Jacob Plihal, third from left, stands with his World U23 Championships-bound U.S. men’s quad boat mates. (Courtesy Photo)

Junior crew member, alumnus, heading to worlds

For a small organization, the Vashon Island Rowing Club is making a big splash on the national and international scenes, as one of its current juniors and one recent graduate have been named to U.S. national team crews heading to the World Under-18 and Under-23 Championships this summer.

Fresh off of a third-place finish in the women’s pair at USRowing’s Youth National Championships in early June, islander and junior crew member Riley Lynch was invited to attend the U.S. National Team’s junior selection camp in Connecticut. After three reportedly tough weeks, she has been named to the sweep squad that will compete at the World Under-18 Rowing Championships in Trakai, Lithuania, Aug. 2 through 6. The U.S. junior team is sending a women’s four and eight, and as of press time, Lynch did not know which boat she would be in.

A little further removed from his time at VIRC, islander and former junior crew member Jacob Plihal has been selected to represent the U.S. in the men’s quad at the World Under-23 Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, July 19 through 23. Plihal, who has been rowing for Northeastern University for the past two years, was invited to the California Rowing Club’s Center of High Performance to compete for a spot in a quad that could challenge at National Team trials — in rowing in the U.S. in this category, anyone may send a crew to national trials, where the boats that win are selected to go Worlds. Plihal earned his spot and went to trials with Ari Cohen (University of Washington), Sebastian Amberger (University of Wisconsin) and Doran Finley (Cornell University/Redwood Scullers). The new crew mates found themselves without any competition, however, as they were the only men’s quad that went to trials this year, and after a run down the course to make things official, the four headed for Cologne, Germany, to acclimate to the time change and train before heading to Bulgaria for next week’s championships.

Plihal’s father, Jim, said that Jacob has wanted to go to the world championships for about three years now.

“His first love is sculling,” Jim Plihal said. “He only gets to sweep at school. He tried for this last year, but a mishap off the start took his boat out of the running at trials. So he’s really excited about this.”

Plihal’s former VIRC coach Richard Parr has been in close touch with his 6-foot-10-inch tall alumnus, and had this to say:

“Jacob has had a couple of successful seasons in Northeastern’s eight, and has emerged as one of their best rowers — both on the water as well as on the erg. This is exciting for Jacob. It could certainly be the first step in what has the potential to be a long and successful competitive rowing career.”

As the U.S. does not support these athletes financially in any way, crew members are responsible for paying for their own expenses, including travel. Plihal’s quad has a GoFundMe page set up for those who are interested in helping: https://www.gofundme.com/usa-u23-mens-quad-4x-goes-to-wch.

Lynch and Plihal are the third and fourth junior crew members/alumni to represent the U.S. at rowing world champhionships, with current assistant crew coach Tom Kicinski and Mia Croonquist paving the way before them.

In other VIRC alumni news, Plihal (Northeastern University), Tate Gill (Boston University) and Baxter Call (Oregon State) were all recently named to the Intercollegiate Rowing Association’s All Academic Team, and Taegan Lynch (University of Miami) and Kalie Heffernan (University of Oklahoma) have both been named NCAA Academic All Americans.

— Sarah Low

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