Dragon boat races less about rowing, more about supporting the community

The TROY Trojan Warriors compete in the Montgomery Dragon Boat Races.

The TROY Trojan Warriors compete in the Montgomery Dragon Boat Races.

The TROY Trojan Warriors finished third in their division at Saturday’s Montgomery Dragon Boat Races, but for participants, the experience was more about supporting the local community, representing the University and bonding with teammates than where they finished on the leader board.

Dragon boat racing is a team paddling sport that has its roots in ancient China. The Montgomery Dragon Boat Races have taken to the Alabama River at the Montgomery Riverfront Park for the last eight years. This year’s event benefitted two local non-profits, Bridge Builders Alabama and Rebuilding Together Central Alabama.

TROY’s Confucius Institute served as a Gold Sponsor for this year’s event, and cheers went up from the TROY faithful and students kicked off the day with the traditional Chinese Dragon Dance. Confucius Institute staff and students promoted the University and the Institute’s programs at tents along the concourse at Montgomery’s Riverfront Park, and students and staff shared music and dance performances on the amphitheater stage throughout the day.

The TROY Dragon Boat team celebrates after a successful race.
The TROY Dragon Boat team celebrates after a successful race.

“It was a fun experience, and we are pleased to be a part of it to represent the Confucius Institute of Troy University,” said Dr. Iris Xu, the Institute’s director. “Our student and staff performances were well received and it was exciting to see them share the Chinese culture with the community.”

Dr. Lance Tatum, vice chancellor of TROY’s Montgomery Campus, said the University is proud to be a part of the Montgomery community and feels it is important to support local efforts.

“We are deeply imbedded into the fabric of this community, and we need to be involved in community activities that support charities, community good will and the City of Montgomery,” Dr. Tatum said. “I think this event builds a great relationship within the group that comes to participate. Being in August at the beginning of fall, this really helps students, particularly our international students, bond to domestic students and our faculty. This event provides a great collectiveness of good will.”

Amy Waters, director of community outreach at the Montgomery Campus, helped to organize TROY’s participation in the annual event.

“Giving back is really a part of our mission,” Waters said. “I think this is a great collaboration with our students, faculty and staff coming together as one to support our community and providing a TROY presence within our community.”

Joey Choi served as the drummer on the team’s second run. The South Korean student paced the team to victory in the three-boat race.

“It was really fun, but it was also difficult,” she said. “It really made me feel excited when I saw the other students and staff working together and rowing so hard. It was a good experience.”

Students Jiang Zhu and Xingyu Hu described the dragon boat experience as “amazing.”

“Today, I’ve seen the American style of dragon boat racing,” Xingyu Hu said. “This is my first time participating and I feel it is a good experience for me. I feel amazing.”

Staff members Lisa Vardaman and Sadaris Williams also were members of the team and were glad they decided to participate.

“It has been a wonderful experience, learning how to row, work the boats and stay in balance,” said Vardamin, who serves as a reference librarian and education subject specialist on the Troy Campus. “It has also been a wonderful bonding experience. Trying not to get hit with the oar in front of you is probably the hardest thing about it.”

For Williams, who serves as coordinator for student involvement, the teamwork and comradery drew him to participate.

“I had some friends who took part a couple of years ago and I became interested in it,” he said. “I think the competitive part of it and the fact that it is a different skill that I’ve never done before drew me to it. The teamwork aspect is also important. I enjoy working with others that I may not know to come together to work toward a common goal. I think it is important to get the TROY name out and show that we are committed to bonding with the community and supportive of the activities in every way possible.”

Members of the team included: Abigail Temple, David VanBuskirk, Erich Grommet, Gregga Gidley, Isaiah Scott, Jim Smith, Kirk Curnutt, Lathan Bennett, Lisa Vardaman, Lynn Boyd, Phyllis Kiarie, Rojan Maharjan, Sadaris Williams, Ty Naquin, Valencia Fletcher, Joey Choi, Kristen Rost, Haeju Kim, Jiang Zhu, Yizheng Wang, Xinyu Hu, Xiang Xyh, Eujohn Anderson, Ayla Lee, and Silver Wallace. Amy Waters and Dr. Lance Tatum served as team captains.