Rowing club athletes headed to Nationals again

“It was great to see the whole team place personal bests and feel good about their last races of the season.”

Five Vashon Island Rowing Club (VIRC) youth athletes will compete in the 2023 USRowing Youth Nationals, held from June 8 to 11.

While the highlight of VIRC’s earlier trip to the 2023 USRowing Northwest Youth Championships may have been the tremendous lead that the VIRC Men’s U16 4x+ held over their competition in a dominating performance, the team as a whole finished the season in style.

“It was great to see the whole team place personal bests and feel good about their last races of the season,” said head coach Ben Steele, noting that ten of the 19 boats entered made the finals for their events. “They worked together in individual boats and as a full team to meet their goals for each race.”

Steel commended the U16 4x+ impressive finish in second place in the country during the U15 4x+ race last year, adding that it was great to see the team’s hard work pay off with another bid. The U16 boat, which included rowers Quentin Cherry, Will Parker, Xander Nelson, and Henry Cooper and was helmed by coxswain Alekos Dalinis, posted a blistering time trial and dominated the final.

VIRC’s “Go Vashon!” chant filled the air throughout the third varsity women’s 2x, third varsity men’s 2x, and fourth varsity men’s 2x. Lance Westbrook and Mitchell Grossman provided a barnburner of a race in the 3rd Varsity Men’s 2x, almost missing second place by 0.2 seconds in a photo finish after swapping strokes with the boat from Seattle Preparatory School.

“It was great racing,” said Westbrook, “with real tough fights for every second. But also draining at the same time for us. We’re just going to get bigger and faster for next year.”

Julianna Steffens and novice Gwyn Ranney, rowing up three age groups into a varsity race, held steady with the second-place boat until the more experienced crew pulled ahead during the final 250 meters, with Ranney and Steffens crossing the line third. Tyler Davis and Karston Mannina finished comfortably second in the 4th Varsity Men’s 2x, taking silver ahead of many crews from Seattle’s Pocock Rowing Center.

Vashon High School students completed three boats in the High School 8+ races, including a men’s VIRC boat and two women’s boats from VIRC and fellow Burton Beach Rowing Club.

“The final race of the regatta is the high school eight, where teams across the region dress up and race for fun,” Steele said. “This is the first year since I’ve started coaching where we’ve been able to field both a men’s and women’s high school eight. It’s rewarding to see how much growth the club has done. We only had two seniors in each boat.”

While the season has ended for the majority of the athletes, the rowers and coxswain from the U16 4x+ will focus on Youth Nationals and returning to the podium.

Delany Steele is the boathouse director of the Vashon Island Rowing Club.