Sarasota club tries to win seventh straight Southeast title
It did not take long for Clare Christie to understand what it means to become part of the Sarasota Crew.
The freshman at Lakewood Ranch High has been rowing for the dominant youth rowing club for just four months and has already been part of a team that ran away with state sculling and state sweeps championships.
On Saturday, Christie was part of a U17 eight-man boat that finished second in its heat and qualified for Sunday’s final in the event at the USRowing Southeast Youth Championships, a regatta that the Crew has won for six straight years.
The Crew made it No. 6 last year, winning the overall youth championship on Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Georgia, and are back in familiar territory on the 1500-meter course at Nathan Benderson Park, looking to make it seven straight.
Heading into Sunday’s finals, the Crew appears to be in solid shape to repeat after Crew boys recorded the eight fastest times in eight separate races on Saturday.
“It has really been a great experience,” Christie said. “It’s a great confidence-builder. It keeps you in such great shape. I love the friends that I’ve made here in the short four months I’ve been here.”
As the daughter of a former professional athlete, Christie doesn’t shy away from the physical punishment the sport offers on a regular basis. Her father is Steve Christie, a soccer standout from Canada who went on to play in the NFL as a kicker for 15 years.
Clare Christie has played soccer and ridden horses for most of her life. She’s also dabbled in hockey and rugby. But there was just something about rowing.
“I fell in love with it right away,” she said. “I’ve been riding horses for 13 years. But that’s on hold now since I’ve gotten into this.”
The proud father was on hand for Saturday’s race.
“It’s taught her a lot of discipline both on the water and off the water,” said Steve Christie, who began his NFL journey with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1990 and retired in 2004. “It didn’t take long to realize that she’s in it to win it. She’s very serious about the sport. She channels her energy into this.”
Clare Christie added, “He tells me to always have a positive attitude and keep pushing.”
The Crew’s Clark Dean certainly kept pushing on Saturday. The World Junior champion in the single scull destroyed the rest of the field in the same event, covering the course in 6:38.669, a whopping 33 seconds quicker than the next finisher, Kristopher Fisher of Atomic Rowing from Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Dean then came back and got on board the Crew’s fastest boat to finish first again. Dean, along with Harrison Schofield, Emory Sammons, Kristopher Schumann, Alexander DeGrado, Owen Corr, Fabian Herrera, Travis Earp and coxswain Bennett Rossell won the Varsity 8+ in 5:38.917, more than five seconds faster than the Orlando Area Rowing Society in second place.
Sammons and DeGrado also joined forces to record the best doubles time in 6:21.242. The Crew claimed the quickest time in the pair at 6:59.019 with Earp and William West on board.
Girls from the Sarasota Scullers recorded the fastest times in two races on Saturday, including Katie Beiler and Shelby Ernst in the Varsity coxless pair. The duo teamed up to win the same event at the FSRA Sweeps Championships two weeks ago. The two covered the course in 7:40.074 and await Sunday’s final.
Amanda Merten, Ella Gerdes, Jessica Cochran, Emily Naidel, Ashley Naidel, Winnie Lu, Charlize Simpson, Julia Stone and coxswain Shannon Chan joined forces as the Scullers were the fastest in the Lightweight eight in a time of 6:43.674.