Momentous Showing at Head of the Charles 2014
The 50th anniversary of the largest rowing regatta in the world witnessed best ever results for Vashon’s junior, masters and recent alumni crew members. Starting in a wide and exposed tidal basin the course heads up river increasingly twisty and narrowing as it goes. With seven multi-arch bridges hanging like slalom gates to navigate, the challenges mount for the coxswains while the spectating improves all the way to the finish line. Over eleven thousand rowers finished the five-kilometer race during the two-day weekend event that attracted 400,000 spectators.
Two junior and two masters boats were drawn in the lottery for this year’s regatta. The masters rowed on Saturday with each boat gaining a respectable middle of the pack finish. The women’s four consisted of Kim Goforth, Marilyn Kleyn, Nancy Foster-Moss, Debbie Jackson and Lisa Huggenvik (cox). The men’s four featured Bob Horsley, Ed Zapel, Mark McKallor, Colby Atwood and junior coxswain Olivia Mackie. There were more than 50 boats entered in each of these master events.
Although Vashon had entered more junior boats in the regatta lottery only two were selected, the men’s single and the women’s eight. This year is only the second time that Vashon has sent its junior crew to this event and a “top third” finish is considered an achievement. On Sunday’s course that saw an increase in wind from the day before, Liam McConnell led off the day with an 8:30 am start. By the time the race was over Liam had secured a tenth place (out of 34) finish – the highest finish ever for a Vashon boat and this was only his second time racing in a single shell at any regatta. As Liam approached the Elliot bridge (the last bridge and about 500 meters from the finish) the announcer identified him, his Vashon affiliation and that it was his first time at the Charles regatta. Then he said, “Welcome to Boston, Liam!” and the swelled crowd on and around the bridge and nearby stands erupted in cheers and applause.
The women’s eight started 79th and steadily overtook slower boats along the course. This low starting order had only to do with Vashon’s rowing in their last appearance at the Charles – not the expectations for the outcome. Nevertheless, it is tricky to pass along this course and definitely not an advantage to start that far back in the pack. When the final times were tallied the women’s crew came in 9th out of 85 entrants. Liam’s record finish lasted for only 5 hours. Vashon’s small program does not usually compete favorably in 8+ events but this group of young women showed what the crew can do on an international stage. Crew members were Riley Lynch, Rhea Enzian, Kirsten Girard, Kalie Heffernan, Maddie McEachern, Caprial Turner, Katrina Heffernan, Shannon Lipe and Ally Clevenger (cox).
Summing up the weekend Coach Richard Parr said “Again, Vashon’s Junior rowers were great representatives of our little island, both on and off the water. They are remarkable young people. I’m very proud of them for what are some pretty special accomplishments in North America’s toughest race.” As a result of Vashon’s junior race places the club automatically receives an invitation to next year’s regatta.
Several recent Vashon Junior program alumni also turned in solid performances on the Charles this past weekend. Jacob Plihal rowing in the 6th seat of the Northeastern University club eight won its event. Tate Gill rowing in the 3rd seat for the Boston University boat in the same event placed 5th. Olivia Sayvetz coxed the Princeton women’s eight to a 10th place finish in the Women’s Championship eight race – the premier event for Women at this regatta. Alaina Williams rowing in the 4th seat for Northeastern in this same Championship race placed 12th. Taegan Lynch stroked her University of Miami shell to a 12th place finish in the Women’s Championship Four race.
Boston is a long way from Vashon and it takes much planning and effort to get rowers there, keep them rested, healthy and fed. The rowers want to thank everyone for their support and a great team effort. The results were surely worth it.
By Pat Call