Hamilton-based athletes perform well at international coastal rowing championships

Local rower Cassidy Norton, with the Great Miami Rowing Center, placed third in preliminaries of the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals in Portugal. Contributed
Caption
Local rower Cassidy Norton, with the Great Miami Rowing Center, placed third in preliminaries of the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals in Portugal. Contributed

Local athletes who recently participated in international coastal rowing championships in Portugal performed well. One even had the fastest time in the preliminary races.

Although Hamilton and the Great Miami River, home of the Great Miami Rowing Center, are far from the ocean waves that coastal rowers compete in, coach Marc Oria used clever techniques to train local rowers Cassidy Norton, a recent Ross High School graduate, and Chris Bak, 25.

Oria used a motorboat to stir up surf-style waves while Norton and Bak rowed on the Great Miami River, and also trained them in the wave pool at Kings Island’s Soak City. He also held a training camp for them and several other U.S. athletes for 20 days in his hometown of Barcelona before this country’s first-ever participation in coastal rowing championships.

“Going into it, I really had no expectations,” said Bak, of eastern Cincinnati, who competed in several races, including the single-man boat. “I was really hoping to finish top 10, and we did. So I was really happy with that.”

“Once I got into the event and kind of to my shock, I ended up winning the time trial, I was kind of blown away, and I realized, ‘Oh, wow. I can potentially win this thing,” Bak said. “It really motivated me, and kept me excited, especially for next year as well.”

Later, though, in the quarter-finals, “I got caught up in the current and ended up missing a buoy, so it was a little bit devastating, especially after winning the time trial and probably being the favorite to win it,” Bak said. He placed eighth overall, based on his time.

Caption
Local rower Cassidy Norton, with the Great Miami Rowing Center, placed third in preliminaries of the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals in Portugal. Contributed

Local rower Cassidy Norton, with the Great Miami Rowing Center, placed third in preliminaries of the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals in Portugal. Contributed
Caption
Local rower Cassidy Norton, with the Great Miami Rowing Center, placed third in preliminaries of the World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals in Portugal. Contributed

Cassidy Norton, meanwhile, “did great,” Oria said. “She was the youngest one in the seniors.”

“She had the the third-fastest time in the time trails,” but ended up placing 9th. She beat Japan but was defeated by a Spanish team.

U.S. junior athletes also finished first in the time trials. U.S. Rowing is ramping up toward the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028, when coastal rowing will be a sport.

Some U.S. rowers won bronze and silver medals, and coaches from other countries’ teams praised the team’s quick success, Oria said. Oria and Bak were on a four-man team that placed sixth in a 6-kilometer event.

“It was a little bit surprising for the kids that they realized, ‘Oh, shoot, we can medal,’” Oria said. “We are not behind all these countries that have been racing for years, so I think it was big for them, but a little bit overwhelming at the same time.”

“From not having any pressure to having the pressure of ‘Ooh, we can do well,’ Oria said. “I think it’s just the start. It’s just the beginning of a big thing in the U.S.”

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“It went really well for being the first time the USA was present at this event, the beach sprints,” said Oria, who grew up with the sport of coastal rowing.

“We didn’t have any pressure from U.S. Rowing, because nothing was expected from us,” he said. “As coach, I had my goals, and of course, I tried to put USA at the top, even though for us it was the first time. I wanted to show that we are capable to race against the European teams that have been racing for years now.”

The plan is to go to the U.S. trials next year, with hopes of attending the 2022 championships in Wales, where the water will be colder.

Back on flat water here

Meanwhile, the rowers in Hamilton now have a roster of 36. At a tournament last weekend in Tennessee, “everyone on the team medaled,” including novices, varsity and juniors, Oria said.

When Oria signed on as coach early this year, the team had seven athletes and finished last season with 32. Nine of the rowers were seniors who moved on, but now there are more rowers than before, including 16 middle-school students. Athletes still can sign up at greatmiamirowing.com.

In late November, the organization plans to launch a campaign to raise money to build a rowing center on the river’s shore.

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