Thousands of college athletes competing in Oak Ridge this weekend

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Hearts racing and oars in sync: It's the championship event these rowing crews spent a year training for.

Thousands of college athletes are in Oak Ridge this weekend for the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship Regatta.

"Lot of competition from all of the club teams around, like Colorado and the Northeast," University of Florida athlete Scott Hudson says.

With 56 teams competing, it's an event city officials have had circled on their calenders as well.

"From the gas stations filling up, to the restaurants, to our hotels and motels in town, it's a great event for the city," said Aaron Wells, Convention and Visitor's Bureau board chairman.

In fact, Wells says it provides most of the tourism revenue for the year. The event brings in close to two thousand athletes, coaches, family members and fans, all of whom spend money. And since this is a college championship, the city is hoping to recruit some of these students to move here and join the workforce after they graduate.

"The degrees that these men and women are pursuing mesh well with the talent needs here in oak ridge and east Tennessee," Parker Hardy, Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce president, says.

Oak Ridge hosts the championship every year. And they hope it will one day put the city on the map as something more than the "Atomic City."

"This is absolutely one of our favorite venues. The course seems to be nicer, and the weather is always great too," Adam Swetlik, with the University of Colorado, says.

That's the kind of impression organizers want to make.

"You know, the city really rolls out the red carpet to try to make this work," Wells says.

The championship continues Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Melton Lake Park.

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