Verona-based Steel City Rowing Club marks 20th year on Allegheny
The Steel City Rowing Club is more than just people in boats shoving off into the Allegheny River near the Verona and Penn Hills border.
It's about teamwork, camaraderie and instilling a sense of physical and mental wellness.
"There's always something to learn," said Karla Isenberg, 52, of Fox Chapel. "You can row 'til you're 100."
Isenberg rows with Stephanie Makosey, 42, of Murrysville.
"When you're on the water you have to focus on what you're doing every moment," Makosey said. "You can't be thinking about your grocery list. When you're done you really feel like you got a break from life."
The club focuses on the sculling style of rowing more than sweep rowing. Scull rowers have one oar per hand; sweep rowers have one oar per person.
Megan Gold, 54, of Oakmont said the Allegheny is perfect for all levels of rowers.
"The pool of water that we row in is very scenic and has less industry," Gold said. "The water is a little more placid to row on. Rowers like really flat, calm water."
Steel City Rowing is a nonprofit founded by Verona residents Ladislau and Dori Tompa. The couple met while Ladislau was a coach at Three Rivers Rowing Club in Pittsburgh, where Dori was a member using rowing as physical therapy in the 1980s after a motorcycle accident.
"I was coaching over there and she was a student," he said. "Her dream was to make it to the Olympics."
They left the club to form one of their own in the backyard of their James Street home in 1997. Club members raised money and purchased property along Arch Street in 2006 to move operations into a small steel building. They built the current facility in 2009.
The club has boats for members and class participants, public docks, an indoor training area and stores watercraft for five school districts. Programs are open to those 8 and older. There are 80 junior members, meaning students in fifth through 12th grade, and 35 active adult rowers.
"We're not just limited to the six or seven months that we can be out on the river in the rowboats," said coach Lucy Tuttle-Smith. "We have wildlife camps to educate young people on environmental issues and explore the river. Our competitive camps run all summer long for youth, and we have an adult program which rows all year."
The three-story boathouse at Steel City will host a 20th anniversary celebration on Sept. 30.
"It was a lot of work," said Ladislau, better known to rowers as Laci. "Talking to past students that went through this place adds a lot of pride. A lot of them say, 'This place changed my life.' I definitely feel proud."
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.