Dallas students beat the odds to win national rowing title

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by TED MADDEN

WFAA

Posted on July 13, 2014 at 10:58 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 13 at 10:58 PM

DALLAS — Recent high school graduates Robert Bolt and Collin McKinney were holding a trophy in the White Rock Lake boathouse a few days ago. It's a two-piece award — with a glass cup and a wood base.

This trophy is the first of its kind to come to Dallas.

"We'll be putting our name right there," said McKinney, pointing to a spot on the base.

No team from White Rock Rowing had ever won a national championship before these two Dallas Independent School District seniors did it last month. McKinney graduated from Hillcrest High School; Bolt from Woodrow Wilson.

They won the Men's Varsity Pair race in Sacramento, and it was an upset that a team from Dallas won a national title in a sport dominated by East Coast and West Coast rowers.

"It's fairly rare," said Alex Binkowski, the director of White Rock Rowing. "I mean, it's a David and Goliath story."

The comparison couldn't be more accurate, especially when you see McKinney and Bolt next to the guys they beat.

"To actually like — on the podium — shake these guys' hands and have to look up at them, that's not something I'm not really used to," said McKinney, who stands more than six feet tall.

"Yeah, it was surprising to see people who were inches taller than you," said Bolt. "We're like, 'Wow! We beat them!'"

This wasn't the duo's first trip to the national regatta; they had been there twice before, after their freshman year and again last year. In a way, they saw their future — for them to become national champions, they had to become as good as the best teams they saw at nationals.

"Because you can always hear [your coach say], 'Oh these guys are big.' And you're like, 'Oh, OK... big!'" said McKinney. "'These guys are clean, these guys are fast.' But to actually see it, you see real quick, it clicked real quick that, 'OK, this is what he meant.'"

To succeed in this sport requires hard work, all year long. In the winter, the team trains inside the boathouse.

"I kind of had coaches that were constantly pushing me," said Bolt. "And that kind of helped and grow and make me develop a sense to constantly push myself when I was at practice."

During the season, these guys row six days a week, spending about 90 minutes on the lake.

"We're a highly aerobic sport; you have to build a base," said Binkowski. "And the only way to build a base is by slugging it out and putting in the hours and grinding it out."

That hard work paid off in the best possible way, with a national championship. And that hard work will will continue to pay off when Robert goes to the University of Texas, and Collin goes to Temple.

E-mail tmadden@wfaa.com

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