Head of Ohio event draws 2,000 people, 500 boats to water
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The dock at the Lambert Boathouse on Washington's Landing was a busy place Saturday morning, as rowing crews maneuvered back and forth through spectators and other competitors carrying boats over their heads.
As eight-person crews lifted their boats from the water and walked them uphill to the road, other eight- and four-person crews came downhill and got in line to launch.
It's a setting where one ignores a “heads up” warning at his or her peril.
Just before noon, however, there was a lull. The big crews competing in the 34th Head of the Ohio Regatta were either already on the Allegheny River or not scheduled until later, and it was quiet and solitary when the men's masters singles — or sculls — started returning from their race.
That's the way 56-year-old Don Heckenstaller, of Allison Park, likes it.
“I think it's just your personality. I usually stick to the single,” said Heckenstaller, who's been rowing since college. “You can just get out there and enjoy the calmness and the quietness of being out there by yourself.”
The Head of the Ohio, presented each year by Three Rivers Rowing Association, draws nearly 2,000 rowers and 500 boats to the North Shore and Washington's Landing. Rowers race against the clock 2.6 miles upstream from the starting line near Heinz Field to just below the 40th Street Bridge. Boats come in singles, doubles, 4-person and 8-person varieties, with categories for youth and high school teams through college, corporate, open and masters divisions.
Liz Sumner, 38, of Lawrenceville, competed with an eight-person team from Three Rivers Rowing in the mixed masters division along with her boyfriend, Tim Murphy, 49, also of Lawrenceville.
“If you live in Pittsburgh, this is the best way to take advantage of the rivers,” Sumner said. “And it's so beautiful, especially in the fall. We practice at night, row past the stadiums and the Convention Center, the lights are on, you go under the bridges. Compare that to being in the gym and stairmastering or something, it's nice.”
Sumner rowed briefly during her freshman year in college, but Saturday was just Murphy's seventh time rowing and his first-ever race.
“It depends on the seat,” he said, when asked if it's hard to coordinate your timing with seven other people. “If you're in the middle, I think you just try to go along with everyone else and try not to screw up. That's my philosophy.”
Approximately 400 rowers, including Sumner and Murphy, take part in Three Rivers Rowing adult competitive teams each year along with another 1,150 adult recreational participants. Several hundred of those come from the corporate rowing teams, including Heinz.
Alison Richards, 34, of Verona has been at Heinz for 10 years and rowing for nine. As a newcomer to the area, it was initially a way for her to learn a new sport and meet people from other departments, but Richards got hooked.
“You don't have to come from a high school or college program, and you can start however old you are — 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, whatever,” she said. “Being out on the water, seeing the sunrise and the water is like a piece of glass, it's just really cool to be in touch with nature.”
Megan Kuehm, 52, of Wilkins initially picked up the sport after her kids started rowing in high school. She now coaches and helps run the corporate programs at Three Rivers.
“It's a lot of fun,” she said of introducing adults to rowing. “Initially, there's some fear, maybe they're timid, but there's excitement about getting in a boat. As they start to take the strokes, they start to really get excited. The people I talk to now are like, ‘Wow, can't believe I did this.' ”
Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7980 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers accomplish mission to get younger, faster on defense
- Locke struggles again early, Pirates lose again in Milwaukee
- Bubble players get last chance to impress Steelers
- American to halt 2 direct routes from Pittsburgh International
- Asking price for Penguins franchise said to be at a record $750M
- 4-year-old transplant recipient Angelo Giorno from Derry on life support, family says
- Fancy a week of English refinement in Pittsburgh? Britsburgh is a smashing answer
- Western Pennsylvania schools’ denial of access to roofers prompts suit
- Police: Woman faked Mt. Pleasant robbery
- Through all gimmicks, NFL remains downfield passer league
- Snider happy to return to new role with Pirates