SEBASTIAN – While art lovers and music enthusiasts gathered along Indian River Drive in Sebastian dressed in heavy coats over the weekend for an annual festival, another group descended on the park – dressed in shorts and T-shirts, oblivious to the cold.
They were the Sebastian River High School Rowing Club – and they were on a mission. Raise money for new boats by rowing 1 million meters. Starting at 7 a.m. Saturday, the rowers took to one of four ergometers – a rowing-type machine that logs the distance rowers travel.
They had 24 hours to reach 1 million meters – or 621 miles. They reached their goal at 3:42 a.m. Sunday – a few hours before they had to report to the Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival for volunteer duties.
“It’s official,” said Jennine Dasch, vice president of the Rowing Club.
There was no record previously for a co-ed team – so Sebastian River High’s crew set the bar.
The students paired off – two boys, two girls. When it was time to tag out, a tightly choreographed dance ensued between rowers. The new rower would take the handle and continue to pull while the tired rower would hop off the machine – then they’d switch. The handle never stopped.
“The wheel must keep moving,” Dasch explained.
If the wheel were to stop, that machine would be “done” and could not be used to reach the million meters – making it that much harder and taking that much longer to hit the goal.
Four-year rower Senior John Tucker was one of the first to hit the ergometer on Saturday – at 7 a.m. before heading to work. In about 2 1/2 hours, he rowed 25,000 meters, getting the team off to a strong start.
“When you’re erging, you zone out,” Tucker said, adding that if he does think of anything, it’s the distance that the machine displays.
“Erging is the not so much fun part of rowing,” fellow rower Jacque Delp said. “It’s really hard work. But it has a rewarding feel – seeing the distance.”
Tucker said every year the team tries to do something different to raise money.
“This year, we’re going to set a record,” he said. “We’re trying to make a name for ourselves. We’re getting there.”
Dasch explained that the erg-a-thon helped to raise funds as the rowers went out to the community seeking sponsors. Each rower was asked to get at least $500 in sponsorships – like a walk-a-thon, only sponsors donated for participating, not the actual distance.
The students raised more than $22,000 from the erg-a-thon and another $2,500 from their bake sale.
For new teammate, Senior Shane Houck, he wanted to help in any way he could.
In return, he’s been getting help from the more experienced rowers on the team.
“It helps a lot,” Houck said of getting tricks and hints from the other rowers and using the erg-a-thon to practice technique.
The team does not receive funds from Sebastian River High School for equipment, like new boats, Dasch said. And, the fees the teammate pay go to coaches.
Anyone who wants to help the team financially can send tax deductible donations to Sebastian River High School Crew and mail them to P.O. Box 782083, Sebastian, FL 32978.
The team will provide a receipt for tax purposes.
This article was originally published at 8:44 a.m., Monday.