While rowing has been a sport dominated by colleges and teams on the East Coast, crew teams have started to flourish in unsuspecting places—like the desert.

“When I tell people about it, they always say, ‘Rowing? In the desert?!’” said Peter Cannia, assistant coach of the Tempe Junior Crew. “But it’s starting to catch on.”

Tempe Junior Crew, with more than 50 participants including some Ahwatukee teens, joins the ranks with schools like Brophy College Preparatory, Xavier College Preparatory, Rio Salado Community College, Arizona State University and others.

Though Cannia is in his first year of coaching the crew, he said the level of teamwork taken on by his team is key.

“It’s all about being part of the team, being in a crew, it builds a lot of teamwork,” said Cannia, who’s been rowing since the 1970s.

Desert Vista High School senior Jill Modean has been on the crew since her sophomore year, and said she’s learned how to be patient with others.

“It’s definitely taught me to learn how to work with others, if you aren’t working together you are not going to be successful,” she said.

Modean, who rows with one of her best friends, said another great part of the team is time spent with each other.

“I just love all of my teammates, we make it more fun.”

As one of the oldest Olympic sports, rowing involves a team of multiple athletes, each playing a part in rowing their boat to race against another. With different approaches to oar strokes and breathing techniques, a component of physicality and skill go along with the sport.

“There’s the fitness end of it, but more so it’s the social aspect (of crew,)” Cannia said.

Tempe Junior Crew currently has about 30 members, with alumni receiving scholarships to numerous universities around the country. Practicing at Tempe Town Lake, the crew offers introductory classes for those interested.

In two-week sessions, participants learn about the object of the race, basic mechanics of the stroke and then get out onto the water.

“They have to experience the sport. Once they do, they are hooked forever,” Cannia said.

The crew is currently training for the Southwest Junior Regionals next weekend, which could take them to nationals later in May.

“The kids really have to work together, that’s part of its success,” Cannia said.

For more information about the Tempe Junior Crew, visit tempejuniorcrew.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dmartinez@ahwatukee.com. Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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