Rowing club sends record number of juniors to national competition

For The Beachcomber

Vashon Island Rowing Club coach Richard Parr has kept the junior rowers’ focus this spring on the District Championships that took place last weekend weekend, and their hard work paid off when the club qualified a record number for Nationals.

“I was so impressed by the commitment shown by the rowers throughout the season, and it paid off on race day,” Parr said. “Really brave efforts all around, and it was great to see so many of our athletes performing so well under pressure.”

One part high-octane athletic contest and another part beach party, the competition is held each year on Lake Vancouver, a shallow avian sanctuary a short distance from the Columbia River. The ospreys, eagles, herons and egrets didn’t know what to make of the dueling musical tributes between the 20 clubs and 1,400 rowers represented. But after a spring of regattas, the juniors from different clubs have gained mutual respect and friendship contributing to an extraordinary aura of teamwork, camaraderie and sportsmanship.

The Vashon Junior Crew statistics were extraordinary: 44 races entered with 37 top-three finishes. The club earned 18 first, 11 second and eight third-place awards. Fifteen rowers and one coxswain are heading to USRowing Youth National Championships on Lake Melton outside Oak Ridge, Tenn., the second weekend in June to compete in eight separate events. Both the number of rowers and events are club records. And on a team basis, the Vashon junior women placed fourth at the regatta and the men fifth.

At the start of the regatta on Friday morning, an articulate and energetic announcer spelled out the basics for rowing initiates. There are sculling events (two oars per rower — singles, doubles and quads) and sweep events (a single, larger oar per rower with pair, four and eight configurations). Novice rowers have less than a year’s experience. Fours and eights always have coxswains to steer the shell. Vashon junior crew is one of the smaller clubs and does not compete in the competitive eight category.

Vashon’s Nationals-bound crew members include Kalie Heffernan and Kirsten Girard, who took gold in the women’s double and were also joined by Anna Ripley and Hannah Russell in the women’s quad, placing third.

Katelyn Carter and Shannon Lipe took silver in the women’s lightweight double and then were joined by two novices —eighth-grade stroke Emily Milbrath and Leanne Anderson — and coxswain Ally Clevenger to take another silver in the women’s lightweight four.

Gus Magnuson and Tate Gill also medaled in two Nationals-qualifying races, taking a bronze in the men’s double and a silver in the men’s quad, where they were joined by Jacob Plihal and Isaiah Mosser-Rohe.

Nathaniel Petram and Baxter Call took silver in the lightweight men’s double, and the National-bound team was completed with Anne Gaspers taking a bronze in the women’s single.

First-place finishers in finals that didn’t qualify for Nationals were Ella McConnell and Kai Li Scheer in the women’s third varsity double, Tea Schafer and Leanne Anderson in the women’s novice double, Lorenzo Higuera and Forrest Miller in the men’s novice double, Alexander Wright and Liam McConnell in the men’s third varsity double, Julian Baca and Ethan Rumberg in the men’s third varsity double and Nathaniel Petram and Baxter Call in the men’s second varsity double. In an unusual finish, the women’s high school eight tied for first with Holy Names Academy.

The Nationals venue is the other side of the county for one more year, and then will move to Sacramento for a three-year period. Club members hope islanders will have dirty cars in waiting, as the team will be training hard and doing a car wash on Saturday, June 1, to offset the cost of renting equipment back east.

For those interested in witnessing some on-island rowing excitement, the first-annual Vashon rowing drag race will be held on Quartermaster Harbor Sunday June 2, with races beginning at 8 a.m. This event will feature head-to-head 500-meter sprints of singles rowers with single elimination.

— Pat Call is a recreational rower and father of two junior rowers.

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