By Mari Kanagy and Elizabeth Lande
In recent years, Vashon crew teams have taken their prowess in regional competitions to the world stage, sending individual rowers to selection camps for the junior national team.
Over the summer of 2017, then-Vashon high school senior Riley Lynch, from Vashon Island Rowing Club, placed third with the women’s four at the world competition in Trakai, Lithuania. Last summer, Gabrielle Graves of Burton Beach Rowing Club (BBRC) rowed for the women’s eight, which finished second at the world competition in the Czech Republic. This year, Graves is once again bound for the world competition. She is joined by her BBRC teammate Katherine Kelly.
At an identification camp held in Seattle, both girls were chosen to attend a selection camp in Connecticut based on their technique, on-water results and ergometer scores. They joined rowers from across the country for three weeks of highly competitive practice to determine which girls would ultimately make the national team. Approximately 27 girls were chosen, including Graves and Kelly. They then traveled to Princeton for further training and left for a practice course in Ohio on July 10.
“We will compete there, then when racing is concluded in Ohio we are back in Princeton training for about 15 more days,” Kelly said.
The Princeton training is particularly rigorous, each day containing two sessions of practice — one devoted to distance and strength and the other focused on technique. The teammates’ day starts off with a 2.5-mile run and stretching to prep. The first session of training lasts until about 12 p.m, and the second starts at 3 p.m., lasting a couple of hours before the team returns to their hotel to prep for the next day’s training.
“It is so incredible to be surrounded by such a strong group of women, and I am inspired to push just that little bit more to reach farther than I thought I could,” Kelly said.
Following this, the team will board a plane bound for the world competition. This year, the event is being held in Tokyo, Japan. The US team will compete from August 7-11, returning home around August 14, close to two months after their departure in the middle of June.
“It’s crazy to dedicate my entire summer to represent the USA at Worlds,” Kelly said. “I’m missing out on time to work as a sailing instructor and make money, and am missing out on time that I could be spending with my friends and family.”
Still, Kelly feels as if the sacrifice is ultimately worth it and is thankful she has the opportunity to compete on an international level.
“I wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of this without the support from my family and friends, and also my coach, Richard Parr,” Kelly said. “I feel as though I have a strong support base, and that is what I credit me being here to.”
The rigorous nature of the training has not detracted from the girls’ love of the sport, and they expressed appreciation to be on a team comprised solely of other young women.
“At home, I row at a small program with few girls, although they are an amazing team and I have a wonderful coach, it is not the same as being on a 20-person team of all fast and fully committed women,” Kelly said. “I really enjoy the competitive aspect of rowing. The main objective is to get your bow ball in front at the end of two thousand meters, and it’s amazing being a part of a team that is so driven and determined to make this happen.”