Vashon Rowing Club coach captures medals at Masters Nationals

  • Wednesday, August 29, 2018 1:50pm
  • Sports
Vashon Island Rowing Club Coach Ben Steele (front, stroke seat) and Ted Leslie (Pocock/Seattle) rowed this composite Vashon entry to a bronze medal at the Masters National Championships on Lake Merritt in Oakland (Courtesy Photo).

Vashon Island Rowing Club Coach Ben Steele (front, stroke seat) and Ted Leslie (Pocock/Seattle) rowed this composite Vashon entry to a bronze medal at the Masters National Championships on Lake Merritt in Oakland (Courtesy Photo).

Vashon Island Rowing Club’s Ben Steele took a weekend off from coaching VIRC’s juniors and masters rowers to once again climb into the stroke seat and compete at the Masters National Championship on Lake Merritt in Oakland, California, Aug. 17 to 19. Rowing in two composite boats for Vashon, Steele took a silver and a bronze, while capping off the weekend with another silver in an eight made up entirely of rowing coaches.

“Coaches’ eights are a lot of fun,” said Steele. “We all have a good understanding of how to row smoothly and hit key parts of the stroke together, even if the level of fitness varies greatly. Our coxswain did a great job of organizing a group that had never rowed together, and he knew exactly what to fix.”

With former U.S. Olympic coxswain Rod Warner calling out the commands, Steele’s eight, featuring coaches from Pocock, Station L, Chicago, San Diego and Marin, found itself four seats down to Bear Island with only 150 meters to go.

“Rod was exuberant when he said ‘heels down!’ and I pushed the rate,” said Steele. “We all powered up and dropped our split by 10 seconds over two strokes, rowing right through Bear Island.”

Steele’s other two medal-winning races were adventures in their own right, with equipment factoring into one race and a last-minute substitution needed in the other.

“My double was a composite with Ted Leslie from Pocock,” explained Steele. “Our boat had a rigging issue so we had to borrow a boat last minute with its steering locked slightly to one side.” Racing down the course with a 12 mph crosswind pushing in the same direction, Steele’s double was hard to starboard through the entire race and yet still managed a bronze medal.

Rounding out the weekend was Steele’s silver medal race in the composite quad. At the last minute, the crew had to sub in a novice from Lake Merritt and essentially race a boat that had never practiced together, finishing second, just a boat length off the pace.

Steele said that getting in a boat again at Nationals will serve his coaching well during the upcoming fall head race season on Vashon. “Racing always brings my drive for competition and sportsmanship into view,” he said. “I hope to use that to lead by example this season.”

— Jeff Hoyt is a member of the Vashon Island Rowing Club.

More in Sports

Rowers achieve world-renowned success

Island athletes headed for World Rowing Junior Championships this summer.

Registration open for Bill Burby Inspirational Fun Run

“It really is a community tradition. That’s what I see it as.”

Rowing with juniors helps me stay young at heart

In what other sport will you find both 9th graders and retirees competing together?

Burton Beach Rowing Club crews finish 11th and 17th at Youth Nationals

This past weekend, three junior athletes from the Burton Beach Rowing Club… Continue reading

Vashon Island Rowing Club juniors earn spot in top 18 at Nationals

In past years, it’s been a bittersweet badge of honor. Most of… Continue reading

Experiencing the Vashon Ultra for the first time

“My body wasn’t conditioned enough for this race. But I’ll be ready next year for the 10.75-mile run.”

In its 10th year, Vashon Ultra draws runners from near and far

The 50k had an unheard-of finishing rate of 97%, with 61 runners completing the course.

Islanders row from Tacoma to Port Townsend

Duo rowed all through the night in rough water with waves from all directions.

Tennis season ends, 1 player contends at State

Towner Anderson advanced to the State tournament after a winter in limbo.

Island soccer team claims State title

The Pirates defeated Winlock/Toledo United, 3-1, to become the 1A champions last Saturday.

3 from Track & Field compete at State

The trio came home with top-15 finishes

Vashon Vultures win State championship

Island lacrosse team claims 1A/2A title.