A Vashon rower brings home gold

Islanders Lisa Huggenvik (center) and Kim Goforth take a close look at Mia Croonquist
Islanders Lisa Huggenvik (center) and Kim Goforth take a close look at Mia Croonquist's gold medal at a surprise celebration for the rowing champion Monday night.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/Staff Photo

Mia Croonquist, the youngest female rower to ever compete with the U.S. national team at the World Rowing Junior Championships, returned from England Monday night to a hero’s welcome — and with a gold medal hanging from her neck.

The 14-year-old Vashon girl was part of the four-woman boat that claimed first place in the international competition, held this year in Eton, England, where the U.S. Junior Women’s Straight 4 bested New Zealand, Great Britain and several other teams in a closely watched match of rowing prowess. The American team crossed the finish line in 6:48, a second and a half — and nearly a full boat’s length — ahead of New Zealand.

Mia, flanked by her parents Tom and Elsa Croonquist and her older brother Max, returned to Vashon Monday night to a surprise victory celebration at the Village Green — where friends and relatives, some holding flowers, others balloons, greeted her with cheers and hugs.

Beaming and flushed, Mia looked joyously overwhelmed by the attention, hugging one Islander after another and taking her dog Bella into her arms, who licked her face enthusiastically.

“It’s amazing. Incredible. The best thing that ever happened to me,” she said of her team’s victory.

She attributed the team’s success in part to its fierce determination to win. The U.S. team — which included three young women who were returning for the last race of their junior career — narrowly lost to New Zealand last year.

“We had to do it,” Mia said.

Steve Full, her coach on Vashon Island, where she’s rowed for a scant year and a half, said he’s not surprised by her success. “She’s such a great talent. And she’s got a great personality,” he said.

Mia is the second Island youth to head to the World Rowing Junior Championships. Tom Kicinski, then a senior, was a part of the the U.S. Junior Men’s 8 when it placed fourth in Amsterdam in 2006.

At Monday’s celebration, many marveled at Mia’s accomplishment at such a young age. Her parents, meanwhile, fought off tears.

“I keep crying,” her father Tom said, tearing up. “It’s so phenomenal.”

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