Despite being a head shorter and a couple of years younger, Keaton Langer has no problem bossing around older high school boys.
It is, after all, his job.
As coxswain, the 13-year-old Langer is responsible for barking out stroke patterns to his teammates while he rides leisurely on one end of the boat as they cross the finish line.
Langer said he came out to the Oklahoma River with intention of rowing. Instead his size and stature led him to follow another path in the sport.
“My friend came out to row so I joined, too,” Langer said. “It wasn't necessarily that I was too small, but I couldn't pull enough to become a rower so I became a coxswain instead.”
The rowers, Alex Jablonski, James Hunter, Bobby Gibbs and Andrew Fraser are all older than Langer, but they said when he speaks up, they listen.
“He navigates the course and communicates with the other coxswains and tells us when to power up or down,” Gibbs, 16, said. “We try to get him to yell at us more because if it's done correctly then it's all good and it really helps us.”
Langer said he felt hesitant when he first started as the cox. His quiet nature didn't lend itself easily to giving orders.
“I feel the pressure especially from my coach because he puts a lot of responsibility on me,” Langer said. “When I started varsity I barely talked so they really had to encourage me to be loud and yell and tell the guys what they are doing and what they can improve on. It's a lot of responsibility.
“I try not to yell but my teammates seem to want me to, which I really don't understand but it gets them motivated, so whatever helps the team.”
After finishing in first place in their early race Saturday, the team had to gear up for two more races later in the day.
“We are feeling pretty good today,” Jablonski, 17, said. “This is a 100 percent team sport so we all depend on each other to win.”
Langer said he's grateful to be a part of the team in any way possible.
“It's really fun out there,” he said. “I'm just happy to help.”