South crew gears up for Midwest Scholastic Rowing Championship

Crew teams prepare shells along Dillon Lake Friday for this weekend’s competition involving more than 46 crew teams. Parkersburg, Parkersburg South and Marietta will be competing. Photo courtesy of Justin Womack.

NASHPORT, Ohio — The Parkersburg South boys and girls crew teams are feeling the pressure as the annual Midwest Scholastic Rowing Championship kicks off at Dillon Lake.

Stemming onward from a successful 2016 season, the Patriot boys and girls rowers are returning to Nashport, Ohio, to defend their regional titles at an event consisting of more than 46 crews hailing from West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Missouri. Local crews attending the regatta include Marietta and Parkersburg in addition to Parkersburg South.

The red, white and blue South squad is looking to exceed last year’s results in order to advance to the Midwest Junior Rowing Championship next week in Bethel, Ohio.

With such a broad range of competing teams, it’s easy to see why South leaders Justin (girls coach) and Shelly (boys coach) Womack are antsy for this weekend’s onslaught of rowing events.

“I’m actually pretty nervous,” Justin Womack said. “These are the toughest categories we’ve been in. I’m usually not nervous, but it’s a little different this year because we’re defending several titles. Most of these crews know who to beat this year and they’re coming for us.”

“This is the race you prepare for all year. The rest of them are practice with medals,” Justin said. “This is the one that counts.”

Last year, the South girls junior varsity 4 crew claimed first place and the Patriot women’s junior 4 claimed third place in their respective events. The South men’s varsity double (Garrett Fink and David Chapman) snagged fourth place while the Patriot men’s lightweight double (Dylan Hall and Zack Goddard) took third overall.

In order to make the same strides as last year, the South rowers will have to pass a series of time trials in today’s events to qualify for Sunday’s more-focused finales. Local crews will have to stay within the top-six rankings against 530 entries across all regatta events and also survive the six-lane semis that will determine Sunday’s competitors.

Despite the success of the Patriot crew teams in recent years, these last two events will be bittersweet for the Womacks as they send off a handful of seniors who will continue rowing in college. Jasmine Morris, who competed in the C.R.A.S.H.-B. indoor sprint competition this winter to take 25th place in a spread of international rowing competitors, will continue her career at WVU. David Chapman, who claimed 16th place at the same event, will be moving on to Delaware State University. Lacy Parsons will be staying in the area to row in the women’s doubles at Marietta College.

In collaboration with Marietta and Upper Arlington (Ohio), South girls coach Justin Womack has his hands full with preparation for the regatta, a role he’s cherished for five of the 10 years South has competed at Lake Dillon. The three crew teams organize this multi-state event with national rowing company USRowing.

“It’s pretty impressive. You got 2,500 kids coming up here and 30 crews out here practicing as we speak,” Justin said. “It’s something to see. We expect about 5,000 spectators and we just sort it all out in two days.”