Varsity Girls 8 missed qualifying by .273 seconds, Jackson said.
Southeast's two boats also did not qualify for the semifinals.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.