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State scholastic championships hit the water

The scholastic crew teams of New York State don’t waste any time determining who are the best boats in the water. The season only began at the beginning of the month, but the state championships will be held this weekend.

The event will be staged Saturday and Sunday in Saratoga Springs. Time trials will take place Saturday morning, with the finals scheduled for Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.

Here are some facts about scholastic rowing:

A 2015 highlight: Canisius High School sent three teams to rowing’s Youth National Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla. All of them finished in the top five.

What teams will be good this year?: When in doubt, go with Canisius. The Crusaders are a perennial power in the sport. One coach described the Canisius crew team as the best sport, relatively speaking to the competition, that the school has.

“It’s one of the top three programs in the East,” the coach said.

St. Joe’s usually isn’t too far behind. Both teams won two events at the John Bennett Regatta, which was the kickoff to the season. The West Side Rowing Club’s team also took two races at the Bennett Regatta.

Which individuals will be good this year?: It’s still too early in the season to make a good guess, particularly when last year’s winners have graduated. Canisius always has a few top candidates. Charlie Kwitchoff is a mainstay in the Varsity 4+ for St. Joe’s, and hopes to go to the Scholastic Nationals. The West Side Rowing Club believes that Eli Swing, who will row for Hobart next year, is very good. On the women’s side, Tara Finlayson of Nardin made an impact at the U.S. Rowing Junior Camp this spring, and finished at the top of the pack.

The structure: Rowing is not covered by the Section VI umbrella of sports. There are about eight to 10 area schools that have programs, generally from the Catholic or City of Buffalo institutions. In addition, athletes from other schools can participate in club programs. For example, an athlete from Orchard Park could row for the West Side Rowing Club’s junior team or a squad from the Buffalo Scholastic Rowing Association.

Rowing isn’t like swimming, where there are dual meets in the water. Several schools take part in competitions over a wide-spread area. For example, the St. Joe’s team will be rowing from Saratoga Springs to Ohio during the course of the season.

Oh, Canada: Our neighbors to the north have a great tradition in rowing. Welland, Ont., has a terrific facility on the Welland Canal, and the Henley Regatta in late June is one of the world’s biggest events in the sport. Some high school teams cross the border each year for events.

Who participates?: It’s not filled with kids who play football and basketball. There are plenty of athletes who haven’t done any other sports before, and some of them are involved because a parent did it. Many are tall, flexible and excellent “boat movers.”

What’s the reward?: The sport is a great way to earn a college scholarship. Several local athletes have earned a place on teams on the next level over the years, including quite a few Ivy League squads.

Short season: The first competition for some schools was earlier this month with the John Bennett Regatta at Black Rock Canal, and they are done by mid-June. That makes for a limited schedule. But the athletes take part in indoor training from November to March, more or less. They lift weights and practice on the rowing machines.

Warm waters: You may have noticed the mild winter; it was good for crew teams. Some years, teams don’t get in the water until late April. This year, they were rowing in March when other spring sports were getting underway.

Practice, practice: Workouts are a good time to experiment who goes where in a particular boat at different distances. Coaches search for the proper combination as they prepare for regattas. But remember, they don’t have much time to get it right.

Prep Talk Player of the Year?: Daniel Jordan of Canisius and Lauren Murray of Nardin have graduated, so the field is wide open.

email: bbailey@buffnews.com