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Rowing's lure has provided a competitive niche for Mayo High School tandem

Jake Blackmon and Christian Nohner made big strides in a recent rowing event.

Rochester Rowing Club
Rochester Rowing Club athletes Jake Blackmon, front, and Christian Nohner practice tandem rowing on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, on Silver Lake in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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They aren’t the biggest guys in the world. But Jake Blackmon and Christian Nohner, a combined 270 pounds, have made a big splash in the water.

Figuratively, of course. Technically sound rowers — and these two Rochester Mayo athletes lean heavily on that — splash as little as possible as they churn their oars smoothly and powerfully through the water.

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Blackmon and Nohner raced in tandem April 30 on the Grand River in Grand Rapids, Mich., and never looked better or more in sync.

It led to something special. The Rochester Rowing Club duo finished second in the Grand Rapids High School Rowing Invitational, competing in the men’s 2x. They also combined with teammates Nick Stanley (Mayo senior) and Ilkim Taner (Mayo sophomore) to finish second in the men’s 4x.

But it was the men’s 2x that grabbed them most. They actually were a bit upset when it was over. First place wasn’t far from their grasp. Blackmon/Nohner were timed in 5:46.97, while a pair from Lake Leelanau, Mich., was first in 5:43.56.

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“I was happy that we got second place but pretty mad because just 3 seconds separated us from first place,” said Blackmon, a Mayo junior, while Nohner is a Mayo sophomore. “That was really close.”

There was no discontent from their Rochester Rowing Club coach. Andrew Green, who is in his first year directing the team, was taken aback by just how much expertise Blackmon and Nohner showed in the 2x race.

Rochester Rowing Club
Rochester Rowing Club athletes Jake Blackmon, right, and Christian Nohner pull out their racing shell before tandem rowing on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at Silver Lake in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

That was especially true down the stretch, when three boats — one of them Blackmon’s and Nohner’s — were all trying to make a final push for the win.

“There was a lot of competition around them, so they had to make some moves at the end of the race,” Green said. “To jump out in front of the boat that finished third was impressive. It was neck and neck (with about 500 meters to go). Blackmon and Nohner, they are pretty daring. I was really proud of those guys. They did what I asked them to, as far as different moves throughout the race.”

Fifteen strong

Blackmon and Nohner are part of a Rochester Rowing Club that boasts 15 varsity members, five boys and 10 girls. Thirteen of them made the trip to compete in Grand Rapids. While Blackmon and Nohner likely faced the stiffest competition, there was a pair of Rochester girls who came away with gold medals. They were Mayo senior Madeline Behfar and Lourdes freshman Josie Washnieski. They grabbed a first place in the women’s 2x event.

“I could go on and on about them, too,” Green said. “They were really good.”

Blackmon has immersed himself in rowing and this Rochester Rowing Club since the summer leading up to his eighth-grade year. He got started after getting wind of the club’s “Learn To Row” program that’s offered each summer.

He’s never been tempted to turn back since. Also a former baseball player, Blackmon is now a full-time rowing guy. And it really is “full” time. The Rochester Rowing Club practices year round, six days per week. When the Zumbro River isn’t frozen, the rowers are on it. When it is frozen, they’re indoors, training on rowing machines.

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“It gets tiring, but you want to stay at it because you don’t want to get out of sync too much,” said the 6-foot, 150-pound Blackmon, the rowing club’s top boy and one who intends to continue rowing after high school, hopefully at the Division I level.

“It is amazing what good shape rowing gets you in,” said Blackmon, who along with other Rochester Rowing Club teammates will compete in the national-qualifying Midwest Junior Rowing Championship on May 21-22 near Cincinnati. “It is a full-body workout, with lots of cardio. I’ve learned a bunch of stuff doing this. It is such a positive environment in this club. It’s not a huge team, so everyone knows each other pretty well. And it is competitive. We are all pushing each other.”

Nohner has been a Rochester Rowing Club member for three years. On the smaller side (at least so far ) at 5-7, 120, Nohner loves what the sport has done for him physically.

He fully embraces the workouts, which are rugged.

“I wasn’t the most physically active guy before,” said Nohner, whose team generally covers about 10 kilometers each day in an outdoor workout. “But when I gave rowing a try, I loved it. The physical intensity of it made me feel very accomplished, to be able to do it and not feel like I was going to die afterward. I really like it now when my muscles are burning and I’m really sweating.”

The Rochester Rowing Club takes a two-week break every three to four months to re-energize and re-focus .

Those breaks tend to be a tad long for Nohner, a guy who’s truly found his niche.

“I’m always eager to get back at it,” he said.

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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