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Sutton awarded rowing scholarship
Hyder Nasnain prepares to row away from the dock at the Olympic venue for a practice on Lake Lanier on Wednesday. - photo by Tom Reed
Lanier Summer Sprints
When: Saturday, 7 a.m.
Where: Olympic Venue on Lake Lanier
Who: Local rowing clubs and college rowing teams
How much: Free
Most young athletes have to devote a lot of time and effort into becoming skilled enough to earn a college athletic scholarship.

For baseball, basketball, football or soccer players, the journey to college athletics begins at 4 or 5 years-old and by the time they are ready to go to college, they have been striving for perfection in their sport for more than a decade.

Then there are those who find their calling later in life, but have the natural ability to achieve much in a small amount of time.

Sydney Sutton is one such athlete; she has earned a partial athletic rowing scholarship to the University of Alabama after only competing in the sport for two years.

As a senior at Habersham Central High in 2009, Sutton was intrigued in the sport of rowing because of a teacher.

“Ken Basinger, who used to teach at Riverside (Military) where they had a rowing team, was always talking about it in class,” Sutton said. “One day we asked him to take us out on the water and I really liked it.”

Soon after, Jim Pickens, the current coach of the Lake Lanier Rowing Club, began working with the aspiring rowers at Habersham Central.

“He started coaching us and so I started rowing and getting more competitive,” Sutton said. “I saw how good I could be and I just decided that I wanted to do it.

“I just started working really hard.”

That hard work quickly began to pay off and Sutton decided to she wanted to go to college to row.

“I talked to (Pickens) about how I wanted to row in college because of the scholarship opportunities,” she said. “You have to get enough experience (to earn a scholarship) and then your times start coming down. He told me that I probably wouldn’t get a scholarship as a freshman and so I went and rowed with the club.”

As a freshman at Georgia State University, Sutton continued to row and improve her times but soon grew tired of competing at the club level.

“It wasn’t very competitive so I called Jim one day and told him I was ready to try and find a scholarship,” she said. “He called the coach at Alabama, who had seen me row in the fall when I was at Georgia State, and he told me that if I got my times down then I could probably get a scholarship.”

And that’s just what Sutton did, getting her times down low enough to receive a scholarship.

At Alabama, Sutton will mostly race sweep, which consists of a team of eight rowers who only use one oar each. At the club level, Sutton has raced sweep and scull, which consists of using two oars. When she isn’t rowing at Alabama, Sutton plans to study environmental science.

This summer she will continue to compete with the Lake Lanier Rowing Club, which has a meet planned for Saturday at the Olympic Venue on Clarks Bridge Road.

The annual event, called the Lanier Summer Sprints, will feature other rowing clubs from the area and several colleges which have summer rowing programs.

The event will consist of 39 different races — 10 more than last year — which are determined by sex, age, number of rowers and skill level. The course is six lanes and is 1,000 meters in length.

Pickens has been the coach at the LLRC since August of 2008, and the club has seen participation in the Lanier Summer Sprints grow each year of his tenure. The LLRC played host to teams from four states during the 2009 event, and expect to see just as many in 2010.

Sutton will race in three events Saturday: the open women’s double, the open women’s single and the mixed open four. Her race times have not been finalized but the meet is set to begin at 7 a.m.
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