By Garth Shanklin
For the sixth straight year, the Vesper Boat Club won the Colgan Cup at the U.S. Rowing Club Nationals, held in Bethel at Harsha Lake from July 12-16.
The club won the overall team points championship, totaling 427 points. The runner-up squad, CRI, had a total of 158 points. Vesper won the women’s points trophy with 180 points, 116 ahead of OKC HP Center’s second-place total of 64. Of the 13 entries, Vesper won eight golds, a silver and a pair of bronze medals.
On the men’s side, the points’ standings came down to the final race. Vesper won the men’s elite/senior lightweight eight event with a 5:54.851 mark to the New York Athletic Club’s 5:59.112 time, giving Vesper the title with 247 points. NYAC placed second with 240. Like the women, the men also earned eight gold medals. They won a trio of silvers and two bronze as well.
Locally, the Cincinnati Juniors placed 12th in the men’s standings. Of the Juniors’ four entries, two won bronze medals: the men’s elite/senior lightweight 4+ and the men’s elite senior lightweight 8+ both placed third in action on Sunday, July 16.
Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau President Jim Comodeca said this year’s event was a “success” and thanked the numerous volunteers who made it possible.
“Without question, the event was a success and I’m very proud to be able to say that,” Comodeca said. “The secret to the success was all the hard work that was put in by the staff, the volunteers, the sponsors. The support from the community was outstanding…There were in excess of 500 volunteer spots that had to be filled, and we filled every single one of them.”
Some of the local volunteer groups who contributed time to the event included Paddling for Cancer, Irvine Wood Recovery, Young Life, St. Vincent De Paul St. Elizabeth, and Love Your Lungs. In addition, other groups including Bethel-Tate soccer, the Cincinnati Junior Rowing Club, Clermont Crew and Clermont Masters volunteered their time at one point during this past week.
The Clermont County Board of Developmental Disabilities once again provided shuttles to and from parking lots for the event, while the Clermont County Civil Air Patrol handled parking and Boy Scout Troop 476 collected trash.
Sarah Gleason, the Marketing and Communications Manager for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said groups who volunteered their time were rewarded for their hard work.
“There are a lot of small non-profits that get involved and what we do is for any organization that fills 10 or more slots, we donate money back to that organization,” Gleason said. “That encourages them to come out and to want to be a part of it as well.”
Individual volunteers also made a difference, such as Commissioner David Uible, Williamsburg Mayor Mary Ann Lefker, Milford City Council, Amy Brewer and more. Gleason said there are some individuals who have make volunteering at the event a priority.
“I have volunteers that take vacation time from their job to spend the entire week out at this event because they absolutely love being a part of it,” Gleason said.
Comodeca added that the people at U.S. Rowing were complimentary about how the event was handled and the volunteers who helped put it on.
“U.S. Rowing was ecstatic,” Comodeca said. “This is our third year in a row, and usually they only go two years in a location. With this being our third year and the changes we’ve made over the years, the U.S. Rowing staff and all the referees were incredibly complimentary about not just how the organization ran the event but also how the volunteers ran the spots. We have some pretty seasoned volunteers now, which is great for all the referees and U.S. Rowing.”
With this being the third consecutive year Bethel has hosted the event, other changes were made for that same purpose. For instance, according to Comodeca, the parking layout for the boat trailers was changed, allowing for more trailers to be parked in the space provided.
“It’s the little things like that that make the entire event better for the athletes, the spectators and all the workers,” Comodeca said.
Several local businesses stepped up to sponsor the event. Eastgate Brew and View, Jersey Mike’s, Scene 75, Subway (Amelia), Chick-fil-A (Eastgate) and Penn Station all provided lunches, while Cahall Brothers (gators) A Gogo Rentals (tents, tables, chairs), Cincinnati Bell (wifi), Lykins Energy (gas for boats, generators) and Sam’s Club (Eastgate, water and snacks) all provided support to the event in one way or another. Mercy Health provided an athletic trainer for the site, while Prosource helped with printing material and Pac-Van provided a finish line trailer.
In terms of financials, the numbers are not yet finalized but Comodeca expects the economic impact on the county to be large.
“I have not gotten all the hotel numbers back, but we’re estimating $2-3 million economic impact,” Comodeca said. “We had all the hotels filled, I was seeing pictures on Facebook from restaurants and other businesses where rowers and rowing teams were visiting. The impact is incredibly significant.”
“Last year we were at $2.7 million, and all of our numbers from athlete entries were higher this year, so I would estimate that the number is going to be higher this year,” Gleason added.
If the Club Nationals will return to Bethel in 2018 for the fourth consecutive year is not known at this time. Comodeca said should the event be awarded to another place, the volunteers should not take that as a slight on their performance.
“They asked us to submit something, we’re down to the final three,” Comodeca said. “U.S. Rowing has not made a decision yet. We hope to hear something within a week or so. Our fingers are crossed, we’re hoping for the best. If we don’t get it, it’s certainly not because of how the event was handled, it’s their desire to potentially share these types of events with other venues.”
He finished by once again thanking the people who worked behind the scenes to put on the event this year.
“I just want to thank the community, all the volunteers and the sponsors for the support,” Comodeca said. “Without question, we could not have a successful event like this that impacts the community without the people that made it their point to be a part of it. A real big thanks to everyone out there.”