AJRA earned a club-record six qualifying bids to the Nationals after a strong performance in early May at the Southeast Junior District Championships, winning the Women’s Points Trophy for the first time in program history. “The success we had at Regionals has given us good momentum heading into Nationals,” said Sam Greenblatt, AJRA varsity men’s head coach.
The men’s group, which includes a woman coxswain, will consist of the following rowers from high schools in the North Fulton-area: Trevor Appier (Roswell), Joe Cecil (Johns Creek), Jessica Geng (Roswell) and James Virgo (Milton).
The women’s group, similar to the men, will be represented by high school rowers, including Zoe Canares (Milton), Haley Liebenow (Johns Creek), Sarah Hudnall (Roswell), Cassi Lobaugh (Cambridge), Maggie Nugent (Cambridge), Hannah Onians (St. Francis), Samantha Morton (Alpharetta) and Janey Murray (Roswell).
“We’re going to be competing against the best youth rowers from across the country,” said Skye Elliot, the AJRA varsity women’s coach. “There will be high school, public, private and even club select teams at the race to find the fastest youth rowers in the country.”
The Nationals represents a culmination for the AJRA, a non-profit youth sports organization dedicated to introducing middle and high school students to the Olympic sport of rowing. The club has been in existence for more than 25 years and is the largest youth rowing group in Georgia.
“The sport is growing on a national level, especially in North Fulton,” said Greenblatt. “We’ve seen our enrollment double over the years and now have close to 120 high school students and more than 90 middle school kids in our program. Rowing is an uncommon sport but people fall in love with it once they see it or get on the water.”
The AJRA has developmental programs that accepts rowers as young as 12 years old and encourages all high school students to participate as well. “Athletes are recognizing that if you’re good in another sports such as swimming, volleyball, football or cross county, you have the potential to be a great rower in comparison to the original sport,” said Elliot.
The rowers train together, sharing equipment and usage of the Chattahoochee River, which brings elements of its own. “The rising and dropping of the River does affect our training schedule,” said Elliot. “We also have to work around the rowers’ availability but the kids are committed to getting the work done in the water or on our rowing machines at the facility.”
The rowing community extends beyond Roswell as the AJRA have competed in numerous races at locations such as Boston, San Diego and Orlando, Fla. “We’ve also gone to Chattanooga quite often and even have relationships with colleges such as Michigan State, Georgia Tech and Georgia State who have rowed the Chattahoochee in the past year,” said Greenblatt.
For more information about the AJRA, visit ajracrew.com