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Riverhead student wins pair of gold at Junior Championships regatta

05/04/2016 9:00 AM |

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Diving into a sport like rowing rarely yields immediate results. Sure, kids grow up playing sports like basketball or baseball. But how many ever get out on a boat and row for sport?

By the time most kids begin the sport, it takes time for them to understand the dynamics of the boat and develop the strength to succeed in competitions. 

Then there are some who seem to fit naturally and see immediate results. Take, for example, Matt Hubbard.

A Riverhead High School student, Hubbard, 15, has quickly taken off in rowing as part of the East End Rowing Institute. Teaming with Bennett McCombe, a Westhampton Beach High School student, the duo most recently won a gold medal competing in the junior varsity double sculls at the Long Island Junior Championships regatta in Oyster Bay.

“For their level, usually the kids take about a year and a half to get onto the level where they are now,” said rowing coach Co Rentmeester, who competed in the 1960 Rome Olympics for the Netherlands. “I would say they’re almost a year ahead of what it would normally take.”

Hubbard had never rowed in a boat when Rentmeester met him last summer. To start off, Hubbard needed to learn the “first principal strokes and how to handle a boat and balance a boat,” Rentmeester said.

“Matt simply loved the sport and focused well,” he added.

He competed in his first race at the Snowflake Regatta in Riverhead in the fall, winning a medal in single sculls against five other rowers, Rentmeester said. He teamed with McCombe to win another medal in doubles.

“He had a very good start right away,” Rentmeester said.

After a winter dedicated to training, Hubbard emerged even stronger this spring and the results have shown. At the Overpeck Youth Regatta in New Jersey last month Hubbard and McCombe won both the junior varsity double sculls as well as the men’s varsity doubles, where they competed against most athletes who were 17 or 18.

The varsity race came about three hours after the junior varsity race, Rentmeester said.

The biggest challenge awaits now in less than two weeks. The pair will compete at the New York State Scholastic Championships in Saratoga Springs May 14 for a chance to qualify for the Youth National Championships at Mercer Lake, NJ.

“We have some big steps coming up,” Rentmeester said.

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