With more than 1,650 athletes in attendance from more than 30 clubs representing Canada and the United States, some from as far away as Tempe, Ariz., the Vashon Island Junior Crew (VIJC) saw more of their boats go to finals in the April 25-26 prestigious Brentwood Regatta — the largest high school regatta in North America — than in any previous year.
The regatta, hosted at Brentwood College School on Mill Bay, 40 minutes north of Victoria, British Columbia, is held annually on the third weekend of April.
The girls Junior A Novice 4X+ were the only ones to medal, taking home gold in the 1500 meter race.
Coxswain Sage Doble said the race felt good from the start. “We were pretty much in first place from the beginning. By the time we were at the halfway buoy, I knew unless something terrible happened that we were going to win.”
Katie Chale, Brooke Pringle, Sophie Nespor and Alex Bosworth said they were all ecstatic with the win.
“It’s so exciting to have won,” said a smiling Nespor with her gold medal around her neck.
With sunny weather and little wind, all of the following proceeded to finals after placing in their respective heats: the boys junior B 2X with Eli Hoyt and Thane Gill; the girls junior A school 8+ with rowers Shelby Gale, Allison Saathoff, Meaghan Connors, Lizzy Corliss, Alex Bosworth, Sophie Nespor, Brooke Pringle, Katie Chale and coxswain Sage Doble; boys junior B lightweight 4+ with rowers Wade Hankin, Tim Hansen, Eli Hoyt, Thane Gill and cox Collin Milovsoroff; and girls junior A novice 4+ and girls junior A novice 4X+ with rowers Sophie Nespor, Brooke Pringle, Alex Bosworth, Katie Pringle and cox Sage Doble.
Competition was fierce with large clubs bringing more than 100 athletes, making the placement into finals and the gold-medal win even sweeter for the team, which was hand-picked by coach Lucas Ridinger and assistant coaches Dan Packard and Kiyo Egashira, a former VIJC rower and senior at Vashon High School.
“These are tough and big teams with great rowing programs,” remarked Ridinger. “It’s been kind of spotty with practices before coming to Brentwood. I was gone on reserve duty for the last regatta at Lake Stevens, and we had spring break to deal with. The outcome here will really tell us how we are set for regionals.”
At the end of the finals on Sunday, Ridinger said he was pleased with his team. “Hey, we got a gold medal, and a lot of boats made it into finals. It’s going well.”
An alumni of Brentwood College School himself, Ridinger, a Canadian national rowing champion, joked about his divided loyalties.
“I find myself wanting to root for Brentwood, too,” he said.
But patting his rowers on the shoulders, offering them encouragement as they came on deck preparing to race, it was obvious that his loyalty was to his team — a team, he says, that “is only going to get better.“