When it comes to the world of competitive rowing, odds are the average Oklahoman's exposure to the sport doesn't extend much beyond what they witness through occasional Olympics coverage on television. Until recently, competitive rowing was strictly associated with the likes of stuffy, silver spoon types like Mark Zuckerberg's nemeses, the over-privileged Winklevoss twins. While the generalizations about those who partake in what is formally known as a "regatta" may not necessarily be true, there's no denying the prominent association between competitive rowing and the Ivy League way of life.
Though Oklahoma does in fact possess a number of private rowing clubs, along with several successful collegiate programs, the fact of the matter is that competitive rowing is a bit of an enigma to most in this region of the country. Not many are familiar with the particulars of the sport, and even fewer have actually participated in it.
Fortunately, the people behind Victory Christian Center's youth program, 24-7, are attempting to expand the cultural awareness of Tulsa teens by offering them the opportunity to grab an oar and take to the water.
On Sept. 26, 24-7 will be hosting the 2012 West Cove River Races in west Tulsa in an attempt to allow prospective college students the opportunity to experience firsthand an athletic tradition they may not be too familiar with. The regattas will take place off the west bank of the Arkansas River and will offer Tulsa teenagers the opportunity to take part in propelling rowing shells down the sixth-largest stream in the nation.
In order to provide authenticity to the rare event, the youth group has partnered with the Tulsa Rowing Club, one of Oklahoma's largest rowing organizations. The club will be responsible for handling all of the official particulars of the event, as well as provide all the necessary equipment.
While the notion of creating such a unique experience for Tulsa teens seems quite novel, the idea began somewhat inadvertently. It started when Victory Student Ministries Pastor John Daugherty, happened upon a group of people feverishly racing down the Arkansas River.
Intrigued by what he saw, Daugherty approached the group of rowers and inquired about the activity. He was immediately captivated by what the collection of participants had to say, and after briefly weighing the information provided to him, opted to become a member of their organization, the aforementioned Tulsa Rowing Club. Shortly thereafter, when a couple of Victory Christian's teens managed to be accepted into Dartmouth College and Princeton University, the idea for the West Cove River Races was officially born.
Now, after nearly 18 months of planning and preparation, Victory Christian's idea has come to fruition, and the youth organization believes this event will prove beneficial in inspiring college-bound students to strive for the absolute best in terms of their education.
"The point of our series and event is to show how the Ivy League is all about being set apart (from the rest)," said Josh Mauldin, creative director at 24-7. "They are people of character, the elite leaders of tomorrow."
Though a large percentage of the teens associated with the organization are likely destined for higher learning, 24-7's goal is to provide them with exposure to activities commonly associated with a way of life they may not be familiar with. In doing so, 24-7 believes students may begin to heighten their ambitions and ultimately pursue more lucrative career paths.
"Why not push to be the best? Why not try to be part of something bigger?" asks Mauldin. "While most students may not actually get into (prestigious) schools, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be pushing ourselves to that level of excellence."
The 2012 West Cove River Races represent just one occurrence in a series of annual happenings conceived by Victory Christian Center that aim to provide young people an opportunity to experience activities that may not be part of the mainstream in Oklahoma. This year's event is scheduled to begin at 6pm, with Victory Christian formally kicking off the festivities with a 7pm youth service at the West Bank Amphitheater.
The races are open to teenagers between 13 and 18 years of age, and participants are welcome to bring their families along for the festivities. In order to ensure there's something for everyone who attends, 24-7 has planned a carnival-like atmosphere that includes food, live music, rides and numerous other forms of entertainment.
While the ambience of the event is sure to provide fun for most everyone in attendance, the true highlight of the evening will, of course, be the races taking place in the currents of the Arkansas River. For many of the teens that are sure to be in attendance, the opportunity to compete in a regatta will be their first.
Though this distinct experience will certainly not guarantee a superior academic future, Victory Christian hopes to open the eyes of those who choose to participate and, if anything, perhaps inspire them to reassess their future goals, raise their aspirations and simply ask themselves "Why not?"
For more information on the West Cove River Races, please contact 24-7 at 918-491-7823, or visit Victory's 24-7 page on Facebook.
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