Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Woodrow Wilson junior was born to row
At their practices, even from the beginning, the rowers watching Eli Brown churn oars through White Rock Lake anointed him with an ambitious nickname, calling the adult-sized teenager Olaf.
Olaf meant Olaf Tufte, the two-time Olympic gold medalist rower. Brown, a 16-year-old Woodrow Wilson junior, has displayed hints of such ability.
Only a rower for two years, he took his time discovering his niche sport. Now that he has, he is excelling, helping his White Rock Boathouse Juniors team to a spot at nationals in June and earning a tryout this summer as one of only 40 rowers with the Youth National Team. He will participate in Saturday’s White Rock Rowing Sprint Championships.
“I was thinking it would be a recreational activity now and then,” said Brown, who is 6-1, 195 pounds. “And then it just got to me.”
The way Brett Brown tells the story, his boy was born to row. He weighed 11 pounds, four ounces. His mother, Talitha, is Dutch, a group with historically good rowers and tall men.
“He came out unlike any baby I’ve ever seen,” Brett said. “You could pick him up like a football he was so sturdy.”
Yet as of two years ago, Brown’s only rowing experience came from kayaking through white water for family vacations. He became disinterested with football in middle school. Instead, he played the alto saxophone for the Woodrow band.
One night in the kitchen, Brett had him play the tenor sax. It is larger than the alto. It requires more physicality from the musician. Eli played with intensity that night.
“It kind of unleashed him,” Brett said.
Finally listening to friend Joey Zacarias, Eli found an outlet for the energy. Zacarias had joined the White Rock Boathouse rowing team and bothered Eli to join for months. In the fall of 2009, after stopping band, he finally came to a practice.
“I told him the coach was going to kick his butt,” Zacarias said.
But Eli fit right in. The sport came easily because of his size.
The last year, Eli has worked to ensure that there are no easy days. With increased devotion, his time in the 2000 meters, a standard event for youth rowers, has dropped by around 20 seconds to 6:24, an improvement coach Randy Dam called astronomical.
Dam has noticed Eli putting in more solo time in the mornings, outside of practice. On weekends, he often wakes up at dawn to row and jog for up to three hours and then lift weights. Later on, he’ll tell Brett he’s going to bike.
He packs so much activity into each day, a way of operating that parallels his short, accomplished rowing career.
“The way he’s improved and stuff over the last year,” Dam said, “it’s pretty ridiculous.”
White Rock Rowing Sprint Championships
What: A regatta featuring races for top Texas juniors and masters
Where: White Rock Lake near the filter building (2810 White Rock Road)
When: 8:00 a.m. Saturday (lasts until early afternoon)
More info: Whiterockboathouse.com