In a town known worldwide for horse racing, rowing is quickly becoming one of the biggest sports in Saratoga Springs. Our Matt Hunter has more on the start of this year's Saratoga Invitational Regatta.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Of the 54 high school teams competing at this weekend's Saratoga Invitational Regatta, only a handful travel from further away than the rowers from E.L. Crossley Secondary School in Pelham, Ontario.
"It's really crazy, the bus ride was six hours long," sophomore Edith Turpel said Friday.
"It's pretty big and it's a lot different from what we're used to," said Sarah Fuller, another sophomore from the school in the Niagara Falls region.
Boasting more than 1,400 entries and 3,500 athletes, the Saratoga Invitational Regatta has grown into one of the northeast's largest and most competitive events of the Spring crew season.
"If you go by the number of entries, I think it is the largest regatta in the world for high school," said Chris Chase, the Saratoga Rowing Association’s Regatta Director.
"The competition here is pretty strong because there are people from all over," said sophomore Kiera Partridge, who competed in the event last year as well.
"You definitely have to pull stroke by stroke as hard as you can,” said Fuller, who’s rowing for the third time in Saratoga.
With athletes, coaches and families traveling from all over for the three-day event, local businesses are cashing in and it's not just in Saratoga.
"We are filling up hotel rooms from the Twin Bridges to the Town of Day as we like to say," Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus said.
"I think we could have sold the hotel out four or five times over," said Cindy Hollowood, general manager of the Holiday Inn Saratoga Springs.
When Chase started the regatta 19 years ago, it featured just three local schools.
Today, he says the regional economic impact surpasses $5 million.
"I think we live in a unique community where everybody understands how it all works together," Chase said.
One of the earlier events on the schedule, Saratoga marks the first time many of these teams are rowing against each other this year. Just as local businesses are happy to host them, many of the visiting athletes are excited to be here.
"I'm really nervous but I think we'll do good," said Emily Taylor, a sophomore at E.L. Crossley.
"When you win and your teammates are beside you, standing with you and smiling, it's the best feeling in the world," Fuller said.