By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter —
OKLAHOMA CITY – Seven rowers from the RIVERSPORT Youth Rowing League (YRL) were recently honored with four-year “Dedicated Senior” awards for demonstrating team leadership and making rowing a priority during their high school years.
Cathy Nguyen, Cruz Pulido, Mercedes Torres, Lizbeth Perez and Ana Vargas from Southeast High School, Humberto Guzman from Santa Fe South High School, and Fabian Ramirez from Northwest Classen High School all received their honors and team jackets at a ceremony on May 25.
The Riversport YRL athletes have faced adversity before, such as Oklahoma wind and storms, in addition to this year’s coronavirus pandemic.
“We had originally scheduled the championships and jacket presentations for early May but had to cancel due to high wind,” said Gena Terrill, head coach for the YRL. “We tried again the following weekend, but storms were forecast so, in the end, we honored our four-year seniors at a reception.”
The athletes come from Title 1 schools across the metro, and they’ve spent the past three seasons navigating how to become and stay a team during a pandemic.
“I pushed myself to the limits I never thought I’d be able to. I’m thankful for the staff here,” said Torres “We’ve all become a family and it’s going to be really hard to say goodbye to this.”
“It’s pushed me to help my team, to help my community,” she added. “Without this I wouldn’t have the courage to volunteer more than 100 hours in the community, a community that needs help. I’m so grateful.”
Perez stated, “This is where I grew up the most. This is where I’ve grown as a person.” I’m going to try to come back, hopefully, to maybe even coach. It was just an amazing experience overall.”
The seniors have rowed with their school teams in the Riversport Youth Rowing League for four years, which has meant weekly practices and season championships in addition to keeping up with their academic studies.
“Being a part of a team, you actually do learn a lot of leadership and motivation from other people, to work harder and become stronger as a team,” said Nguyen.
More than 140 youth from ten schools participated in rowing with another 50 competing in the Youth Kayaking League during the 2020-21 fall and spring seasons. The league is free for Title 1 schools and is funded through corporate and private donations.
“A really big part of my team experience was motivation,” said Pulido. “In a way we were motivating each other, we were always counting on each other to get that next step and continue to grow.”
Guzman noted, “My experience with the Youth Rowing League was pretty amazing. I had a chance to travel with this program and I’ve made a bunch of wonderful memories here, so I highly recommend to anyone else to do it.”
Participating schools included ASTEC High School and Middle School, Cristo Rey High School, Mission Academy High School, Mustang Area Rowing Club, Northwest Classen High School, Putnam City West High School, Santa Fe South High School, Southeast High School, and Southeast Middle School.
“We want to continue growing the Youth Rowing League for teams that are on scholarships, such as the Title 1 schools, as well as paid teams,” said Coach Terrill. “We think it’s a great school sport and hope to see more middle school and high school teams get involved.”
Riversport Youth Rowing League’s fall season will begin August 23. Schools interested in participating can contact Gena Terrill at 405-552-4040, ext., 4219 or [email protected].
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