Elise Beuke is a kind of lone Wolf. And frankly, she’s OK with that.
A self-described athletic, artistic and spiritual person, the 17-year-old Sequim High School student finds a kind of symbiosis out on the water in a rowing shell.
“You push yourself really hard every day,” she says. “You and the water are working together to move the boat. Rowing is such a hard sport. You think, ‘I can’t do this right now.’ But then you finish it and you feel so proud of yourself.”
Beuke has found she doesn’t meet a lot of people her age that love rowing as much as she does — not in Sequim, anyway.
“I’m the only kid in my school that does rowing,” Beuke says.
That may change soon. The Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association has athletes of various ages training and competing, from as young as preteens to rowers into their 70s. Association president John Halberg says that one of the group’s goals is to invest into the sport’s next generations.
“First of all, (we want them to) like the sport and want to do it. It’s fun, hard work,” Halberg says. “And it’s an opportunity for kids who find and learn and love this sport to go on to college. It depends on how much effort willing to put into it.”
In Beuke’s case, it seems she’s up for the challenge.
“The thing that first got me to want to look into (rowing) is, people told me I would be good at it,” says Beuke, a tall, strong junior/senior-to-be at Sequim High who also plays on the Wolves’ basketball squad. Though there are plenty of races in between now and rowing in college, Beuke says she’s already considering some schools
Having a prototypical tall frame helps make a good rower, Halberg says, but notes that the top three distinctions of a successful rower are: 1. competitive desire, 2. technique and 3. strength/endurance.
“Technique — that’s where Rodrigo really shines,” Halberg says. Rodrigo is coach Rodrigo Rodriguez, who instructs rowers on the finer points of form and pacing as they train from the association’s headquarters on Port Angeles’ Ediz Hook (1431 Ediz Hook Road).
“I feel like there’s a lot of support at OPRA,” Beuke says. “There are little kids up to 75. It’s like this huge community of people.”
The association has rowing camps each week throughout the summer. Open to men and women, girls and boys ages 12 and older, camps are 9-11 a.m. from July 21-25, July 28-Aug. 1, Aug. 4-8, Aug. 11-15, Aug. 18-22 and Aug. 25-29.
Beuke started rowing at a similar camp last year, and she’s come back. Now she and fellow high schoolers Aubree Officer and Gabe Wegener, both from Port Angeles, are taking on other youths and others from across the region. In May the three competed at the U.S. Rowing Northwest Junior District Championships in Vancouver, Wa. On June 21, Beuke and Officer teamed up to win their division at Port Townsend’s Rat Island Regatta while Wegener competed in singles action. Officer added a second place in an eight-person skull when a crew from Portland, Ore., found they were short a rower.
Beuke says she’s excited for races in Victoria, B.C. in July, where she’ll compete for the first time in a single boat against Officer, who is normally her doubles partner.
Into the classrooms
Knowing how difficult it is to get students out on the water, Halberg, Rodriguez and Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association members are finding ways to bring the boats to schools — in a way. The association brought indoor rowers (known as ergs) to Sequim Middle School PE classes and classes at Port Angeles in 2013, introducing youngsters to the sport. After some practice, students competed with each other for top marks and were eligible to win free passes to summer clinics.
“It’s much different than football or soccer in that there are a limited number of boats,” Halberg says. “We do have these quads so each person gets an opportunity to experience getting in the water.”
Halberg says the vision for the association’s youth program extends into club teams for peninsula schools. Unlikely? Perhaps not. Bainbridge Island, he notes, has a long-standing program that sends five to seven athletes on to Division I schools each year and last year saw 114 students turn out for rowing teams.
Sequim and Port Angeles could have something similar — not unheard of, Halberg says, considering the access peninsula youth have to water. “It’s a great spot for (rowing),” he says. “(with) Sequim Bay, Port Angeles harbor, Lake Sutherland, Lake Crescent, Lake Ozette.”
It’s already hooked Beuke, who says her passion for rowing has benefits beyond the physical.
“(Rowing) teaches you that you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” she says. “Rowing would be such a good port for high school and school in general to participate in how much it teaches and how it pushes you.”
For more information, call coach Rodrigo Rodriguez at 808-9821 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.oprarowing.org.