Frogtown Regatta showcases regional rowingWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Each fall, Toledo’s Frogtown Regatta draws hundreds of rowers from across the region to the Maumee River.
Hosted by Toledo Rowing Club (TRC), the 29th annual event will feature high school, adult and corporate rowers from at least 12 clubs in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.
“One reason people like to come here from around the region is they really enjoy the cityscape,” said TRC Executive Director Kristina Latta-Landefeld. “It’s also pretty straight so you can get a really fast time.”
The regatta, which is set for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 27, will feature food trucks, rowing T-shirts from Jupmode and coffee and snacks from Black Kite Coffee. Some of The Docks restaurants will be open as well.
Most of the teams will be set up on the International Park side of the river, but races can be viewed from the Downtown side as well, said event organizer and TRC board member Mike Dibling.
“Toledo is really centrally located for a lot of rowing,” Dibling said. “It’s a once-a-year event that brings a lot of people from out of town, so it’s a good way to showcase the waterfront.”
New this year will be a corporate race, including a team from Owens Corning.
“We’re going to give teams close to 20 hours of coaching and they’ll be able to use our equipment and go out and race,” Latta-Landefeld said. “I look forward to expanding it next year.”
Corporate Development Associate Charles Smith will be part of Owens Corning’s team at Frogtown. Three weeks ago, he knew “not much — bordering on nothing” about rowing, but said it’s been fun to learn and he’s excited to experience Frogtown.
“Rowing is a lot more difficult than I imagined, mostly due to the coordination involved,” Smith said. “You really have to work with everyone else to be in sync. I’m excited to be out there. It’s cool being out on the water.”
The corporate race was inspired by Partners in Education’s popular annual Dragon Boat Festival, Latta-Landefeld said.
“When you ask Toledoans what they know about rowing, they’re like, ‘Dragon Boats!’” she said.
But the Dragon Boat race is a paddling competition, which is different than rowing.
“Part of [Dragon Boats’] appeal is you can be pretty darn new and get right into it and start doing it right away,” Latta-Landefeld said. “The rowing shells, because they are so narrow and long, it’s much harder to do that. You have to build yourself up.
“But we’ve seen how people come together and get really excited about doing the Dragon Boats,” Latta-Landefeld said. “We want to get those folks who are involved once a year to continue to be involved on the water because they clearly love it.”
The regatta is a great way to showcase Toledo’s “treasure,” TRC board member Ed Conn said.
“There are a lot of folks who don’t make use of the river, who just cross it on their way to work,” Conn said. “We want to get people on the river and rowing, but in a broader sense, it’s an opportunity for us to get people to appreciate it and understand what an incredible asset we have.”
Expanding the reach of TRC has been one of Latta-Landefeld’s main goals since taking her role last year.
“Since I’ve come on, I’m seeing there’s a major gap in terms of who has access to the boathouse,” she said.
Rowing is often seen as an elite sport affiliated with private institutions.
“What I’ve been trying to do is change that image and get more people involved,” she said.
A middle school recreational rowing program started this fall. Maritime Academy, a charter school, is working on starting a team. Her dream is to get Toledo Public Schools involved as well.
Inspired by mentor Jim Reisig, Latta-Landefeld is also working on restarting an adaptive rowing program.
“He was in a wheelchair and one of the first international competitive rowers in the U.S., so there’s a strong history here [in Toledo]. But it’s just been stagnant,” Latta-Landefeld said. “We have all these adaptive boats but we haven’t had an adaptive program for a long time.”
Current high school teams include St. John’s Jesuit, St. Francis de Sales, St. Ursula Academy, Notre Dame Academy, Central Catholic and Anthony Wayne. Toledo Metropolitan Rowing Club (TMRC) is a high school team comprised of rowers from various schools. There is also a masters club for adults.
TRC individual memberships cost $55 for the fall season. Members have access to TRC boats and rowing machines.
Latta-Landefeld grew up in East Toledo and was introduced to rowing at St. Ursula. She rowed for Smith College in Massachusetts and coached at Steel City Rowing Club in Pittsburgh before returning to Toledo to work for TRC.
“I just fell in love with it,” she said. “It’s competitive. It tends to draw people who are Type A because you’re always chasing after that perfect stroke, or what’s called swing. It’s like getting in a runner’s high. All you can think about is that next stroke. It’s really cathartic.”
She won’t be at Frogtown because she’s being inducted into Smith’s athletic hall of fame with her rowing teammates for an undefeated season.
“It’s not my accomplishment; it’s our accomplishment,” Latta-Landefeld said. “That is a big piece of rowing and I don’t think you can say that about too many other sports. Even with other team sports, one person can say, ‘I got the winning goal.’ You can’t do that in rowing.”
Someday Latta-Landefeld hopes to add another boathouse to TRC.
“We’re maxed out here and we’re expanding. And that’s a really good problem to have,” she said. “I’d love to have canoes and kayaks for people to rent and bikes to use along the river. There is so much potential.”
TRC is also hosting the Maumee Bay River Festival noon to 6 p.m. Sept. 28 at International Park with a suggested donation of $5 to benefit Lake Erie Waterkeeper. The third annual event will feature chances to try rowing, canoeing, kayaking, racing boat expo, Sandpiper cruises, live music, tours of a U.S. Coast Guard boat, fishing derby, kids’ activities, regional beer, food vendors and more.
For more information, visit the website www.toledorowing.org.