Rowers take home 33 medals from regionals

Aching and tired, yet excited about their success, the members of the Vashon Island Junior Crew (VIJC) team took home more than 30 medals after competing in the US Rowing 2009 Northwest Junior Regional Championship Regatta May 15 to 17 at Vancouver Lake, Wash.

The event, hosted by Vancouver Lake Crew, drew more than 1,100 rowers and 21 teams from all over the Northwest for a final opportunity to prove who could navigate a 2000-meter course with the most precision, determination, strength, stamina and grace.

Over three days, VIJC advanced to the finals 12 times and won a total of 33 medals.

“This is their most outstanding performance so far,” said coach Lucas Ridinger. “They continue to impress me. ... Some teams that sent from 100 to 150 rowers only advanced to five or six finals. Our team, with 25 rowers, advanced to 12. Next season is going to be even better if we can get returning rowers.”

“This is a huge step for our club,” said senior rower Cody Turner upon hearing the final medal count.

Senior rower Clint Amstrup added, “It’s amazing, mind-boggling, great. It has a lot to do with our coaches.”

The medals, Ridinger said, “are just the icing on the cake.”

He said the athletes’ work on crew this season will help them in their futures, no matter their goals.

“Crew athletes learn to work hard and learn to work as a team,” the coach said. “They develop mental discipline and personal character. The leaders we are building in crew will go on to be successful no matter what they set their minds to do.”

This season was VIJC’s first step toward a “breakout” season, he noted. This year, the team was competitive at the novice and JV level, while the men’s lightweight 4 fell just five seconds short of qualifying for nationals. Next year, the athletes could be players on the varsity scene at regionals.

“In order to continue our success and build a program that is sending rowers to nationals, we will need to expand our program,” Ridinger said. “We are competing against clubs that are starting their rowers as early as age 11 or 12, so when they are 17 or 18 they will be really good. They also practice year-round. Right now we are starting at age 14 and are just a fall and spring program. We need more conditioning on the ergs. We need more conditioning year-round.”

Crew is a very rewarding and challenging sport. It is demanding both physically and mentally. Most who participate have enjoyed and valued the experience. A few athletes took time recently to reflect on their season in crew.

Crew “brings people together. When everyone is totally in sync with each other, it is the most amazing feeling,” Turner said.

“I like pushing myself to the limit,” said Charlie Hoffman. “I like feeling the adrenaline pumping as we cross the finish line.”

Ridinger encouraged athletes from other disciplines, or non-athletes, to try crew.

“We have people in our program who have tried figure skating, soccer, lacrosse, basketball as well as other sports and it wasn’t the right fit, but have joined crew and have excelled.” he said. “If you have been playing different sports and have not excelled, crew might be the place for you.”

— Joseph Pringle is a crew dad.

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