BY ED MORAN
PHOTO BY SPORTGRAPHICS
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USRowing has announced the beginnings of planning for a Youth National Championships that will not require qualification from regional regattas and eliminates lightweight events in place of age based categories.
Before making the Friday announcement, USRowing on Monday set a tentative schedule for 12 domestic events, including the virtual C.R.A.S.H.-B, six regional youth championships, and the June Youth National Championships. It also included dates for the summer national club championships and three masters regattas.
In the statement, USRowing made clear that while the dates are set, there are no guarantees that events can take place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and is in the process of establishing a “robust Covid-19 risk mitigation plan for this year’s Youth National Championships,” which the association will release when completed.
“As the spread of the Covid-19 virus continues to surge across the country, USRowing has been developing our plans and structure for the 2021 USRowing Youth National Championships scheduled for June 10-13 in Sarasota, Fla., the statement read.
“As always, our number one priority is to run a safe regatta, and Covid-19 adds a new layer of planning to help ensure the safety of our athletes, coaches, referees, volunteers, staff, supporters, and other attendees.”
The statement further reads; “We still do not know whether we will be able to hold some of our championship events in 2021, but we wanted to announce those dates for planning purposes. We will confirm information approximately 60 days before the scheduled date of each regatta.”
Two of the most notable changes for the 2021 Youth Championships are the elimination of qualification, and the elimination of lightweight events. The final details of the Youth Championships will be released with the “final entry packet,” on March 1, 2021, USRowing said.
“With Covid-19 infection rates rising and the vaccination rollout still a work in progress, it was important to develop a plan for this year’s Youth National Championships that addressed the high probability that either no, or a limited number of, regional championships and qualification regattas would be able to take place.
“With this uncertainty, the 2021 USRowing Youth National Championships will have an open entry process that does not require qualification.”
In recent years, the safety of having junior lightweight rowing events has been a focus of discussion across the country, and within USRowing. Part of those discussions included whether it would be safer to eliminate lightweight rowing at USRowing owned events and replace them with age structured races.
This is what will be offered for this year’s Youth Nationals, according to the USRowing release that included this rationale.
“In 2020, USRowing instituted a junior lightweight compliance protocol to “ensure that participating athletes are ‘true’ lightweights and do not lose weight in order to meet weight standards, focusing on the health and safety of youth rowers.”
Those protocols required athletes to get medical certification from their primary care provider. Because of the stress on the current health care system throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, USRowing does not want to continue that requirement, nor does it want to hold events that will require weigh-ins.
“In addition, the process to weigh athletes requires close-contact with referees, volunteers, and other race officials and creates areas with the potential for large groups to congregate. Given these concerns and to control any risk of infection at our regatta sites, we will not be offering youth lightweight events at our races during 2021.”
USRowing announced that it will offer “a large list of age-based, Under-17 events at this year’s Youth National Championships, and we will not be hosting a separate U17/U15 National Championship in 2021.”
The full release and details of the new categories are contained in the full USRowing release.