Vashon crew rows to victory in Canada

Members of the women
Members of the women's quad show off their hard-earned gold medals.
— image credit: Allison Jeffries Photo


The Brentwood College Inter-national Regatta is a 1,500-meter event with 147 races over two and half days and is an annual favorite of Vashon’s junior crew. Against rowers representing 38 U.S. and Canadian clubs, Vashon’s team put in another strong spring performance, medalling in 15 of the 23 races it entered.

Many of Vashon’s top junior rowers over the past decade have not won top honors at Brentwood, a testament to the skill of the other teams who compete there. This is the only regatta where Vashon faces western Canada’s top crews.

On Friday afternoon, Vashon’s crew qualified 10 boats in 14 races entered. Saturday started with two early and exciting races: the men’s and women’s A varsity coxed quads (“A” means “open”; the “B” category designates rowers 16 and under). The women (Mia Croonquist, Kalie Heffernan, Riley Lynch, Kirsten Girard and cox Callie Andrews) held off a late surge to win the gold, while the men were not able to quite catch the lead boat, finishing with the silver.

Vashon’s morning races completed with a gold medal for the women’s B novice coxed quad (R. Lynch, Rhea Enzian, Katrina Heffernan, Madelyn McEachern and cox Andrews) and a bronze for the junior men’s A novice coxed quad. To this point the Brentwood planning magic was working to perfection, but at precisely 1 p.m., the wind whipped up, turning the course into a patchwork of unrowable whitecaps and swells and sending the regatta into the penalty box for the rest of the day.

Forecasts for Sunday from four surrounding locations were grim, but undeterred, the regatta organizers announced a 6 a.m. start of racing. Sunday’s first race was high-octane drama. The men’s A single scull with Jacob Plihal at the oars had the added pressure of defending Vashon’s winning the trophy last year. Plihal, at 6 feet, 8 inches, doesn’t fit easily into a single scull, and, in fact, was racing a different boat on Sunday from the one he qualified in on Friday since he was in peril of sliding entirely out of Friday’s smaller shell. Showing the same tenacity as in the qualifier, Plihal took over the race, winning the gold by a boat length.

With the postponement of Saturday’s races, the organizers changed the remaining heats into finals with the relative time of the qualifying boats in the heats determining the medal winners. A consequence of this scoring system is that if rowers are not in a strong heat but are substantially ahead, they have to have the mental toughness to imagine a competitor right on their stern and pour on the power anyway. The women’s A four was the first of several Vashon boats to succumb to this scorekeeping method, winning its heat, but falling less than two-tenths of a second shy of the winning time of another heat.

That silver medal was matched by the men’s and women’s doubles. The women’s B double (R. Lynch – stroke, Enzian – bow) and novice eight (R. Lynch, Enzian, McEachern, Virginia Miller, Katrina Heffernan, Lili Helsby, Tabitha Illerbrunn, Adriana Yarkin and cox Andrews) both took home gold medals. This win by an eight was a first for Vashon at Brentwood. The medal tally was completed with a gritty silver medal performance by the women’s A lightweight four and a bronze for the men’s B double.

In summing up the weekend, coach Richard Parr had a single word: “Awesome.”

The women’s and men’s quads will row this Saturday in the UW invitation-only Opening Day races at the Montlake Cut.

— Pat Call is the father of two junior rowers.

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