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Knoxville students compete in virtual rowing tournament

In previous years, rowers would compete with others on the water. This year, they took a different approach and competed virtually.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — For one group of teenagers, weekends are for rowing. Typically, they row on the water. However, this is no ordinary year.

"With COVID-19, we have to do it a lot differently," said Evan McCaughn, a student who has been rowing for two years. "Rowing is just so important to us so we're not going to stop."

On Saturday morning, McCaughn and his teammates gathered in Knoxville to compete in the annual Head of the Hooch tournament virtually.

They set up rowing machines and logged onto an app. From there, they crossed the finish line.

Credit: WBIR

"I know it's not exactly the same as actually being at the racing venue and being on the water," said Helena, another rower. "But it's still nice to be in that competitive atmosphere."

Typically, Coach Susannah Enkema said there would be hundreds of boats entered in an event like the Head of the Hooch tournament. 

That's not possible because of COVID-19, but her students were determined to make the most of this year.

RELATED: Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon anticipates return to in-person race in 2021

Credit: WBIR

"These kids have been really resilient," Coach Enkema said. "We're super proud of them for continuing to train and practice with an uncertain season when we kind of have to take it day by day and be flexible."

Assistant Coach Annette Robbins said that she agreed. 

"They consistently show up," Robbins said. "They want to help. They want to have fun. They want to stay active."

All of them are determined to have as much normalcy as possible — even if that means competing virtually and staying six feet apart.

"COVID-19, it doesn't have to impact your life that much," said rower Will Suters. "Us on our team are still doing what we love. And I hope you all are doing the same."

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