Their students have performed well in national competitions -- and they also teach rowing to local students

BLAKE BENARD - Oregon Rowing Unlimited athletes take their boats down to the Willamette River below Oaks Park for a morning of training. Fresh off a successful performance at the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships in June, Sellwood-based Oregon Rowing Unlimited (ORU) offered a "Learn to Row" youth camp over the summer in hopes of growing their program.

The two-week camps were run by members of the ORU program, past and present. They taught youngsters the basics of rowing technique, how to handle the delicate crew boat frames and oars, how to balance yourself while climbing into the boat in the water, and how to match your rowing speed and pace with the others in the boat. Overseen by Head Coach Plamen Petrov and Assistant Coach Nadia Petrova, the classes brought attention to the sport of rowing for a younger audience.

"For ORU, this is how we recruit. We can't do flyers or advertisements that go to any of the public schools, because we are not a Portland Public sponsored sport," explained Amy Koski, who helps with recruitment for the club.

ORU boasts some 60 members as of now, but that number may rise quickly. Classes that THE BEE attended were filled to capacity. The competitive rowers run a varsity program that practices five days a week — three days a week for the novice crews.

BLAKE BENARD - Rowers cruise the Willamette River along with geese, during an early July training session. Rowing is one of the original modern Olympic sports. It's divided up between sculling, in which each rower holds two oars; and sweeping, in which each rower operates only one oar.

There are crew boats, also known as "shells", for a single person -- or two, four, or eight. Although rowing dates as far back as humankind's first seafaring adventures, Yale and Harvard began the sport's first American intercollegiate competition in 1852, and the sport of sports rowing in the United States began. It quickly became the most popular sport in the country at the time, even outpacing the modern love of football.

In 1903, the Interscholastic Rowing Association was formed, and later merged with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Over the last century, the attention on college athletics has shifted towards football and basketball, leading to a steady decline in rowing programs and scholarships. However, even without the same level of public attention, rowing sports continue to thrive.

BLAKE BENARD - The Learn to Row Program participants gathered in the Oaks Park Boathouse on Thursday, July 7th. Oregon Rowing Unlimited is proud to report that several of their top athletes are recent high school graduates, now heading off to various universities across the country, thanks to rowing-specific scholarships.

"We have two MIT kids who have been accepted, and will be rowing for MIT this year. They are not the first ORU kids to go to MIT. There are a few going into the University of California system. One is going to the University of Oregon. One is going to the University of Victoria in Canada," said Amy. "Long story short, they do this and still manage to pull out some of the most intense grades in the hardest programs in high school."

Coach Plamen runs the varsity program, while Assistant Coach Nadia balances a secondary job and handles the novice rowing team. According to the ORU website, both have Masters Degrees in Sculling, Sweeping, and Physical Fitness Teaching with Nadia adding Sports Management.

The nonprofit sports club is based out of the Oaks Park boathouse. They begin their fall varsity training in September. For more information, or to register, go online —

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