Burton Beach junior rowers take on the world — one erg record and trip across the hemisphere at a time.
First up, 16 year-old Gabbie Graves, fresh off of her world record for distance in one minute on the erg (indoor rowing machine), decided to go after two more — and after successfully achieving the fastest erg times for her age group for both 100 and 500 meters, she is now the proud owner of three world records. The young rower recorded a time of 16.7 seconds for the 100 meter, and after a break, hammered out 500 meters in 1 minute 32 seconds, smashing the previous record by 2.6 seconds.
On Wednesday last week, a day after Graves’ accomplishments, two of Burton Beach Rowing Club’s (BBRC) junior boys, Davis Kelly and Jordon Rutschow, along with coach Richard Parr, boarded a plane for Zhengzhou, China, to race in the fifth annual Zhengzhou Longzi Lake University Rowing Regatta. Rowing organizers in the country have kept in contact on and off with Parr since his crew from the University of Otago (New Zealand) won a gold medal at one of China’s first international rowing events in Chengdu in 2009; this year he received an invitation in February to bring a junior boys double to compete in Zhengzhou.
Zhengzhou is the capital city of China’s Henan province, with a population of 10 million, and a history that dates back over 10,000 years from its beginnings as a Neolithic settlement. With all travel, accommodations and food fully paid for by the organizers, Kelly and Rutschow jumped at the chance to journey across the dateline for a few days.
“The trip was about more than just rowing for me and Jordon,” VHS freshman Kelly said. “It was an opportunity to experience a totally new culture firsthand and meet some really exceptional people.”
The regatta featured events for junior crews in doubles and college crews in pairs, from China and around the world, as well as a large number of Chinese university eights. Joining BBRC and some Chinese crews in the junior doubles were teams from Japan, the Netherlands and Belgium.
The junior races were 500 meter sprints — which clearly suited Kelly and Rutschow, who won their race in a time of 1:33 flat, 4 seconds ahead of the second-place crew from the Netherlands.
“I thought that the boys rowed fantastically well,” Parr said of his young athletes. “We knew the Dutch were going to be a challenge, and we decided to go out at a very high rate and keep it going throughout. Jordan and Davis executed the plan beautifully.”
With the boys’ win, the young rowing club now has two international medals on the books so far this year, after a trip to the New Zealand National Championships in February saw a BBRC junior girls’ four on the podium for a bronze medal performance.
The trip included some unforgettable cultural moments as well. All of the foreign crews were special guests at a primary school in the city where they had some fun interactions with the students, who put on special performances of music, synchronized unicycling and craft displays. Many of the young students asked to take their pictures with the visiting athletes. The regatta’s closing celebration on Saturday night saw all of the foreign crews getting together to put on a karaoke performance of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We are the Champions” for a reportedly somewhat surreal experience that had the Chinese rowers cheering for more.
Next up for the Burton Beach Rowing Club is a trip north to the highly competitive Brentwood Regatta in Mill Bay, Vancouver Island, Canada, this weekend.
— Sarah Low is a Beachcomber reporter and Parr’s wife.