Vashon Island Junior Crew rowers have strong showing at Nationals

Steve DeWalt, Thane Gill, Wade Hankin and Tim Hanson placed fourth in the grand finals at Nationals.  - Courtesy photo
Steve DeWalt, Thane Gill, Wade Hankin and Tim Hanson placed fourth in the grand finals at Nationals.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Completing three days of competition in grueling heat, high humidity and torrential rain, Vashon Island Junior Crew rowers finished strong and placed nationally at the USRowing Youth National Championships held on Lake Harsha in Cincinnati, Ohio, over the weekend.

The women’s quad boat — Meaghan Conners, Marja Haflinger, Avalon Koenig and Alaina Williams — rowed first, competing in the heat with the fastest boats in their category.

This was the first time this quad had rowed without a coxswain, and the first time the Vashon crew team had ever sent a girls’ boat to Nationals.

The boat competed strongly and came in fourth in the heat. Had they been in any other heat, the athletes would have placed in the top three and gone on to compete in the grand final.

As it was, due to weather, the regatta was rescheduled and the girls ended up competing two more times — in the “C” semi-final and final, coming in first both times. Their final time of 7 minutes, 13.97 seconds, for the 2,000-meter row, placed them 13th in the nation for a woman’s quad boat with the tenth-fastest time.

“They had such composure,” said Martin Koenig, the father of rower Avalon Koenig. “I can’t tell you how impressive they were. ... They just put their hearts and souls out.”

The boys’ lightweight coxed four, rowed by Steve DeWalt, Thane Gill, Wade Hankin and Tim Hanson with coxswain Olivia Sayvetz, placed second in their first heat, then advanced to the semi-finals.

They finished second again and qualified for the grand final race on Sunday. With each race, the boys removed seconds from their time.

They completed the final race, a 2,000-meter row, in a time of 6 minutes, 39.58 seconds. This saw them finish in fourth place in the race — only .8 seconds behind the third-place winner.

Coach Sam Burns — whom parents and athletes said played a meaningful role in getting the teams to Nationals through his rigorous training and support of the rowers — said he was pleased with the results.

Seventy-nine teams from all over the United States competed in the national regatta. Vashon’s team is one of the smallest in the country, making the athletes’ accomplishments even more impressive.

The Vashon rowers were able to go to Nationals in part because of the contributions of more than $9,500 from the Vashon Island community.

— Janet Williams is a crew mom.

Vashon Island Junior Crew is a nonprofit organization run in partnership with Vashon Island Rowing Club and the Vashon Park District.

Anyone interested in joining the crew team should contact Vashon Park District at 463-9602 or Kim Goforth at

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