Clermont County hosts U.S. Rowing Club National Championships
Harsha Lake at East Fork State Park hosted the U.S. Rowing Club National Championships July 13-17. Scott Springer was on hand at the event. Scott Springer/The Community Press
CLERMONT COUNTY – A pair of gold mines once existed near Elklick Road where East Fork State Park now exits.
If the Clermont County Visitor’s Bureau has their way, a new form of gold mine in the form of local revenue could be making a yearly appearance at the beach that was created in 1978.
By attracting the U.S. Rowing Club National Championships this month, an estimated 1,854 participants in 1,570 boats from 103 clubs in 30 states gathered at the park in Bethel. That makes it the largest U.S Rowing event held among clubs.
“What that really means is all of the hotels in the region are booked, the restaurants are booked, the Krogers, Jungle Jims and gas stations are all full,” Clermont County Visitors Bureau President Mark Calitri said. “What that circles around to is over a $3 million impact in little less than a week.”
Harsha Lake at East Fork has previously hosted the U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals from 1995-2010 and the National Collegiate Rowing Championships from 1983-1996. The Cincinnati Regatta, Cincinnati High School Invitational and Midwest Junior Rowing Championships have also taken place at the large body of water that sits between Ohio 125 and 32.
“It’s a real hidden gem here in the region,” Calitri said. “We like to brand ourselves ‘Cincinnati East.’ We’re part of this whole region. These people are coming from all across the country. They might want to come back on vacation here, go to a Reds game, a Bengals game, Over-The-Rhine, lots of things. Once we get them here, we want to put on a good show.”
The show includes events from single sculls to eight in a boat, paddles neatly lined in rows, a tent city, sports medicine tents, vendors, cooling misters and the all-important phone-charging station.
When not charging their devices for Pokemon Go, the contestants keep on the move. Each boat must weigh in, as well as the rowers. Should rowers be over their limit, it’s not unusual to see a crew hit the East Fork trails to sweat off some water weight.
Along with numerous clubs, 84 colleges were represented either in the water or for showcase purposes. Women tend to have a recruiting advantage as many large schools offer rowing in order to keep in line with the expensive men’s sports teams.
Ohio State is a multi-time women’s rowing champion and Indiana, Michigan, Louisville and Notre Dame all have varsity programs. Mens rowing tends to be more along the east or west coasts. A college fair at the U.S. Rowing Club National championships wraps up the summer’s marquees event.
“It’s actually an international crowd,” A.J. Dominique of U.S. Rowing said. “We have a group from India, a group from the Bahamas, plus all over the country from the west coast and down the east coast.”
U.S. Rowing does numerous championship and junior championship events each summer. The Club National Championships are part of a competitive bidding process, but East Fork is a popular stop.
“The park is set up really nicely to run an event like this,” Dominique said. “It’s got enough space to keep up with what we need, but keeps everyone in one space. It makes it really nice for those competing and watching.”
While no one at the event was heading to Rio de Janeiro, some of the junior national elite-level rowers could have their eyes on 2020. Locally, the Clermont Crew team hosted the event, with Cincinnati Junior Rowing Club, Queen City Rowing Club, Cincinnati Country Day, Great Miami Rowing and a new group from Winton Woods competing from the Tristate.
Greg Hull has been the Cincinnati Junior Rowing Club director since 2004. His team trains on the Licking River near the Fourth Street Bridge in Newport. Their indoor facility is across the Ohio at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse.
He doesn’t mind the hot, sticky summer weather as his teams hit the water initially in February.
“During the school year we have between 120-140 kids from around the city,” Hull said. “This weekend we had about 75. We have kids from as far north as Mason and as far south as Independence, Kentucky. To the east they come from out here (East Fork/Bethel) and as far west as Harrison.”
In addition to Clermont County revenue, rowers and fans have been booked in rooms in Newport, the airport (CVG), Florence, Mason and also Butler County. CCVB’s Calitri said the area is guaranteed a U.S. Rowing national event each year. They’re currently negotiating the next two-year contract.