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Junior Crew targets young rowers on Lake Lanier
he Lake Lanier Rowing Club junior crew takes to the water for practice Thursday afternoon at Clarks Bridge Park. The crew consists of students from local high schools. From the left they are Zac Jansen, Evan Meeks, Victor Corral, and Jeffrey Jones.

Victor Corral felt especially out of his element Thursday afternoon at Lake Lanier.

Corral, a senior from Habersham Central High, was taking to the water for just the second time in five weeks as a member of the Lake Lanier Junior Crew, a newly formed group of the Lake Lanier Rowing Club.

Before joining the club, Corral's closest experience to sports was competing in Future Farmers of America by showing lambs and judging livestock.

At the same time as he stood by the water's edge waiting to begin instruction, collegiate rowers on spring break from schools such as Penn State, Penn and Vermont were also taking to the water from the same dock at the Clarks Bridge Park.

"I never would have imagined I would have been doing this a couple months ago," said Corral, who plans to attend North Georgia Technical College in the fall. "But I plan on sticking with it through the rest of the season."

Corral's story is pretty similar to many of the nine athletes on the Lake Lanier Junior Crew (six from Habersham Central and three from Gainesville High).

Few have an extensive athletic background, and most have plans that have nothing to do with sports after graduation.

Corral got probed to join the team from his friend and senior classmate at Habersham Central, Noe Paramo, who is a straight-A student that has never participated in sports previously.

The closest Paramo came to being on a sports roster prior to rowing on Lake Lanier was serving as manager of the soccer team.

"My first reaction was that (rowing) was fun," Paramo said. "So I got my friends involved, too."

When the program's new coach Brian Ransom arrived, he knew part of the battle was finding anyone in high school interested in learning to row, regardless of athletic experience.

Ransom, 26, knew he'd have to be much more hands-on coaching with new athletes than those he coached previously at Kansas State University.

He knows it will remain an uphill climb to have this still-growing crew ready before its first competition on March 24 in the John Hunter Regatta on Lake Lanier.

"We had our growing pains at first, but we're finally starting to get settled," said Ransom, who also competed at Kansas State University as an undergraduate.

At Thursday's practice, Paramo was both excited and apprehensive about serving in the roll of coxswain, which is the man in front of the boat, calling out orders and facing the other rowers.

He also understood the humor of serving as the man in charge of the boat when he's just as new to the sport as anyone else.

"I think this has a chance of becoming a great program," said Paramo, who plans on going to medical school after college. "We're still recruiting some too."

Before true competition begins, the Lake Lanier Junior Crew is just tied up in learning the basics of the sport.

First, getting the boat down to the water, then learning to all get in comfortably, and, finally, learning to push off of the ramp.

Once those are mastered, then they'll get more detailed, and learn the different lengths of races and strategy involved in rowing.

Ransom said that there is a natural market for a junior rowing program for high school kids at Lake Lanier.

Riverside Military Academy has its own team that they can compete against. They're also close enough to bringing in groups to race from bigger cities such as Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tenn.

"These are great facilities and flatwater to race on here on Lake Lanier," Ransom said.


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