OKLAHOMA CITY - It was a big weekend on the Oklahoma River for metro school kids as they took part in the Spring Youth Rowing League Championships.
"This gives them the opportunity to do something different, still athletic," said Gena Terrill of OKC Riversport.
It definitely is different for high school kids, especially in Oklahoma to be rowing competitively.
Part of the OKC Riversport outreach program, middle and high schoolers from 12 different schools, from all over the metro, were sitting eight in a row in the Youth Rowing League. The program focuses on kids and schools that usually wouldn’t have access to sports like crew.
"They all come and they are all excited and they have no clue what they are doing. They learn the basics of the stroke, how to row, we teach them boat safety and boat handling," said Terrill.
"Everyone here in the eight-seat boat is the star because we are working together to get across that finish," said Yvette Rivera. The senior from Astec Charter School has been rowing with her high school team for four years.
"I didn’t quit, which is one of the happiest things that has ever happened to me. I grew passionate about it and it’s the first thing I fell in love with ever in my life," said Rivera.
"There is a lot of teamwork that needs to happen to get the boat to where it needs to go and that’s a valuable skill that can be taken into anything after high school really," said Max Carranza.
Julio Meija and Carranza are teammates at Santa Fe South and say they have learned a lot from the league.
"You gotta show up to practice and you actually have to go through with the work, which is kind of goes to dedication, which is nice, but teamwork is really the big one 'cause if everyone is doing their own thing, you aren’t going anywhere, you are just doing circles," said Meija.
There have been leagues running in the fall and spring since 2009. The teens practice three times a week for 11 weeks. Some have moved on to row at the University of Oklahoma and OCU, but organizers say kids become better students even if they don’t move on in the sport.
"They get in this program and they are barely making it. They get in this program and they get focused and so through the years, we’ve seen a higher rate of graduation rate. It gives them something to do that is positive and they are not out doing something they shouldn’t be doing," said Terrill.