Prior to 2013, the USRowing Club National Championships was always a big event, but never so big to be forced to run time trials on the opening day.
That changed in 2013, Dominique said. There were so many single entries that year, the only way to handle the event and not limit the total number of junior singles allowed was to hold time trials, said A.J Dominque, events manager at USRowing. "We saw the numbers of junior scullers explode," he said.
The explosion has not subsided. Even by the regular deadline, the 2017 Club National Championships the largest ever. And then Tuesday night, a stack of late entries kept Dominique up until early in the morning; most of the late entries were for singles.
"It's all tied to the growth of junior sculling," Dominique said. "This year we have a time trial with over 90 entries. It's been a trend that we have seen for at least four years now that just continues to build. That's where we see the growth in this regatta, especially this year. We grew over 200 entries this year. For the most part it was junior sculling."
And so, when the five-day regatta began Wednesday on Lake Harsha in Bethel, Ohio, the morning events were more like a parade of sculling boats. There were some fours and eights in the stream of shells, but nothing compared to the number of singles, quads and doubles that rowed the course in hopes of advancing to a heat.
And it didn't let up in the afternoon. In just the U19 men's single, 93 athletes - of all ages and abilities - rowed the course in the time trials (and there were no reported flips). In total, over 530 singles rowed on Lake Harsha Wednesday.
While that might be a handful for events manager Dominique, it's a sure sign that sculling in the US is becoming more popular and that the athletes are starting younger.
Sam Stitt has been a lifelong sculler. He started in high school and then rowed in the U.S. Olympic quad in the 2008 Games. He has been attending Club Nationals since he was a teenager, when he rowed a double with 2012 men's eight Olympian Giuseppe Lanzone.
Today Stitt is one of the coaches at Potomac Boat Club, and is at Club Nationals coaching scullers. "Club Nationals was always great. Giuseppe and I rowed a double out of D.C. for Washington Area Rowing with Jim Mitchell, and it was a lot of fun.
"Sculling in the United States has become very important, and it's great to see coaches pushing it at these events. It's amazing how many there are. Now at Potomac Boat Club our summer program is only sculling.
"We're trying to make that a thing," Stitt said. "In Philadelphia, it always blew my mind that kids would learn to scull before they learned to sweep. You can't offer that in the larger high schools because all the high school programs are eights and fours and they need bigger boats. But to see the summer programs teaching kids how to scull only helps them."
Club Nationals will continue through Sunday. The first finals will be raced on Friday. Following that, there will be more time trials for the events scheduled for Sunday finals. row2k is on site and will be posting race photos daily along with occasional race reports; good luck to everyone racing!