Island Rowers Claim Virtual Victories, Look Ahead

Rowers at Burton Beach Rowing Club are training hard and setting some new personal standards.

  • Monday, November 23, 2020 5:35pm
  • Sports

By Richard Parr

For The Beachcomber

Although the rowing landscape is changing due to COVID-19, the rowers at Burton Beach Rowing Club are still training hard and setting some new personal standards.

16-year old Davis Kelly has emerged as one of the best young rowers in the country, coming second out of 122 entries from around the world in the Under 17 rowing machine (erg) section of the virtual 2020 Head of the Charles, being bested only by an entry from Australia. Davis’s time of 15:51 was 30 seconds ahead of the next competitor, who hails from the Charlotte (NC) Youth Association.

Kelly, Ros Bellscheidt and novice rower Sienna Stromberg also competed in the “virtual” on-water portion of the famous regatta. This year the athletes stayed home and raced the Charles distance on Quartermaster Harbor. Times are affected by wind, tide and water temperature, and the fact that the Burton Beach gang row on saltwater, which is slower. But Kelly and Bellscheidt both managed top 10 finishes in large fields, and brand new rower Stromberg impressed, placing halfway through the field of 55 entries.

“Rowing has allowed me to continue sports throughout COVID, for which I’m really grateful,” Stromberg said. “It’s awesome being on the water with my friends and pushing myself to improve every day.”

And in a bit of a twist, Kelly recently headed to California for the national talent identification camp for a different kind of rowing, beach sprints. In beach sprint rowing, athletes race down the beach on foot, jump into their boat, race around a marker offshore and hopefully catch a wave to come back. Then it’s a sprint up the beach to the flag. Beach sprint rowing has its origins in surf lifesaving and will be added as a demonstration sport to the 2024 Paris Olympics, with hopes for full inclusion for Los Angeles 2028.

US Rowing is getting on board with this exciting variant of the sport, and Kelly was targeted due to his successes over the past couple of years. After a couple of days of trying it out and getting some tips from the coaches, Kelly ended up winning the trials race at the end of the camp.

“Thanks to my dad, who was willing to drive down to California with me, there was an opportunity to race again,” Kelly said afterward. “The event moves quickly, and the one-on-one format makes it very competitive. I’m excited to see the sport grow, and I’m really thankful that I had the opportunity to participate.”

Burton Beach has also had a couple of very socially distanced scrimmages with our neighbors up the road, Vashon Island RC and the gang from Vancouver Lake in the past month. Each club’s launch site was over half a mile from any other club, and the rowers were limited to single sculls or “family doubles.” Burton Beach had its first-ever masters competitors with Sarah Edwards racing with her son Braden, and Sean O’Rourke teaming up with daughter Brigit. And it was great to see novice rowers Molly McMillin and Caroline Barnes tearing it up on their first race outings. Led by really strong performances by the boys in the first race, Burton had some great results across the whole club.

Weather permitting, Burton Beach’s next adventure is hopefully going to be a row around the island at some point over the Thanksgiving weekend, a distance of over 40 miles, which is more than one and a half marathons. But mother nature is going to have to cooperate in order for the BBRC gang to do this in safe conditions.

Richard Parr is the coach of the Burton Beach Rowing Club.

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