BOULDER — The Boulder-based Colorado Junior Crew rowing club is set to introduce itself to the national level of competition this weekend.
For the first time in the club's existence, Colorado Junior Crew will be represented at the USRowing Youth National Championship. The club won't break through with just one qualifier, either. High school juniors Matthew Toles (Niwot High School), Zander Maitland (Fairview High School) and Saylor Strugar (Fairview) will all compete this Friday through Sunday at Mercer Lake Marina in New Jersey.
"It's a really great opportunity," Strugar said. "It's the first time that any of our team has gone and we all joined when the team was only 20 people, and now we have like 70 on the team. It's been fun to watch the program grow over the years and to be a part of this first group to qualify for nationals."
Established in 2007, Colorado Junior Crew calls Boulder Reservoir home. Now the largest youth rowing program in the state, the year-round club trains athletes ages 13-18 in both sculling and sweep rowing and has over 60 active members from 19 middle and high schools throughout Boulder, St. Vrain Valley, and Jeffco School Districts, including Boulder, Fairview, Niwot, Silver Creek, Boulder Country Day Middle School, Southern Hills Middle School and others.
"We've all been rowing together for three years and it's a really close team so we know each other really well," Strugar said.
Year-round club team and big competition season is in the spring. This spring was a big one.
Strugar, 17, placed second in the 19-under women's singles race at the Mountain West Youth Regional Championship in Park City, Utah last month. Normally only the top finisher qualifies for nationals but Strugar's time was so close to the winner's that USRowing approved her petition to attend nationals. Team rowers in the men's lightweight youth double division, Toles and Maitland took first in their race at the regional to qualify for the national meet.
"One of the nicest things about CJC, is that it's kind of a melting pot of schools from St. Vrain and Boulder Valley and Jeffco and we all just get together to form a team," Toles said. "The thing about crew is that if you're not on the same page, the boat's not going to go anywhere. Zander and I just had a great synchronization ever since we got in a boat together for a sculling sessions and we've worked well together ever since."
Having competed together for 18 months, Toles and Maitland are hitting their stride at the right time. Maitland is the stroke, setting the pace, and Toles is the bow, and is more responsible for the stability and the direction of the boat. Coach Marika Page said the duo hasn't been pushed to its limit in any race yet this season, but they are excited to see what they are capable of when that happens at nationals.
"It's pretty exciting," Toles said. "It's pretty intense but it's a lot of fun. We're just going to go out and compete at nationals and make our team proud."
All three rowers will compete in preliminary races on Friday and twice on Saturday. If any of the three qualify for the finals, they will race on Sunday.
Page, who was a lightweight singles sculler for Team USA in 2005, thinks they're all ready for their nationals debut.
"I think they've worked really hard to put themselves in this position," Page said. "They've done extra workouts and have been really conscientious about working on the areas where they need to improve and that's paid off for them."