By John Bombatch
RIVERSIDE — While Saturday’s inaugural Learn To Row Olympic Day featured Olympians and a whole lot of rowing, Beavercreek athletes Melissa Wesseler and Connor Moore hope to row their way to college some day.
Moore and Wesseler looked on as 2012 Olympic heptathlete Chantae McMillan and gold medal-winning Olympic rower Anna Goodale spoke to the crowd on Saturday at Eastwood Lake. They saw Goodale’s gold medal from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and saw her world championship gold medals as well.
Their initial nautical athletic goals might not be Olympian in nature, but they’re just as important.
“I’m going to try as hard as I can, but if I don’t make it to the Olympics, I’ll know that I’ve tried the best that I can,” said Moore, 16.
“We have a rower named Megan Hinkle who is currently ranked fourth in the nation,” added Wesseler, 15. “So to see Olympians who have done it, that’s definitely inspiring to her. But I think Connor and I are looking more at the collegiate level. Right now, it’s one in six boys and one in every two for girls who obtain scholarships from rowing. I think both of us are aspiring to be one of those.”
Dayton rowing coach Abby Beach said there are several Greene County rowers who are involved with the Dayton Regional Rowing group. Rowing competitions range by age group from Youth level sports up to Masters. But the group’s primary goal is to introduce and create potential Olympic talent.
“The idea is to develop Olympic athletes at an early age and to boost the Olympic sport,” Beach said. “We’re affiliated with the U.S. Olympic Committee. The general idea is to build better Olympic athletes.”
Goodale was a member of Team USA’s Womens Eight group of Erin Cafaro, Lindsay Shoop, Elle Logan, Anna Cummins, Susan Francia, Caroline Lind, Caryn Davies and coxswain Mary Whipple that won the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. She told the Eastwood Lake crowd that she had no idea she’d be an Olympic rower, and only learned about the sport during her first day of freshman classes at Syracuse University.
“A woman approached me on campus and handed me a flyer and said, ‘Here, you should try this. You have the build. You look like a rower, you should give it a try.’ … And so I went to the meeting and saw these incredibly tall, strong and athletic women and was in awe of them. I wanted to be like them.”
Eight years later, and with plenty of hard work and a lot of disappointment in between, Goodale made the U.S. Olympic team for the 2008 Beijing Games. She recalled how race setbacks, choppy seas and rough weather conditions made her a stronger person in every day life as well.
“I think it’s something that’s really important in our sport and in life, that you have to be able to go with the flow. Take whatever is thrown at you, and use it to your advantage,” Goodale said. “Wind happens, lightning and choppy seas will happen. You just have to come back and continue to do your very best when you do race. We came in to the Olympic finals with that mindset that we were going to kick ass … and we did.”
The USA boat finished in 6:05.34, beating runner up Netherlands by almost two seconds.
Today, Goodale is an assistant coach with the Ohio State University rowing team.
Saturday’s event was held by Dayton Regional Rowing, which is a partnership between USRowing, Five Rivers MetroParks, the Dayton Boat Club and the Greater Dayton Rowing Association. It is the nation’s only Community Olympic Development Program (CODP) for the sport of rowing. Saturday’s Learn To Row Olympic Day event was the group’s inaugural event.
To get involved in rowing, interested athletes can call Beach at (937) 938-6933, or send email to [email protected].