Burton Beach Rowers bring home two gold medals

Three BBRC boats all placed in the top 12 and one rower brought home two gold medals to the island.

Seven athletes from the Burton Beach Rowing Club (BBRC) joined more than 2,000 rowers in Sarasota, Florida for the US Rowing Youth National Championships held at Nathan Benderson Park from June 9 to 12.

The three BBRC boats all placed in the top 12 and one rower brought home two gold medals to the island.

Each boat participated in time trials on Thursday, with the top 12 boats advancing to the semi-finals from fields of at least two dozen in each event. The semi-finals then consisted of two races of six boats each held on Friday, with the top 3 boats in each advancing to the A final on Sunday and the remaining boats rowing in the B final on Saturday.

Zack Merrigan, a McMurray student, finished 4th in the U17 single A Final on Sunday morning with a time of 7:43.11. While there are no U15 or U16 singles event at Nationals, medals are awarded to the top rowers overall in these categories.

Merrigan, a 14-year old, finished as both the fastest U16 and U15 rower in the country and took home the gold medal for each. With those medals, Merrigan becomes the first rower from Vashon Island to win a Junior National Title.

“Zack had a great weekend to cap off a great first year of rowing,” said BBRC Coach Richard Parr. “Like all of our athletes, he is easy to work with and has a great work ethic. This week is just a culmination of all the hard work he has put in.”

Burton Beach’s U17 girls quad took second in the B final to grab eighth place overall. The quad consists of three Vashon Island High School sophomores, Sasha Thompson, Taylor Huffman, and Kez Rutschow along with eighth grader Ella Odegard in the bow. Three of the four are first year rowers.

Their place wasn’t so clear though 1500 meters into the 2km race on Saturday. They found themselves in fifth place, trailing the second-place boat by over two and a half seconds. They turned it on in the final stretch to pass three other boats and finish in the second spot.

“A very valiant move by the Burton Beach girls,” said Olympic Gold medalist Lindsey Shoop, the race commentator. “It wasn’t that any other crew slowed down. Burton Beach wanted it and they took it.”

In the Boy’s Double, VHS ninth graders and first-year rowers Forest Macnab and Nate Wass de Czege finished sixth in the B final to finish 12th overall in the U17 Boys Double.

“Forest and Nate worked hard all year to get here and we’re really pleased with where they finished,” said Parr. “It’s an achievement for anyone to go to nationals. Doing it in your first year and finishing as strongly as they did is something to be proud of.”

After nearly a week in Florida, the team returned to the Northwest on Sunday night. They’ll be back out on the waters of Quartermaster Harbor this week to begin their summer training season and start preparations for the fall.

Note: If you’re interested in learning more about the BBRC, please email burtonbeachrowing@gmail.com for more information.