OAK RIDGE — An area athlete has qualified for a national chip in the sport of rowing.
Clara Hay, a Farragut resident and rising junior at Knoxville Catholic High School, recently competed in the USRowing National Junior Rowing Championships in West Windsor, N.J.
Hay, who competes for the Atomic Rowers and the Oak Ridge Rowing Association, qualified for the championships in the pairs division. She and her rowing partner, Sarah Kate Rogers, competed in the national championships June 12-14 in the Garden State.
Rogers is a recent graduate of Oak Ridge High School. She and Hay finished third in the recent regional championships. The third-place finish was enough to net a birth in the national championships.
“I’m very excited about making it to nationals in the pair,” said Hay, who competed on the grand stage for the first time in 2016.
Hay has become a successful rower but the sport wasn’t always her first love in sports.
“When I was in seventh grade, I was playing middle school soccer in Farragut,” Hay said. “My dad thought that I was built to be a rower so he had me try it during the fall.
“At first, I played soccer and [competed in] rowing. But eventually, I cut soccer to concentrate on rowing.”
It’s a decision that she’s thankful to have made.
“I think I made the right decision and I don’t have any regrets,” Hay said. “I would tell anybody who has the opportunity to take up rowing to do it.
“We have people in our club who have come from other sports.”
She noted that rowing is not only a team sport, and that it takes the team concept to a more intense level.
“This is a little bit different because it promotes unity. You have to have unity in this sport,” Hay said. “If you don’t have unity and you’re not all paddling the right way, you won’t stay straight.
“You’ll go off-course and you’ll hit buoys and that will make you slow down. You have to be in rhythm. You have to be in time. If you’re arguing, you can’t do that. On those days when we’re getting along well, we race better and we’re much happier. We move together so much better.”
As for her partnership with Rogers, the two have been in boats together since Hay was in the eighth grade. They began competing last fall in the doubles (where each team member uses two oars). During the spring
season, Hay and Rogers began competing in the pairs competition. There, each competitor uses one oar.
Their recent competition in New Jersey was likely their last together as Rogers will move on to row at Boston University. Hay, on the other hand, will have two more years of high school competition.
“I guess I’ll just have to find someone else who I work well with,” Hay said.
Oak Ridge Rowing Association middle and high school coach Shannon Moore commended Hay and Rogers for their work effort.
“This takes a tremendous amount of dedication and these girls have really been training hard,” Moore said. “Clara has been training for this for years. Together, they’ve been training for this during the spring season.
“The kids put in a lot of time and they work extremely hard. It takes time to master rowing. It’s like anything else. It becomes easier the more you do it. At first when you play softball, it’s hard to hit the ball. But it gets easier the more you do it.”
Hay has certainly mastered rowing. But the biggest thing she’s learned is discipline.
“We get out of school at 3:30 and they pick us up at 3:45,” she said. “It takes us about a half hour to get where we have to go.
“We train until about 7 p.m. Then I have to come home and do my homework. I have to budget my time. I have to be up at 6:15 every morning. I can’t be up until 1:15 a.m. every night.”