Kate Kelly (left) and Gabbie Graves racing at USRowing’s Youth National Championships on Lake Natoma, California, last weekend. (Steve Tosterud Photo)

Kate Kelly (left) and Gabbie Graves racing at USRowing’s Youth National Championships on Lake Natoma, California, last weekend. (Steve Tosterud Photo)

Burton Beach Rowing Club juniors take the stage at nationals

The Burton Beach Rowing Club’s Kate Kelly and Gabrielle Graves took on the challenge of racing on the big stage at USRowing’s Youth National Championships this past weekend at Lake Natoma, outside of Sacramento, California.

Competing in the women’s pair event among a deeply talented field of 22 crews from across the country, the VHS ninth- and 10th-graders came in 12th overall.

The three-days of racing began with a time trial on Friday morning — a format that USRowing adopted last year in an effort to save time. Depending upon the size of the field for each event, the top six to eight times were given an automatic spot in the semi-finals to be raced on Saturday. The remaining crews got one more chance to make the semis in repechage racing on Friday afternoon. (Repechage is a French word that in this context is used to mean second chance.) BBRC’s young women came in 10th in the time trial, missing the top eight by a mere 1.2 seconds.

To make the semis through the repechage, crews had to come top two in their heats, and Kelly and Graves put in what BBRC’s volunteer coach Richard Parr called an “outstanding effort” to come in second, earning them a spot to race in the semi-finals on Saturday. The semis determined who would race in the A and B finals; the remaining crews from the repechage heats competed in the C finals.

Saturday saw tough competition in the semi-final and a fifth-place finish for the pair, sending them to the B final on Sunday to race for seventh-through 12th-place in the nation in their event. The semi-final race held a certain amount of satisfaction for Kelly and Graves, who beat another local crew — and regional champs in the event — from Pocock Rowing Center by 10 seconds.

Sunday brought tough head winds to those in the outside lanes at the venue, and Kelly and Graves fought bravely for a sixth-place finish from lane five, and 12th overall.

“I’m really proud of these young women,” Parr said. “They learned so much and competed well against what was a really impressive field this year. It will only help build on their skills and confidence moving forward.”

The two not only made their coach, families, teammates and friends proud, but managed to catch the attention of USRowing as well. Both are heading to the organization’s junior selection and development camps this summer, and were interviewed for a feature that is currently posted at http://www.usrowing.org/news/2018/06/08/burton-beach-pair-ready-for-first-youth-nationals/

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