Panthers ready for return to national regatta

Plant is sending three different boats to nationals.

By MIKE CAMUNAS Times Correspondent
Published May 23, 2007

TAMPA - Only eight years ago, Plant's crew team was hardly making a figurative ripple.

That has changed. The Panthers, who compete at the club level, are headed to their second consecutive Scholastic National Championship Regatta this weekend in Cherry Hill, N.J. As girls coach Skye Elliot puts it, respect has come very quickly in the past three years.

"Beating other teams, it's just getting to that level of respect, " Elliot said. "It's the most exciting thing for me as a coach at Plant to see how much respect the program has gained."

Plant started the club sport in 1999; it's funded by a non-profit organization as well as dues each student has to pay. Many of the rowers play other sports at Plant, but the team has anywhere from 80 to 100 members, according to Elliot.

Plant is Florida's second-best team overall (men and women), according to the Florida Scholastic Rowing Association, just behind Winter Park. While the team competes against many others in the area - including Tampa Catholic and Berkeley Prep - it has defeated other club teams such as Pine Crest and Orlando Area Rowing.

"If you row at Plant, you can almost say you're going to nationals every year at this point, " Elliot said. "In Florida, there are some clubs that are 30, 40 years old, and Plant is an up-and-coming program - rowing is up-and-coming in Tampa."

Plant is sending three different boats to nationals: an eight-person men's boat and two eight-person women's boats.

When the team made nationals last season, Elliot said the level of competition it witnessed was fast, and it motivated the Panthers to get back.

Veteran rower Emily Farrior, who has been on the team since her sophomore year, said the team is more recognized since its first trip to states.

"Ever since I started, none of the teams in Florida gave us any respect, " said Farrior, who will compete on the rowing team at the University of Virginia. "They go, 'Who are you?' So for the past three years, they started to go, 'Oh yeah, I kind of know where you're from.'

"This year, they're like, 'Yeah, you're from Florida or Tampa.' So finally getting respect from going fast and getting to nationals, and then this whole season by beating up on teams we've never beat up on before, people now go, 'Oh wow, Plant. Yeah, they're good."