VIRC junior crew members Selena Mildon, Kate Kelly, Riley Lynch and Rhea Enzian at USRowing Youth Nationals in Sarasota, Florida, on Sunday. (Nathan Enzian photo)

Junior crew returns to podium with third-place finish at Nationals

Vashon Island Rowing Club’s junior women’s pairs represented the club and Pacific Northwest well at USRowing’s Youth National Championships, at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida last weekend.

After a couple of years of top-10 finishes but no medals, VIRC returned to the podium this year with an outstanding bronze-medal performance from Riley Lynch and Rhea Enzian. Vashon’s second nationals pair of Kate Kelly and Selena Mildon garnered some noteworthy results of their own, achieving ninth place overall.

“I was impressed the most by the maturity with which both of our crews raced,” VIRC’s head coach Richard Parr said. “I’m very proud of them.”

After a solid Thursday, June 8, practice in a Florida downpour with the occasional alligator keeping pace, both crews fared well in Friday’s time-trial to determine which boats were heading to the semis on Saturday. New this year, USRowing eliminated preliminary heats and repechage races and replaced them with timed finals in an effort to streamline the process, as well as decrease the amount of racing for the athletes. The top 12 times in each event moved on to the semi-finals, the rest to C or D finals. While this can decrease the physical stress on the athletes by decreasing the number of races, it also eliminates the second chance previously offered by the repechage.

Despite the new pressure of a single chance to make the top 12, both Vashon pairs sailed through to the semis with Lynch and Enzian’s time third best overall and Kelly and Mildon’s 10th.

“They both stuck to the plan really well, and made adjustments that we talked about,” Parr noted.

Saturday’s semi-finals saw the Vashon boats in the same heat, with the top three moving on to the A final and bottom three to the B final on Sunday. Parr noted that while Kelly and Mildon rowed a really “brave” race and were in contention for third place at the half-way point, the ninth-grader and novice just couldn’t keep up the pace at this level of competition and finished in sixth. Lynch and Enzian continued toward medal contention with a strong second place to a crew from Artemis Rowing.

First up for VIRC on Sunday morning was the A-final, where Lynch and Enzian ended their years-long partnership (Enzian is headed to Dartmouth College in the fall) with a third-place finish for the bronze medal — only Vashon’s third ever junior women’s medal at the national level.

Parr said that Kelly and Mildon’s B final was a “great race,” that resulted in a third place for ninth overall.

“It was so hard to believe that those two are as inexperienced as they are,” he said, “because they were just so poised throughout the competition.”

Reflecting on the year, Parr said:

“Even though it felt like a bumpy season at times for the junior crew, in hindsight there were some great results at all of the major regattas, culminating in our return to the podium at nationals.”

— Sarah Low

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