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Local rowers finish 2nd in world

Team totals 14,380,689 meters on stationary machines

April 24, 2010
By Kurt Hauglie, DMG Writer

LAURIUM - Despite the disruption of losing the usual site for the annual Concept2 Rowing Challenge, Terry Smythe is still satisfied with the results of the local effort in the competition.

The Aspirus Keweenaw Fitness Center team of 170 rowers with 14,380,689 meters finished second in the field of 221 teams throughout the world. The winning team, First Community Fitness Point of Munster, Ind., rowed 28,530,000 meters.

Smythe said the Fitness Center teams won the competition in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, 350 participants rowed 37,831,701 meters, and in 2008, 314 rowers logged 35,656,542 meters.

Article Photos

Daily Mining Gazette/Kurt Hauglie
Tom Grimm and Linda Fredrickson, both of Calumet, row at Aspirus Keweenaw Fitness Center in Laurium as part of the center’s Concept2 Rowing Challenge. The local team finished second out of 221 teams worldwide with 14,380 689 meters.

The competition, which runs from March 15 to April 15, is sponsored by Vermont-based Concept2, manufacturer of stationary rowing machines, which must be used in the competition.

Smythe, fitness director at the Aspirus Keweenaw Fitness Center, said the Indiana team had rowers who were spending eight hours a day on their machines.

"Their rowers were averaging 139,000 meters a day," she said. "They got a bunch of (retired) seniors down there and they rowed all day."

The local team averaged 74,899 meters per day, Smythe said.

The rowing challenge effort began locally in 1999, when it was based at the former Keweenaw Memorial Fitness Center on Sharon Avenue in Houghton.

The Sharon Avenue building recently was sold, so Smythe said she had to move the rowing machines to several locations, including the Laurium Aspirus Keweenaw Fitness Center, Michigan Technological University, Houghton High School, Copper Island Beach Club in Hancock and even her own basement, which was a popular place for some participants.

"All the big meter rowers were in my basement," she said.

One of the bigger meter rowers was Sarah Fuhrmann, who finished first locally with 1,013,408 meters.

Fuhrmann said she's a relative rookie in the competition.

"This is my second year doing the challenge," she said.

She didn't know anything about the challenge, Fuhrmann said, until she moved to the Houghton area from St. Louis two years ago.

"I learned about it when I crossed the door at the (Houghton) Fitness Center," she said.

Fuhrmann said she doesn't do any athletic competitions, but she does workout, including doing stationary rowing, but she decided she'd try the challenge anyway. Last year she rowed more than 300,000 meters, and she was hooked.

"It took on a life of its own," she said. "It was a lot of fun."

This year, Fuhrmann said she rowed seven days a week for most of the month, doing two or three hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.

"It's a big time commitment," she said.

Because she was going for distance, Fuhrman said her rowing was at a slower pace than she might have done for a workout.

"It's all about getting in a groove," she said.

Finishing second locally was Marilyn Swift, who had 1,000,583 meters, and she said it wasn't a new experience for her.

"This is my fourth year," she said.

Although the rowing challenge is a lot of work, Swift said she comes back because of "the madness."

"You just kind of get sucked in," she said.

Her progress rowing didn't exactly increase each year, Swift said. Her first time she rowed more the 700,000 meters, the second, 600,000 meters and last year she rowed 300,000. She missed days of rowing the second and third year, however.

"This time I don't think I missed one day," she said.

Swift said she rowed in Smythe's basement, and although people were working, they also had a good time, and she's pleased with her results.

"It's really gratifying to me to do a million meters," she said.

Smythe said the local schools taking part in the Rowing Challenge were South Range Elementary, and the Houghton-Portage Township schools.

For finishing second, Smythe said participants received various prizes, including sport bags filled sports-related items, and heart-rate monitors.

Because the challenge had to be conducted at several locations, Smythe said she was especially pleased with the second-place finish.

"Given our circumstances, it's nothing (less) than spectacular," she said.

Kurt Hauglie can be reached at



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