What divides them is what unites them. About 45 kids from various high schools across Grand Rapids get into rowing shells and become a team. They have no school spirit to work with, no school mascot to rally around. This is about building teamwork, camaraderie, and ultimately, tapping competitive spirit.
After practicing together four evenings a week for nine weeks, two hours at a time, they learn to row in sync and become a crew. When they step into a boat at a regatta, it’s not about being from Ottawa Hills or City High School – it’s about being from Grand Rapids Crew.
Besides City and Ottawa Hills, kids on the Grand Rapids Crew come from Catholic Central, Grand Rapids Christian, West Catholic, and suburban schools like Comstock Park and Kenowa Hills. Some are also home schooled. This is also recruiting time, so the list of schools may grow.
Landon Bartley, men’s varsity coach, says they’ve always been a community program, accepting kids from wherever in the Grand Rapids area there is interest. Rockford, Forest Hills, and East Grand Rapids all have their own programs with school identities. Not so with Grand Rapids. “We’ve never had a problem with kids from other schools,” he says about kids who dig meeting other new kids. “We say, ‘You wanna beat Rockford?’ and they say, ‘Yeah!’” In rowing, it’s boat against boat."
The sun snuggles toward the horizon as the launch and shells pull up to the dock, oars are freed from their oarlocks, and rowers heft the equipment the long walk back up to the boathouse. The Grand Rapids Crew operates out of the Grand Rapids Rowing Association facilities in Comstock Park, just upstream from the original Boat and Canoe Club in North Park. Practices are Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings. This crew will pick up in a couple of days where they left off, building teamwork, camaraderie, and competitive spirit.
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