Amanda Flora has traded in her basketball shoes and track and field gear for a rowboat and oars.
A 2016 graduate of Greenfield-Central, Flora currently is a freshman at Eastern Michigan University. She accumulated nine varsity letters after playing basketball and running track and cross country for the Cougars.
But it was a different sport — rowing — where Flora would find herself competing in college.
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At Division-I Eastern Michigan, Flora finds herself wearing a singlet, like in wrestling, with shoes already bolted inside of the boat — no more familiar spikes or basketball jersey.
Approximately 54 girls are a part of the program with Flora under head coach Kemp Savage. According to Flora, Kemp liked her tall, athletic build and dedication to athletics in high school.
In fact, a chunk of girls on the rowing team at Eastern Michigan, including Flora, have never participated in the sport before. Most high schools, especially in Indiana, do not officially participate in the sport.
At Greenfield-Central, Flora — who also received offers to run in college — was a member of conference, county and sectional title rosters with the girls’ basketball team her senior season and qualified for state in track (1,600-meter relay).
She is the daughter of David and Carol Flora and has three brothers (Gregory, Joseph and Benjamin) and four sisters (Rebecca, Jennifer, Joanna and Amy).
Flora is studying occupational therapy at Eastern Michigan.
The Daily Reporter caught up with Flora to talk about her freshman year and time spent with the rowing team.
DR: What has it been like going from playing basketball and running track to joining the rowing team?
AF: It has definitely been a good change going from basketball and track to rowing. Don’t get me wrong, I love basketball and track, but the change has definitely been nice. I still tend to play basketball on the weekends with other rowers who played in high school, so we still get our fill of basketball. I also still get my fill of track, as well. With rowing we have multiple timed two miles that we have to complete, so it’s not sprinting like I did during track, but I am still getting my running fill in. But overall, I would say it was a very good decision to accept the rowing scholarship over all the running scholarships I received.
DR: Can you explain how meets work, how many people are in the boat and how does a team win the race?
AF: The rowing meets pretty much last all day, like track meets. The meets or races are actually called a regatta and it has a schedule that it follows. There are several different boats that hold different amounts of people. I raced in two races this past Sunday, one race was in an eight boat, which is a boat that holds eight rowers, and the second race was in a four boat, which holds four.
There is a big difference in weight of the eight and four boats and how hard it is to balance the boats. The eight boat is a lot easier to balance than a four boat is, just because it is a lot longer.
In our past regatta this Sunday, the race was a staggered start, so you never really raced right besides someone else but rather just raced the clock. But the team that has the fastest time in a staggered race or the team to first cross the finish line is the boat that wins.
There are also other boats that are raced, but I am not a part of them. There are double and single scull boats where there are only one or two people in the boat. But with a scull boat, the rowers have two oars per person. However, in the eight and four boats, there is only one oar person.
DR: What type of equipment do you use or wear? I am sure you are used to wearing basketball or running shoes, but what type of jerseys and stuff does your team wear?
AF: For rowing we do have certain uniforms and shoes that we wear. The uniforms are singlets, like what wrestlers wear, to create an aerodynamic boat. The shoes we wear for races and practices are bolted into the boat seats in the boats, therefore allowing us to pull ourselves up on the slide we can pull for the next stroke. For equipment for rowing the boat, there is a coxswain that navigates and steers the boat along the course. With the rowing portion, we use oars that are locked into the oar locks and rigors that stick off the boat either on port or starboard side of the boat.
When rowing, depending on which side of the boat, your feather hand changes. Your feather hand is always the inside hand or the one closest to the water. The point of a feather hand is what turns the blade on the oar from a 90 degree, perpendicular to the water, to parallel to the water, making it easier to slide up the slide to the catch, to place for the next stroke. Without a feather hand, you risk hitting the blade against the water and messing up the stroke pattern and getting someone wet behind you.
DR: Is it anything like what you expected? What is the most challenging part for a newcomer?
AF: It is nothing like I expected, but that’s not in a bad way. It’s a very good experience as an athlete. Not many people know what rowing is or that Eastern Michigan had a rowing team, so when people ask you what sport you play, and you respond with rowing, you always have to add “like in a boat, on water.” Otherwise, they have no idea what you are talking about.
The most challenging part is dealing with the two-a-day practices and being sore and tired 24-7. It is a lot harder, workout wise, than basketball, cross country or track practices ever were. I have definitely found muscles I had no idea I had. The other thing about being a newcomer to a rowing team in college and not ever had rowed before, many people would be scared of the opportunity. However, the fact is we have 30 novice rowers and only three or four who have rowed in high school. Rowing is the biggest walk-on sport in college, however, other people like me did receive scholarships for it, even without doing it prior.
DR: How is college going outside of rowing? Do you miss Greenfield-Central or are you adjusting well?
AF: I love college a lot more than high school. High school was good and all and was a great time with great memories and great friends that I am still friends with, but I was definitely ready for a change by graduation. I enjoy the freedom and the challenge here. I also like the distance from home, because I get to be the person who I want to be, without people criticizing. It is allowing me to be the person I truly am. The academic portion is fantastic. Besides the general education credits I am required to take, class is fantastic. It is a lot more work than high school, but it’s a challenge I like to accept.
DR: How did your first meet go and how many do you have left in the regular season?
AF: It was in Lansing, Michigan. We did really well as a team. However, the novice freshman rowers did fantastic. I rowed in both an eight boat and four boat, and both of these boats won their races. Our eight boat winning time was 13:15 and our four boat winning time was 13:38. The novice four boat, which I was in, actually beat one of our EMU varsity four boats. The coaches were very pleased with our performance. The novice has only had one meet so far, but our next regatta is Oct. 22 back in Lansing, Michigan. After that, we have a regatta the following Saturday down in Tennessee. However with rowing, we have two seasons: a fall and spring-winter race season. We train year round.