WASILLA – For rowing in Alaska, the lakes of the Mat-Su Valley are prime racing locations.

At Wasilla Lake last weekend, the Anchorage Rowing Association hosted the annual Moose Nugget Regatta for the 13th time. The Kenai Crewsers Rowing Club, based in Seward, and the Alaska Midnight Sun Rowing Association from Soldotna joined Anchorage rowers for two days of racing in multiple scull and sweep events. Men and women of junior, novice, and masters status were all represented.

Marietta Hall, this year’s race coordinator for the Moose Nugget and one of the founders of the ARA, said the Valley is the best place for holding a regatta.

“You have way better water than we do in Anchorage. Your parks and recreation department is way more accommodating, and Anchorage is just more regulated. We couldn’t do this race in Anchorage,” Hall said.

According to Hall, affectionately called “Ed,” there is only one public lake in Anchorage with a volume of over 1,000 meters, which is a necessity for holding a regatta. Although there is no team in the Valley currently, Hall said the ARA has included members from Palmer and Wasilla in the past, and hopes to get something going up north.

“We just need someone there that’s kind of into it and we can just bombard them with resources,” Hall said.

The rowing community is growing, too, Anchorage rower and regatta committee member Janet Curran said in an email. Moose Nugget officials had to move the regatta from Lake Lucille a few years ago as more athletes and spectators have gotten involved, and logistics have gotten trickier, Curran said.

As the community grows, so does their competitive edge.

Julie Truskowski of Anchorage has been to the World Masters Games four times with the ARA and won multiple medals for her team.

“When we would go down to the Games people used to say, ‘Oh, you’re from Alaska, that’s nice,’ but now we’re actually competitive,” Truskowski said.

Truskowski got her start in Seattle with Green Lake Crew as a junior in high school. She came to Alaska to teach after rowing crew for the University of Washington. In 1999, after a 13-year break from racing,

she got back in the game and joined the Anchorage team.

“I like racing as a master because you don’t have that pressure of collegiate racing,” Truskowski said.

Kevin Hall, Ed’s brother and another founder of the ARA, has been to the Masters Games as many times as Truskowski, and agreed that the post-collegiate circuit has a significantly lighter atmosphere.

“Masters racing is really cool because it’s accessible to anyone who wants to try it, and we can make that happen,” Kevin said.

Robby Bear, another Anchorage rower, is a bit newer to rowing, but also attended the World Masters Games in Torino, Italy, last year. She was in the first Alaskan shell that medaled at the 2013 event.

“I always thought [rowing] was something I would do in college, but then I went to Fairbanks,” Bear said. “I do other sports like [triathlons] and cross-country running, but my husband doesn’t so I talked him into [rowing] so we could do it together.”

Bear was not the only rower at the regatta this weekend as a multi-sport athlete, as Truskowski and “Ed” both frequent cross-country running as ski races as well. All three women agreed that runners and skiers seem to be drawn to the sport of rowing.

“When you get there [on the water], it’s pretty Zen-like—focused and in the moment. I guess it’s like cross-country in that way, but harder,” Bear said.

Bear’s teammate, novice rower Julie Graham said that, as a runner, rowing looked appealing because it works a lot of the same muscles without being subjected to monotonous pounding on the joints.

“I like to be on the water and get into that rhythm,” Graham said.

The Anchorage masters and novice teams are coached by Matt Kowalski of Pittsburgh, Pa., during the summer, and the junior team by Natasha Graham. Ed Hall and Rose Morowitz coach the novice and masters divisions, respectively, in what Hall referred to as “the shoulder season,” outside of the standard mid-May to Mid-October season.

Morowitz, who rowed for Drexel University on the Schuykill River in Philadelphia, Pa., was hired by the Anchorage team last May. Although she described the regattas of her collegiate career as “more structured” and “very, very highly organized” events in the “Mecca of rowing,” Morowitz emphasized the appeal of the Alaska rowing community.

“I really like rowing in Alaska, in fact I actually prefer it,” she said. “It’s like the Wild West still where you can make things up as you go. It’s rowing outside the box.”

Anchorage Rowing Association finished first in the team results of the Moose Nugget Regatta with 28 points. Alaska Midnight Sun Rowing Association was second with 19 points, and Kenai Crewsers Rowing Club was third with 11. For past results or more information visit anchoragerowing.com.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Caitlin Skvorc at Caitlin.skvorc@frontiersman.com.

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