SOUTH TAMPA The Plant High School rowing team is headed to nationals again this year, this time with the largest group of qualifying athletes in the program’s 14-year history.
Ninety-five students are traveling to the scholastic national championship in Camden, N.J., on May 24 and 25, said head Coach Mike Moseley.
The club has more than 100 members, but only between three and six boats ever have qualified for nationals at one time, he said. This year, the team has 10 boats entered in the regatta.
The team has grown since it was created in 1999, Moseley said, and the new students joining the team are strong athletes. About 70 percent of the students now on the team are freshmen and sophomores.
“It looks very bright for the future so long as we keep bringing in these great freshmen classes,” Moseley said.
The Plant team competed against more than 40 schools and teams at the state tournament in Sarasota on April 26 -28. The girls’ team won the top spot, and the boys’ team came in fourth.
The team practices six days a week for about three hours at a time, Moseley said. The athletes are working to shave a few more seconds off their times in the three weeks preceding the championship competition.
“It’s exciting,” the coach said. “Exhausting, but exciting.”
Morgan Billig, a senior and captain of the team, said this will be her fourth year competing at nationals.
“It’s such an experience because you’re racing the fastest people from everywhere else in the United States,” said Billig, 18. “The competition level is extremely high. We’re hoping to get some of our boats in the grand finals this year, which would be amazing because it’s so hard.”