By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Family fitness leads to first place win for a Pottstown dragon boat team.
The Pottstown Junior Dragon Warriors came in first place for their division at the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival Saturday. The team was made up children and their parents. The Pottstown Junior Dragon Warriors formed earlier this summer to provide the area’s youth with a unique way to stay physically active. The program is organized through The Schuylkill River Athletic Club, which is associated with the Pottstown Athletic Club and Pottstown CrossFit.
“It was awesome,” said Laura Washington, one of the parent paddlers. “It was a special moment for all of us.”
During a dragon boat competition, teams of 20 paddlers compete in three 500-meter races. The team races in a long boat designed to resemble a dragon, a Chinese tradition. On Saturday, the Dragon Warriors competed in a mixed division category, which included teams with both men and women. Most of the teams had a majority of adult paddlers but this wasn’t the case for Pottstown. Washington said 14 of their paddlers were children between the ages of nine and 16. The remaining six paddlers were adults.
Washington got to cross the finish line with her son and husband. She said her husband paddled for the first time in a dragon boat on Saturday and said the sport is a lot harder than it looks. His son Nikko, who’s been paddling since the summer, was able to give him a few pointers.
Regardless if a few beginners joined the team Saturday, the Pottstown Junior Dragon Warriors showed the competition they were the team to beat. Washington said as the kids got closer to the finish line, they shouted words of encouragement to one another.
“They were pretty excited,” she said.
Rob Matthews, owner of the athletic club and CrossFit Pottstown, said it was amazing to watch a boat full of kids do so well against adult teams.
“It’s just unheard of,” he said adding that they won their race with a time of two minutes and 32 seconds.
The youth team even received praise through a Facebook comment from the organizers of the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival.
“Already a team to be reckoned with so can’t imagine when these wonderful young people get a few more years of dragon boating under their belt. Going to be fun watching them through the years,” stated the Facebook comment.
The Pottstown Junior Dragon Warriors did exceptionally well especially since Saturday’s race was only their second competition. Washington said the children knew what to expect with this race and understood how important it was to be synchronized.
“We always teach the kids to follow the paddle in front of you,” she said. “All in all, I believe they really learned how to paddle together as a team.”
During warm months, the team practices both outside on the Schuylkill River and indoors doing CrossFit exercises. Matthews said the athletic skills they learn with CrossFit can be transferred into any sport.
“One of the biggest things they do in CrossFit that helps with their athleticism is they do Olympic weight lifting,” he said. “The magic is in the movement.”
Starting in December, the dragon boat team will begin winter training and use indoor rowing machines to practice. They will compete in The Main Line Slide, an indoor rowing competition, in February. To learn more about the Pottstown dragon boat teams, visit www.facebook.com/PottstownDragonWarriorsor the website www.pottstownkarate.com.