Rowers compete in prestigious UW head race

Kaelie Heffernan and Kirsten Girard compete at the Head of the Lake head race in Seattle.   - Christine Plihal Photo
Kaelie Heffernan and Kirsten Girard compete at the Head of the Lake head race in Seattle.
— image credit: Christine Plihal Photo

Race organizers don’t like to cancel regattas, so for Saturday’s Green Lake Frostbite event to be called off on Friday night meant a big blow was on the way — and indeed it was.

With the “small dog wind warning” furled Sunday morning, that left the Head of the Lake (HOTL) regatta, the region’s premier head race, as the sole fall rowing season finale.

For this race, the course starts heading east under the I-5 bridge over Lake Union, snakes around some marinas to shoot through the Montlake Cut out into Lake Washington and pivots around a navigation buoy through a sharp turn to finish in front of the University of Washington Conibear shellhouse. The structure was named for early UW rowing coach Hiram Conibear, who in 1913 for the first time brought a rowing team from the west to national and international competitions and is a monument to the power and prestige of the Husky program. With 493 boats organized into 45 race categories, the HOTL lived up to its reputation as an extremely competitive event.

The Husky teams, including two recent Vashon graduates, Gus Magnuson and Charlotte Kehoe, dominated the first six races of the collegiate eight events. Magnuson rowed two-seat in the UW freshman boat, taking home gold with a time that would have placed them second to the UW varsity in the open collegiate category.

The Vashon junior men’s four (Patrick Hanson — stroke, Jack Mask, Fletcher Call and Forrest Miller with coxswain Olivia Mackie) and the master women’s quad (Mary Rothermel — stroke, Su DeWalt, Marilyn Kleyn and Kim Goforth — bow) both placed second in their events.

Results in the day’s other events were third in the men’s master quad, fourth in the women’s open double, fifth in the men’s master eight, sixth in the junior women’s eight,  seventh in the men’s open double, eighth in the junior women’s four and 11th in both the open men’s and women’s singles.

In the final race of the day, the parent/child double event, Vashon earned another victory when Anna (stroke, daughter) and Mark (bow, father) Ripley took first place.

Medals in this regatta are only awarded for first place and are unique handblown glass art pieces. The course was lined with spectators who witnessed two unusual rowing shells in this event: a triple (scull) and a sextuple (sweep) boat.

Following the race, coach Richard Parr weighed in.

“Overall I’m really pleased with the results from Head of the Lake while being disappointed that in particular our novices couldn’t row at Green Lake,” he said. “The lightweight boys four had a great row against crews averaging six inches taller. Baxter Call did very well against the best competition in the region in the open single. All of the coxswains did a great job steering a challenging course.”

Parr added that the women’s master quad did well, losing only to their nemesis from Lake Washington on their home course. Also, the junior women’s double came back to overcome some unsportsmanlike behavior from one of their competitors.

“It is the end of a strong fall season,” Parr said, “but we still have much work to do for next spring.”

Both the junior and master programs will mostly move indoors for the next two months for conditioning programs, working on the ergs (rowing machines) and trying to counterbalance the temptations of the holidays during the dark and stormy winter months. The junior crew spring season starts on Jan. 13, and new novice rowers are encouraged to sign up at

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

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