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Young rowers shine on national stage
By Pat Call
For The Beachcomber
Junior rowers came home victorious from Nationals last weekend, where one Vashon boat medaled, three finished in the top 10 in their regattas and all 16 Vashon rowers qualified for the finals in their events. From Vashon, eight boats competed, tying for second most in this year’s championships.
Melton Hill Lake near Oak Ridge, Tenn., was the site of the 2013 USRowing Youth National Championships, the culmination of the spring season and one of the highest levels of competition a junior rower can reach. The lake itself is more than 50 miles long, and its color theme is green, with green foliage-laden banks and green water. Such a setting, with more than 1,500 athletes from around the nation, could have intimidated Vashon’s young rowers, but with pluck and levity they returned with impressive results.
Because Vashon travels across the country and rents its rowing shells on location, team members decided to have some fun with boat names, writing them temporarily on the sides of shells. Most boats are named after the donors who provided them or trot out an inspirational cliché, such as “The Agony and the Ecstasy.” But the juniors tipped over the creativity meter this time with names such as “The Mantis Shrimp,” “2K Banana Slug” and “The Asylum.”
However, if the qualifying district championships last month were a beach party, then the Nationals had more the overall feel of an accounting convention. So the juniors got down to business.
Heat races took place Friday. In a format unique to rowing, only the winning boat of each heat advances to semifinals. Another round of heats are rowed either Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, and the top two boats in each of the second races go on to the semifinal with the third-place boat (plus the next two boats by overall time) going to the C final on Sunday.
After these first two rounds of racing, Vashon had four boats into the semi-finals and four into C finals. However that tally doesn’t quite tell the whole success story. In 2012, Vashon’s juniors won some very tight races (in one case by 18 milliseconds). In 2013, it was the reverse: Two boats missed the semifinals by a total of a half-second.
Saturday’s semifinals further broke the field into Sunday’s A and B finals with the three fastest shells in each semifinal going to the A final. When Saturday’s racing was done, Vashon had one crew heading to an A final and three boats going to B finals.
On Sunday, the team’s morale was high, and the early regatta jitters transformed into steely resolve.
Gus Magnuson and Tate Gill rowed a powerful Men’s Open Double race to take the bronze medal and keep the club’s three-year medal streak alive. Magnuson now has three national medals and Gill two, adding to their successes in 2012.
Kalie Heffernan and Kirsten Girard placed seventh overall, winning the B final in the Women’s Open Double.
The Lightweight Women’s Four with Emily Milbrath, Katelyn Carter, Shannon Lipe, Leanne Anderson and coxswain Ally Clevenger took eighth overall, placing second in the B final. It is unlikely that any other boat in the regatta placed so high with two novice rowers on board.
Anne Gaspers braved early morning fog and a very competitive field to row her single (the “Baby Giraffe”) to 12th place.
Nathaniel Petram and Baxter Call (rowing the “Call Petram 206 601 4789”) roared back from a close loss in the repechage to take the C final by open water and a 13th-place national finish.
Shannon Lipe and Katelyn Carter in their Women’s Lightweight Double and the Women’s Open Quad with Kalie Heffernan, Anna Ripley, Hannah Russell and Kirsten Girard both placed 14th.
The Men’s Open Quad of Magnuson, Gill, Jacob Plihal and Isaiah Mosser-Rohe took fifth in their C final and 17th in the nation.
Vashon rowing coach Richard Parr said he was proud of the nationals rowers who distinguished themselves both on and off the water.
“Our kids are not only great athletes but also great citizens and representatives of Vashon on the national stage,” he said.
He said the club’s performances at districts last month and at nationals proved Vashon has a top-10 program.
“We’ll start working this summer to find that extra 10 to 15 seconds we need to be in the top three across the board,” he said.