The weather was changeable last weekend at the Northwest Youth Rowing Championships held in Vancouver, Washington, but consistency was found in the quality of rowing and the camaraderie shared up and down the team of Vashon Island Rowing Club juniors.
Hundreds of rowers representing 32 high school and club teams from throughout Washington and Oregon, along with one unaffiliated rower from Idaho, gathered along the shores of Vancouver Lake.
These young rowers vied to be the fastest down the 2,000-meter course, not only for the glory of the day, but for the opportunity to represent their club at the Youth National Championships in Florida next month.
Racing began on Friday, and several Vashon duos reached the podium throughout the afternoon. In the men’s novice double timed final heats, Cooper Thorpe and Jack Cummings took a bronze medal while Lars Cain and Eric Ormseth nabbed silver in their respective races. Junior varsity boats were also successful against their competition with Joshua Kyles and Baker Van Buren earning a silver medal, as did Alexander Rosen and Renz O’Meara in their double. All this against not only fierce regional competition but a stiff headwind and spitting rain to boot.
Throughout the rest of the regatta, several VIRC boats finished well enough in their heats to qualify for the finals, including team co-captain Rohin Petram in the men’s single; Tor Ormseth, Nick Winkler, Bowie Hitchens and Oz Hichens in the men’s varsity quad; Mateo Nigretto Ellner with Alexander Rosen, Joshua Kyles and Baker Van Buren in the men’s JV quad and Lars Cain, Kincaid Cummings, Gus Holmes and Eric Ormseth in the novice men’s quad coxed by Liam Krikawa.
Not to be outdone, the women’s novice foursome of Tori Hu, Amanda Kyles, Eva Cain and Reese Thompson made the finals in both of their events: they swept in a four coxed by Erin Chavez and sculled in a quad coxed by Sophia Krikawa. Though these rowers came seconds behind the medal winners, their mental and physical toughness and their exuberance for the sport were clear to all observers.
Winkler and Hichens also took a silver medal in the men’s JV double, and after one of the tightest races of the weekend, Petram and Tor Ormseth placed third in the top varsity double race, good enough for a bronze medal and to qualify to represent VIRC at the Youth National Championships, June 6 to 9 in Sarasota, Florida.
That this crew knows how to have fun as well as row hard was on display in the final race of the weekend: The men’s high school eight. The team hadn’t practiced rowing an eight all year, so team co-captain Aidan Teachout orchestrated the event to be a display of gratitude for their coach, Ben Steele. With the willing and secretive collaboration of Vashon Island Fire & Rescue, he borrowed fire helmets and coats which the crew donned just prior to embarking on their race.
Surprised by the gesture, Steele, who is also a part time firefighter/EMT with VIFR, was visibly moved after the race.
“There have been very few times in my life where I have felt such a strong sense of pride and respect,” Steele said. One year ago to the day I graduated fire academy and was given a leadership award by my peers. On the anniversary of my proudest individual achievement, the VIRC juniors surpassed any sense of accomplishment I have ever experienced. I love this team and am humbled that they would do this for me.”
Senior rowers Petram, Teachout and Tor Ormseth were also moved by this event being their last with the full VIRC team. Petram is slated to row next year for the University of Washington.
“I’m excited to come back and see how [this team] continues to grow. They’ve got so much potential, I’m sure they’ll be great,” he said.
Over the summer the rowing club is offering several two-week-long camps for youth looking to get involved with the sport or just have fun and get fit together on the water. Learn more at vashoncrew.com.
— Written by Anthony Winkler, parent of a VIRC junior rower.