Rowers Support Charity and Fund Spring Racing

On March 1, members of the Manhattan Junior Crew rowed a collective 11708 meters in one hour and raised $292.53 for the USD383 FITcloset as part of their annual Row for Humanity event.

In preparation for the Row for Humanity fundraiser, MJC members gather donations from friends and family to support their spring racing season and then give a portion of the proceeds to a selected charity for the year.

The USD383 FITcloset has now been MJC’s chosen charity for two years in a row because it provides clothing and school supplies to classmates in need.  Team Captain Ewan Wileman noted, “This charity is important and a necessity in the Manhattan Ogden community and we are extremely happy that we could support them.”

On the day of the event, rowers test their limits, trying to row their personal best distance in one hour, to show their pride in supporting their community and their gratitude for the part of the donations that helped pay for their racing season travels.

At the time of writing, the competition team has just returned from their season closer at the USRowing Central Youth Championship in Oklahoma City.  After some time off, we will be welcoming athletes new to the sport by offering a free two-week Learn-to-Row day camp 6-8am Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from June 3 to June 14.

Looking further ahead to the 2025 championship racing season, our next Row for Humanity has been scheduled well in advance and in conjunction with the Kansas State Rowing Association’s 61st reunion on October 19, 2024.

Two Athletes Aim for the National Rowing Team

Two of our Manhattan high school students are headed to Chattanooga, TN, for this year’s men’s USRowing Youth Development Camp.  This two-week camp, starting Sunday, is part of the national Olympic Development Program that seeks to identify and develop talented student-athletes from across the country, ultimately putting together the fastest possible high school crews to represent their regions and our country at national and international competitions.

For AJ Hoffman, this camp will be his second.  Last year, the development experience helped him fine tune his technique in both types of rowing—sculling, which involves one oar in each hand, as well as sweeping, which uses only one oar per rower.  This year, he is excited to continue getting better at his sport and most looks forward to making new friends from the different clubs and states represented.

Ewan Wileman will be stepping onto the national stage for the first time at this summer’s camp.  He first decided to apply because he wanted the chance to learn from Olympic team coaches.  Additionally, he most looks forward to rowing with other high-level athletes in eights—the biggest and therefore the fastest boats in the sport of rowing.

Head Coach Grace Ure could not be prouder.  After sending a handful of graduating seniors to D-I programs this fall, she is pleased that the class behind them are continuing to build the team’s competitive culture.  Additionally, she notes that building successful rowers doesn’t happen in a vacuum: “I know it’s tough for families, especially during the summer, to prioritize things like this when you also have to balance work schedules, family vacation, other extra-curricular activities, not to mention other kids.  It means a lot to me to have the support of parents when my athletes have grown to be good enough for an opportunity like YDC.”

The team hosted a scrimmage at home last weekend and will be spending the rest of the summer laying the groundwork for a competitive fall.  New athletes are welcome at any time and are offered two weeks of free lessons when they fill out the free trial registration form on the Manhattan Junior Crew website.

Spring 23 Racing Season Ends

The spring racing season came to a frustrating close on day two of the USRowing Central Youth Championships Sunday, May 7th.  In the day one time trials held on Saturday the 6th, three of the five entries from Manhattan Junior Crew placed in the top six of their respective categories, earning them the privilege of competing for a bid to nationals in day two racing.

Sunday conditions started out with flat water but deteriorated by noon.  Even large boats were struggling to line up evenly for a fair start at the top of the course, and the race officials were forced to make the difficult decision of canceling the rest of the day’s racing.  The results of Saturday’s time trials were then used to determine which boats would represent the region at nationals.

The cancelation was particularly disheartening for the Manhattan Junior Crew women’s pair since their time on Saturday was a mere two seconds behind third place.  Had they made up those two seconds and placed third in Sunday’s side-by-side racing, they would have been MJC’s first crew in the last decade to earn a spot at nationals.

This cancelation marks the second year in a row that wind conditions have prevented fair racing on day two of the Central Youth Championships held in Oklahoma City.  Additionally, this year’s Prairie Sprints, held annually in Wichita in mid-April, were also canceled due to high winds.

Despite not getting to see her crews challenged to their fullest potential, Head Coach Grace Ure is generally pleased with the progress of the team as a whole.  The team now has several weeks’ break from rowing to focus on graduation, finals, and rest before summer season starts on the 30th.

Photo credit: Deborah Almeda.

Signing Class of 2023

Three of this year’s seniors have set their sights on Division I college rowing.  Kathryn Borthwick signed with KU last fall, Hailey Vardiman signed with K-State this spring, and Ava Reese has been verbally committed to the University of Washington since the summer, signing with them in the fall as well.

Going furthest afield, Ava says, “Rowing at the University of Washington has been my dream ever since I first sprinted down Lake Shawnee in July 2018.”  She looks forward to combining the beauty and mental toughness of rowing as the mainstay of her college experience in the Pacific Northwest.  Most notably, she will get to train under Head Coach and former Olympian Yasmin Farooq at the historic UW program where Ava is “excited to be pushed even harder, allowing myself to become the best athlete I can be, adding my own contributions to the legacy of the ‘Women of Washington.’”

For Hailey, in true K-Stater style, continuing her rowing career here at home is all about family.  On the one hand, she says, “the K-State community attracted me automatically and the campus feels separate from Manhattan.”  At the same time, she’ll stay connected to her “biggest support system” of mom, dad, sister, and grandparents as she takes the next step up in her athletic career. Rowing for Head Coach and former Olympian Patrick Sweeney was an easy choice since Hailey says, “My life right now is in Manhattan, my life being my family, passions and KSU!”

Kathryn had chosen to go to KU for the academic programs and atmosphere before considering the possibility of Division I athletics.  When she met the rowing team and coaches, it was a perfect fit.  She describes the program as “loving and understanding” because “they see their rowers as people and students first, which is something I believe is super important.”  Kathryn will contribute to the Jayhawk tradition under KU-alumna Head Coach Carrie Cook-Callen.

With Division I rowing and coaching experience herself, Manhattan Junior Crew Head Coach Grace Ure will watch these budding college careers with bated breath.  “It will be particularly interesting to watch the results of future Sunflower Showdowns as Kathryn and Hailey, having been more or less inseparable, currently rowing our women’s pair, and serving as co-team captains this semester, will now have to become ‘best frenemies’ on the water.  I’m also super proud of Ava’s bravery in thinking outside the Kansas-box for the next stage in her career.  Despite only the humblest of beginnings our program has been able to give them, I’m excited to see how far these three will fly.”

Manhattan Junior Crew will complete their regular season at the US Rowing Central Youth Championships in Oklahoma City on May 6 and 7.  Top finishers will qualify to race in the US Rowing Youth National Championships in June.

2022 USRowing Central Youth Championship

The OKC skyline forms a backdrop for a line of parked racing boat trailers.

Manhattan Junior Crew’s competition squad traveled to Oklahoma City for their biggest race of the year on May 7th and 8th.  The USRowing Central Youth Championship is the national qualifying event for the central region, which consists of clubs from Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas.  Time trials are held Saturday, and the top 6 crews from each category advance to the finals on Sunday for the chance to earn a bid to the USRowing Youth National Championship.

In the Saturday time trials at Central Youths, boats are seeded based on previous results from the season and then set off one at a time down the 2000 meter course with top seeded crews going first.  The object for each crew is then to catch the boat ahead of them and push away from the boats started after them, much like our head races in the fall, but over a shorter distance and on a straight course.

Under usual circumstances, Sunday’s racing puts the top 6 finishers in the standard side-by-side format, but this year because of the wind forecast, crews were warned that Saturday’s times might have to be used as final results, despite the fact that most of the region is used to unpredictable conditions.

In fact, the Manhattan Junior Crew women’s youth double of Hailey and Taryn were prevented from launching along with the rest of the crews in their afternoon race because the national-level officials thought the conditions were too rough for small boats.  The region’s coaches protested (it wasn’t even whitecapping), and the last two doubles races were allowed to proceed with the caveat that if any boats flipped, the events would be cancelled.  No one flipped.  At the end of a successful day of time trials, a total of five MJC boats qualified to race in Sunday’s finals.

Unfortunately, as often happens in the midwest, at 6am Sunday morning when the race officials assessed the course, they were met by a stiff crosswind which they determined rendered the course significantly unfair.  The strong south wind would have made starting alignment exceptionally difficult, and crews assigned lanes on the south side of the river would have received the unfair advantage of smoother water.

While calling off the second day of racing was probably the best decision with safety and fairness in mind, it was a damper on the Manhattan team’s excitement to move even higher in their standings.  Most notably, our women’s youth pair of Kathryn and Hailey placed only one tenth of a second behind the fifth place finisher in the time trial.  Side-by-side racing in the final might have spurred them on to an even faster finish.  Similarly, the men’s novice coxed four finished fifth in an event where only five seconds separated the 6th and 2nd place times.  It would have been fun to see how much more grit our crew could have mustered with the added intensity of racing side-by-side against crews of such similar speed.

Head Coach Grace Ure was pleased with MJC’s performance.  Despite not getting to race a second time on Sunday, she felt her crews ended the championship season well, having made significant progress individually since the beginning of spring and as a team since the last time MJC raced at this event.

Complete results can be found at

Keep an eye on social media for next weekend’s local regatta in Edwardsville, KS, hosted by Whitefield Academy and Kansas City Boat Club.

                     The orange sun rises through a haze of clouds behind the OKC skyline with four lanes of highway in the foreground.

Life Is Not Linear

When people find out that I (Coach Grace) am from Albuquerque, NM, or that I raced for Oxford University, I often get the question, “What are you doing here?”

The short answer: life is not linear.

If you want the long answer, let me know when you have time.