By Tamas Mondovics

Completing the final race of the fall season, a team of local students proudly took part in The Head of the Hooch Regatta in Chattanooga, Tennessee last month.

Second only to the Head of the Charles in Boston—the largest regatta or boat race in the country—the Hooch draws more than 150 teams from around the country to take part in races for all ages from high school, college and masters programs.

Newsome High School sophomore Drew Bennett and freshman Cristian Lopez competed in the event held the weekend of November 5 and 6, and were joined by Bloomingdale High School junior Bryce Fuson and Cullen Finley, a Bloomingdale resident who attends Jesuit High.

The four boys proudly row for The Stewards Foundation a nonprofit 501 (c) 3 organization, based at the bypass canal in Tampa, which use the sport of Rowing as a vehicle to teach teamwork and responsibility to young people.

According to race officials, the course is 5,000 meters (3.1 mile) long along the Tennessee River from Chickamauga Dam into the Tennessee River Gorge at Chattanooga.

The more than 2,000 boats taking part in the two-day race are set off at intervals and have to follow a course and are timed while penalties are given for missing buoys.

Close to 9,000 seats are rowed during the event and 1,200 boats compete on Saturday alone, which is more in just one day than any other regatta.

“It is a true test of rowing stamina and skill,” said team mom, Jennifer Bennet, whose son Drew not only enjoys attending the annual event, but said that it’s the most important contest his team trains for all year.

“I love going to the Hooch,” Drew said. “It’s the big regatta we train for all fall. It’s a great weekend away with my team and we get to meet and compete against other rowers from around the country. I really like the competition and the memories I make. I’ll definitely be back next year.” The Hooch was the final race for the team’s fall season, and after a few weeks of rest the boys return to winter training.

Those interested in learning to row may contact head coach Mike Smith at michaeljs7@gmail.com or call 786 0337. New crew members are always welcome. For more information, please visit www.rowtampa.com.