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Annapolis Junior Rowing Filling a Void for Area's Junior Rowers

'It's the ultimate team sport.'

Unlike many major metropolitan areas, scholastic rowing or school-based rowing doesn't exist in Annapolis - this void is one that has firmly established Annapolis Junior Rowing Association (AJR) as the go-to club for 8th through 12th graders.

"In this area, we are the only youth rowing program," said Karyn Shackelford, assistant rowing coach and administrator of AJR.

"We pull from about 12 schools in the area, both private and public," explained Shackelford.

One of those students is Savannah Irving, 16, of Annapolis, who attends The Key School.

Her rowing schedule is not for the faint of heart.

"Three hours a day, five days a week, plus regattas on the weekend," Irving said.

Does the schedule bother her? 

"No, because I love it so much," Irving said.  "It's not a sport for a person that isn't dedicated."

With a variety of programs for all levels, which run year-round at AJR, kids are getting hands-on rowing experience through competitions, summer camps and constant training on the water, as well as on land.

AJR uses Camp Woodlands, a Girl Scouts facility just off of Riva Road, for training.  On the day we visited, the water (Broad Creek) was too rough, so the kids were running along the camp's wooded roads and using rowing machines.

Although there are regional races, some long distance travel is involved.

"We typically travel pretty far for competitions," Shackelford said. "Our goal every year is to travel to the Youth Nationals in Oakridge, Tennessee."  

"We've sent one boat for the last three years," she said. 

For those unfamiliar with rowing - there's sculling, involving two oars per person and the other is known as sweep or sweep-oar. 

"We are a sweep rowing program - each person will have one oar a piece," Shackelford explained.    

With the boat equally divided among starboard and port rowers, Shackelford said, "It's the ultimate team sport."

Other than the obvious benefits of rowing, including great exercise, confidence building and team sporting experience, there's something else.

"Everyone tells me it'll help with college," said Irving, who wants to become a doctor and has currently selected Columbia University as her number one choice.

"We have alumni at Harvard University, Dartmouth, Holy Cross, the Naval Academy, Washington State University, University of Wisconsin," said Shackelford.  "We have a rower that competed last year for the NCAA Division One Championship at University of Virginia."

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