SARASOTA — The Sarasota Crew masters rowing program is feeling the heat.
And it’s not just the intense summer sunshine beating down that has the program’s roughly 30 members on edge.
With only one week left, the Crew are preparing to take on some of the nation’s top rowers right in its own backyard.
From Aug. 15 to Aug. 18, the Crew will compete in the USRowing Masters Championships, at Nathan Benderson Park. Rowers will compete in 200 events during the four-day competition, which will be held in Florida for the first time since 1990, at which time the event was held in Miami.
“We’re really proud of that,” Co-Capt. Sue Gutek says. “The recognition is (huge). There aren’t that many places in the country that are able to host (the championships).
“The sport of rowing is becoming more popular across the country,” Gutek says. “So, to have Benderson and a site like this, and for it to be in Sarasota — that really puts us on the map.”
It’ll be the first time the Crew have participated in the Rowing Masters Championships as an entire team since the program was established four years ago.
Gutek, who joined the team seven years ago, is planning to compete in two Women’s 8 events — a mixed quad and a Women’s 4 event in the 50 to 54 age group.
“That’s the beauty of rowing,” says Gutek, who competed in the World Championships two years ago in Canada. “You can row as a single rower, or you can row with a team. I enjoy the diversity the sport (brings). It’s so rewarding and so much fun.”
The Crew has been practicing five to six days a week over the past month, in preparation for the USRowing Masters National Championships. Over the last week, the team has been practicing out at Benderson in hopes of gaining a competitive edge.
The team has aspirations of following in the footsteps of the Crew’s varsity team, which won state-and-national championships earlier this year, by winning a couple of medals of its own.
“Rowing is a sport of seconds,” Co-Capt. Jerry Burson says. “You’re always working to shave off time. We are definitely feeling the heat, but I think we’ll do OK.
“Since joining the Sarasota Crew, I’ve seen the excitement the junior program has obtained,” Burson says. “My goals for the masters program are to duplicate that success they’ve had on the water.”
Burson is no stranger to the USRowing Masters National Championships. The Sarasota resident will be making his 12th appearance at the event.
Burson began rowing when he was 10 years old. He went on to row for Michigan State University, before competing in his first USRowing Masters National Championship
“When I was younger, I did OK in other sports, but I never really excelled,” Burson says. “I liked the team concept with rowing. I learned at an early age that it takes a lot of discipline and dedication.”
Burson moved last fall to Sarasota, after researching the top areas to row and retire.
“I picked out where I was going to live based on the boatyard,” Burson says. “I knew if it wasn’t 10 to15 minutes away, then I had to find somewhere else to live.”
Burson plans to row in the lightweight single and lightweight double races, as well as a pair of quad races at this year’s national championships.
“Since the program is relatively young, a lot of our rowers are new to this level of competition,” Burson says. “We’re going to be racing against some of those rowers who have been racing since I grew up.”
For more information on the USRowing Masters National Championships, visit www.usrowing.org/events/mastersnationals. For more information on the Sarasota Crew masters program, visit www.sarasotacrew.org.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
Crew wants volunteers
The Sarasota Crew masters rowing program is looking for volunteers for the US Rowing Masters National Championships Aug. 15 through Aug. 18, at Nathan Benderson Park.
Regatta volunteer coordinator John Krotec needs several hundred volunteers to help during the four-day competition.
For more information or to volunteer, contact Krotec at [email protected] or call 400-7333.