The return of typical Washington late winter weather — rain showers and temperatures in the mid-40s — didn’t stop about 200 teens from participating in Olympia Area Rowing’s Saltwater Scrimmage on Sunday.
After each 2,000-meter sprint on Budd Inlet — from Priest Point Park to the boat ramp at Swantown Marina in Olympia — crews hoisted boats onto their shoulders and carried them off the dock in soggy stocking feet. A few competitors wore garbage bags that had been turned into emergency rain slickers.
Eighteen-year-old Grace Arnis of Olympia said getting wet is part of the sport.
“That’s kind of a daily thing here,” she said. “You’re more likely to get rained on than not.”
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The event drew junior crews from Olympia, Vashon Island and Bainbridge Island. Rowers may have kept track of their race times and teams’ places, but the point of the event wasn’t about winning or losing, according to OAR coach Taylor Brunstad.
“Since it’s so early in the season, it was just a scrimmage to give our kids experience in a race,” she said.
OAR’s youth program, for ages 13 and up, has about 55 members, Brunstad said.
It’s a sport that allows families to travel around the region, according to Heidi Cope of Olympia, whose 15-year-old daughter Madeline began rowing about four years ago.
“It’s wonderful,” she added. “The coaches emphasize fun. They emphasize feeling good about your race and working hard, and improving your race.”
But it also requires participants to make tough sacrifices, Cope said.
“Regionals are in mid-May during prom weekend, so all of the kids miss their prom,” she said.
And those who make it to nationals in June are likely to miss local high school graduation ceremonies, because they’ll be in Florida, she added.
Arnis said she typically spends about 12 hours a week training with her team. The hard work and sacrifices are worth it, she said.
“I really like the community (of rowers),” Arnis added. “Everyone here is really supportive and ready to be your friend. It’s nice.”