BRUNSWICK — Grace Tetreault hadn’t seen anything quite like the heralded Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston.

“It was eye-opening, I had never been to a race of that magnitude,” said Tetreault of Bath. “Coming from a small club like us, it was a little scary and overwhelming at first, but it was awesome to be around people who are as passionate about rowing as I am.”

Maine Coast Rowing Association members, from left, Grace Tetreault, Maisy St. Cyr, Caitlin Sweeney and Fletcher Krauss prepare for the Head of the Charles Regatta last month in Boston. Photo provided by Cara Martin-Tetreault

Tetreault, a sophomore at Morse High School, is a member of the Maine Coast Rowing Association in Brunswick. The club offers a variety of adult and youth rowing programs for all skill levels.

It also competes in regional and national events. Its competitive junior team is comprised of about 30 high school students from around the Midcoast and surrounding communities. The team is coached by Oaklea Elfstrom, a 2020 Bates College graduate. Elfstrom won three rowing national championships with the Bobcats.

Tetreault is only in her second year with the sport.

“It’s mind-boggling to me,” said Tetreault of the improvements she’s made in a such a short time. “I fell in love with the sport on the first day and that love had only grown bigger since.”

Maine Coast Rowing made a strong return to competition in 2021 after the coronavirus pandemic shut down the 2020 campaign.

Members of the Maine Coast Rowing Association junior team pose during the Head of the Charles Regatta last month in Boston. Photo provided by Cara Martin-Tetreault

The season culminated with the Head of the Charles Regatta on Oct. 22-24. The Head of the Charles is the largest two-day regatta in the world. It draws more than 10,000 athletes competing in 61 events.

“The Head of the Charles is something you look forward to as a rower, it’s much different than just your average race,” Elfstrom said. “Our racers knew that coming in and performed well under the pressure.”

Tetreault and teammate Maisy St. Cyr of Pownal finished 23rd out of 53 teams in the Women’s Youth Double race. Caitlin Sweeney of Gray finished 43rd in the Women’s Youth Single, while Fletcher Krauss of Brunswick placed 35th in the Men’s Youth Single.

“I think they were able to feed off the energy and just be themselves,” said Lesliw Krichko of the Head of the Charles. “It was our first time down there as a team, so it was also a good learning experience for the rowers. These kids just love to row and want to get better every day. It seems like the sport of rowing has only grown over the past few years in this area, and this team is an indictment of that.”

Members of the Maine Coast Rowing Association practice on the Androscoggin River earlier this season. Photo provided by Cara-Martin Tetreault

During the season, the team would meet for practice five times a week before competing on weekends. They would meet at the Merrymeeting Dog Park parking lot and row up the Androscoggin and into Merrymeeting Bay during each practice. Races throughout the season included the Cow Island Classic Regatta in Brunswick, the New Hampshire Championships in Pembroke, New Hampshire, and a race at Riverside Rowing Club in Hartford, Connecticut.

“We were able to host the Cow Island Classic for the first time since 2019,” said Krichko. “It was a bit smaller than normal, but to have the opportunity to host a race is always an exciting day.”

Maine Coast Rowing plans to continue to offer training programs in the winter.

“We hope to continue this into the winter, we want to bring attention to the sport of rowing even in the offseason,” Elfstrom said. “Anyone can pick up the sport at any level whenever they have a desire to. Whether you’re a novice or have some experience you can succeed in rowing, and we want to continue to grow this club.”

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