Champion rower, author gives boost to Wabash Valley Crew

Tribune-Star/Howard GreningerOn the river: Arshay Cooper, an author and champion rower who is also on the U.S. Rowing board of directors, is encouraging rowing competitions and the creation of a collegiate rowing team in Terre Haute with competitions to be held on the Wabash River at Fairbanks Park. 

The Wabash River, as it flows past Fairbanks Park, creates a unique opportunity that Wabash Valley Crew say could become a new sporting and tourism attraction with an annual rowing regatta.

To help glide that concept into a reality, the rowing group formed in 2016, has turned to Arshay Cooper, a champion rower, a member of USRowing board of directors, and author of “Suga Water: A Memoir,” published in 2015.

Cooper was a member of the first all-black high school rowing team in the United States. A new documentary film entitled “A Most Beautiful Thing,” based on that memoir, will be released nationwide March 16.

That documentary chronicles that first African American high school rowing team made up of young men, many of whom were in rival gangs from the West Side of Chicago, all coming together to row in the same boat. A special screening of the documentary was held Thursday at the Vigo County Historical Museum. Vigo County 7th and 8th graders will also see the documentary today at AMC Theatre.

“Wabash Valley Crew is working to create opportunities to inspire future Arshay Coopers,” Jack Hill, founder of Wabash Valley Crew said in a statement. “We hope that we can set a child off on a path once unknown and positively impact their life forever.”

Cooper was at Fairbanks Park Thursday morning to talk about the Wabash River and its potential to host rowing regattas.

“I think the way that we get this started is, number one … partnering with high schools and middle schools here in Terre Haute,” and getting indoor rowing machines in those schools, Cooper said.

Then, Cooper said, find coaches to teach students how to row and how to swim and get them on the water and let those young people experience the love that changed his life. Then connect with colleges like Indiana State to establish a college program, he said.

Cooper said a rowing team on the collegiate level can help athletes get to the Olympics and they “can represent the town, and those young people come back and tell the same story to the next generation of young people,” he said.

“The city can bring a [rowing] regatta here by putting in a nice dock” for rowing teams, Cooper said of Fairbanks Park.

Also, getting educators and business owners together to bring in volunteers, concessions and most importantly bring in “young people … to be part of the team. It will have an economic impact and bring in thousands of people who will check out the city,” he said.

For more information about Wabash Valley Crew, go to or email

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

Recommended for you