Although COVID-19 pandemic canceled competitions for the Crystal Lake Rowing Club Juniors team through the end of the year, the team is still able to continue practices as a low-risk sport, with mandatory masks worn on land.
"It was really fun," 14-year-old Ellyn Grigson of Barrington said at a clinic Wednesday. "It's not something you can pick up like that. It takes some practice."
Grigson was one of four potential new members who attended Wednesday's clinic. She's been boating before but the sport of rowing is new to her.
"It wasn't really too hard. I really like boating," she said.
Rowing instructor and former club member Alex Jimenez, 20, of Lake in the Hills, was a member of the club throughout his four years at Crystal Lake South High School and has joined the rowing club at Northwestern University, where he is entering his third year.
Over the summers since aging out of the club, Jiminez likes to help out by attending practices and teaching a newer generation of rowers.
"They pick it up really quickly. This is a really good group. They're good at motivating each other," he said, noting that the turnout among potential newer members is a little smaller than in years past due to the pandemic.
"We're all very hopeful looking forward," he said. He said he's looking forward to competing in the U.S. Rowing national competition in May.
In the two years Jiminez has been helping out since going to college, he has seen formerly new members Gavin Kempf-Kutemeier and Rhianna Petersen, both 15 and of Crystal Lake, mature as rowers and become leaders in the club.
"They really are model rowers," he said of Kempf-Kutemeier and Petersen.
Staying active with the group has helped Jiminez as well.
"It makes me feel like I've done good – like I've helped people find a new sport," he said.
The club is open to youth in grades 8 through 12 and is always looking for new talent among interested athletes.
This week's clinic ended Thursday, but another clinic is scheduled for next week, 6 to 8 a.m. Aug. 11 through 13. It costs $150 for the three-day session with a limit of eight participants per session.
No experience is required, but participants must be able to tread water for 10 minutes without assistance. Masks must be worn on land to comply with state guidelines.