Outdoors, Sports

Rowing competition brings out best in area athletes at Dexter Lake event

LOWELL – Dexter Reservoir hosted the USRowing Northwest Masters Regional Championships for the first time last weekend. The event is normally hosted at Vancouver Lake in Washington, but due to issues at Vancouver, Dexter was USRowing’s last hope.

“USRowing called me and said that because of the issues at Vancouver, either Dexter was hosting or it wasn’t happening at all,” said Michael Peixoto, Board President of the Oregon Association of Rowers (OAR). “So we said yes, and decided to put on the entire event.”

OAR, founded in 1984, is a rowing club located in Lowell that practices at Dexter. As the “home team,” they were the ones to play host. Peixoto said nearly 700 athletes were scheduled to compete regional masters this past Friday through Sunday.

Dexter is on the rise in the rowing community, as it’s also hosted the men’s and women’s Pac-12 Championships the past two years. Peixoto said some of the competitors at the Northwest Masters were former college stars.

“While the West Coast rowing history isn’t quite what it is on the East Coast, there’s still a lot of history up here,” he said. “Washington and Cal have two of the best college rowing programs in the country. There’s some former Pac-12 athletes here, and I think there might even be a couple Olympians.”

Beyond the veteran rowers on hand, there were also plenty of novices competing at the regionals. Katrina Starr, a Pleasant Hill resident who picked up rowing during the pandemi, was one of them.

“I’d been interested in it, but I work in Eugene, and then having a family, it just seemed like too much time,” Starr said. “With the pandemic and not being able to go to a gym, and then working from home I had some more time. It just worked out really well to come out here. And it was something I’ve been wanting to do. I kept talking about it, but just needed that little extra inspiration to go.”

Peixoto said that’s been a common occurrence recently, with new rowers trying out the sport.

“Recently there’s been a lot of people who didn’t compete collegiately trying out rowing,” he said. “Lots of women, lots of older people. I think the pandemic just pushed everyone towards outdoor activities and rowing is perfect for that.”

That outdoor activity and camaraderie is exactly what gave Starr the extra push, and it’s something that keeps bringing her back.

“The thing I really like about OAR is that you sign up ahead of time. The week before you sign up for what days you’re gonna row and then the coaches put you in a boat. So if you don’t show up it kind of causes a problem,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning and you’re tired. But then you get here and once we get on the water, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing.’”

Another bonus about OAR is the fact they practice at Dexter, a gorgeous reservoir in its own little world.

“It’s amazing. Somedays there are eagles and ospreys flying over us, and the scenery is just beautiful,” Starr said. “I think a lot of people in the Springfield, Pleasant Hill, Cottage Grove, and Creswell area don’t really think about the rowing that’s offered here. People come from all over the country to compete here and they’re amazed by how beautiful it is.”

Last weekend was Starr’s first regional regatta, and her team came in fifth overall in their event. Starr competed with teammates Maile Hutterer, Theresa Albright, and Renee Buchanan.

“The four of us all started during the pandemic, so we’re like the novices, we’ve just been advanced out of novice,” Starr said. “I think some people feel too much pressure about racing. And you don’t need to race. I mean, you can come in once a week and just have a nice relaxed row, or you can be hardcore and row four or five times a week and race and compete. We’re kind of dabbling in the race. I like racing because it gives you something to work toward.”

For more info on the USRowing Regionals visit: https://tinyurl.com/56d8x24w

For more info on the Oregon Association of Rowers visit: https://tinyurl.com/4yb6cdh4



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