This past weekend, crews from as far north as Anchorage, Alaska, and as far south as Santa Cruz, California, converged on Seattle’s Green Lake to compete at the Green Lake Rowing Club’s annual Summer Extravaganza regatta, with Vashon’s Northwest Rowing Center athletes bringing home 11 medals from 11 events.
Mercifully free from weather excitement and toxic algae blooms, which often plague the Green Lake venue, Saturday saw conditions about as perfect as one could ask for a regatta — cool in the morning, warming up nicely in the afternoon, but not too hot, with a gentle tailwind for the 1,000-meter course.
This summer, Northwest Rowing Center (NWRC) worked with island rowers of all ages, from middle-schoolers just learning to row, to experienced juniors, competitive collegiate rowers, a recent national team member, and a former junior rower who hadn’t taken a stroke in four years. The team medaled in every event it competed in, bringing home eight gold, two silver and one bronze medal on the day.
Golds came in the masters’ women’s single, masters’ men’s single, mixed double, open women’s coxed four, open women’s coxed quad, open women’s eight, women’s under-16 coxed quad and the intermediate women’s coxed quad. Silvers went to the masters’ women’s double — a mother-daughter team of Lea and Kalie Heffernan — and the women’s intermediate eight. And the men’s under-16 quad grabbed bronze in NWRC’s last race of the day.
“It was really great to have so many of the now-college athletes who I coached during their high school years come back and row with us,” Head Coach Richard Parr said. “They brought a lot to our summer program, while staying in shape for their NCAA crews, as mentors and role models for the younger kids and just creating a really fun atmosphere.”
Returning collegiate athletes included Kalie Heffernan (Oklahoma), Kirsten Girard (Tennessee), Selena Mildon (Marist), Aria Mildon (Trinity), Katrina Heffernan (St. Mary’s), Rhea Enzian (Dartmouth) and Jacob Plihal (Northeastern).
“It was also very gratifying to see our two novice girls, Bronwyn White and Vera Moses winning gold medals at their first regatta, especially in an intermediate-level boat,” Parr added about NWRC’s youngest charges. “Their enthusiasm and excitement to keep going has been awesome and infectious — now everyone is chomping at the bit for fall season to start.”
Girard, who was also NWRC’s coaching intern, garnered significant praise from Parr.
“She not only ran a great summer camp for us, especially when I was traveling with other teams, but she did a fantastic job stroking our open women’s four. We’re very grateful to have had her with us for the summer.”
With summer winding down, the fall rowing season is coming up quickly for many of NWRC’s junior athletes who will continue to row with the Burton Beach Rowing Club — also coached by Parr — through the school year.
NWRC will end its summer programming with Parr coaching a junior rowing camp at Columbia University in New York City for a week, then back to the island for some time with masters’ athletes.
— Sarah Low is the managing director of Northwest Rowing Center, is married to Parr and is a Beachcomber reporter.