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In less than a year, Layton teenager Marti Kemp goes from novice rower to nationals

By Patrick Carr - Prep Sports Reporter | Aug 9, 2022

Photo supplied, Ahsan Iqbal

Marti Kemp, front, rows with her rowing partner Olivia Pope in this undated photo. Kemp, a senior at Layton High, took up the sport in September 2021 and, nine months later, qualified for national competition.

When Layton teenager Marti Kemp first talked to her friends about her newfound interest, the sport of rowing, they thought she was crazy.

“They basically said ‘we have no water, how can you row?’ We figure it out, we do our thing,” Kemp said.

Kemp, an incoming Layton High School senior, might not have rowing completely figured out yet. But she’s had an eventful year in the sport.

In September 2021, she gave rowing a shot. In June 2022, she competed in the US Rowing Youth National Championships in Sarasota, Florida.

Kemp and her rowing partner, Olivia Pope, competed in the Women’s Youth Double event and finished an initial, 2-kilometer time trial in 7:27.456, which was 12th place out of 25 racers and good for a semifinal spot.

Kemp and Pope finished last in their semifinal race, but that hasn’t dampened Kemp’s experience in the sport.

“It’s kind of crazy, it hasn’t really set into me that that’s something that I had the opportunity to do,” she said. “My coach, when he found out that we were able to go to nationals, he was freaking out, like, ‘You’re a novice and you get to go to nationals, that’s insane.'”

Rowing at nationals was just part of her whirlwind introduction to the sport.

“It didn’t even occur to me that I was a novice and that it was a crazy thing for me to be doing. I dove right in and wanted to keep working as hard as I possibly could, and I still love to work hard and I love to be on a team. It’s just been amazing,” she said.

Kemp literally grew out of gymnastics — she’s 5-foot-9 — and quit the sport last year, giving her a summer off, “and I kind of got a little stir-crazy, I really wanted to do something sporty,” she said.

So how does one in Utah find rowing, a sport that has little mainstream exposure outside the Summer Olympics?

Kemp’s dad, Kory, was golfing in Oregon last year and met a man whose girlfriend had competitively rowed in college. They got to talking.

About two weeks later, Marti went to her first day of rowing practice in the rain out on the Great Salt Lake.

“Some of my team was like, ‘no way is she gonna want to come back,’ but I actually really loved having that for my first day, you have to problem solve so quickly in the boat and everyone in the boat is basically your family,” Marti Kemp said.

When Kemp explains the sport to people who don’t know its finer details, she tells them that the legs are vital for generating power to row the boat, contrary to many people’s assumptions that rowing is upper-body exclusive.

She goes to practice anywhere from 4-5 times per week, most of the time in the Jordan River Surplus Canal in Salt Lake County.

Kemp wants to row in college and, considering she picked up the sport less than a year ago and went to nationals, college rowing might not sound that crazy.

Connect with reporter Patrick Carr via email at pcarr@standard.net, Twitter @patrickcarr_ and Instagram @standardexaminersports.

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