Junior Judith Alvarado plays softball at U.S. Grant. Senior Luis Pizano wrestles for the Generals.
They are also teammates. Both row for U.S. Grant in the SandRidge RIVERSPORT Youth League.
Alvarado was one of two girls on the Generals' eight-person crew that easily defeated three other high school crews Wednesday on the Oklahoma River in a 500-meter league championship race.
“You get a rush from rowing,” Alvarado said. “I like it a lot and it's an opportunity to get into college if you are good enough.”
Wednesday's championship races culminated a 10-week fall league for high school and middle school teams.
Eight schools and approximately 200 high school and middle school students currently participate in the rowing and kayaking league.
OKC RIVERSPORT provides the equipment and the training. Students practice twice a week after school with OKC RIVERSPORT coaches either on the Oklahoma River or Lake Overholser.
There are both fall and spring leagues that conclude with championship races. This is only the second season for the youth league.
“This is something we are really trying to build,” said Mike Knopp, executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation. “We have this incredible venue. We ought to have every school participating. We would love to have teams from every school.”
Permanent lighting for night racing on the Oklahoma River will be installed next year. Knopp envisions a day when the equivalent of “Friday Night Lights” will exist on the Oklahoma River where high schools will compete in rowing and kayaking duals.
“A lot of kids have discovered this is their sport once they come out here,” Knopp said of the league. “Schools are starting to understand the opportunities this provides for students.
“We are making it very easy where they don't have to buy their own equipment or find their own coaches. We are providing that.”
Knopp thinks more schools will be joining the league in the near future.
“I just think it's the beginning of something really unique here for the kids of Oklahoma City,” he said. “I think we are going to see it grow. We have a huge capacity to grow.”
For more information on the SandRidge RIVERSPORT Youth League, call Kelley McGuire at 552-4040 or visit riversportokc.org.