Two Silvers at Youth Nationals

Two Silvers at Youth Nationals

Vashon Island Junior Crew came home victorious from the US Rowing 2012 Youth Nationals Championships, garnering two silver medals.   The event, a culmination of the spring season, was held at Melton Hill Lake in Oakridge, TN and featured more than 1,500 athletes from high school and junior rowing programs across the country competing for national titles in 18 boat classes.

After two weeks of intensive practices in Quartermaster Harbor, the elite team of six rowers departed early on June 5th for their long flight across the country, during which Coach Parr required them to walk the plane isle three times per hours to keep their muscles loose and warm.  Two of the rowers, Ryan Bingham and Avalon Koenig, missed attending their high school graduation ceremony.  It was a tough choice for Koenig because she wanted to walk with her twin brother.  “Ultimately I didn’t have to really choose, I just knew.  And I knew that as I sat at graduation listening to lists of names I would be actively regretting my decision”, said Koenig.

The better part of second day in Oakridge was spent finding boats to race with, one of the logistical challenges for teams traveling from long distances.   With two new racing shells rented, the crews took to the lake on Thursday to get familiar with the equipment and the 2000 meter race course.

Vashon began preliminary heats Friday morning with the women’s double, rowed by Keonig and Emmie Kehoe.  They placed third in the heat and moved to a repechage, a second chance race where runners-up in the eliminating heats compete for a place in semi-finals. The pair took first with open water behind them, securing their spot for Saturday’s semi-finals.  Their semi-final race was quite competitive. At the halfway point four boats were lined up, bow ball to bow ball.  By the 500 meter mark Keonig and Kehoe claimed 3rd and then poured on the power, sprinting at 250 meters to finish in 2nd place.  The finals were in their future.

The men’s double preliminary was rowed by Gus Magnuson and Ryan Bingham, who admitted he was nervous but excited. “We’re gonna make sure we get first.  That way we don’t have to go to ‘reps’.  That’s how it’s gonna go down”, Bingham said.  And that’s exactly how it happened. They crossed the finish line nearly six seconds ahead of their competition, claiming their spot in the semi-finals. Forty nine minutes later they were back into another shell,  joined by Tate Gill and Baxter Call to race the men’s quad, where they took first in their heat by a very close .30 seconds, qualifying for the semi-finals.

In the men’s double semi-final, Vashon was in one of the top three positions from the start.  Then Bingham and Magnuson picked up the rate, crossing the finish in second place and advancing them to the finals.  The field for the men’s quad semi-final was brutal from the start, where five of the six boats in the heat were lined up along one another going down the course.  At 1000 meters, VIJC slid into 2ndplace briefly then fell back to third.  It was neck and neck with the other boat.  The crew turned on the after burners and crossed the finish in second place, qualifying a third boat for finals.  Coach Parr said, “It was really exciting to have all three of our boats in the A Finals.”

On Sunday morning of the finals, Kehoe and Koenig faced a fiercely competitive field.  At the 10th stroke into the race the girls “caught a crab” (a term used to describe an untimely release of the oar blade from the water that acts like a brake) and got tangled in the lane bouys.  They made up ground but trailed the field throughout the course and finished in 6thplace, a huge blow to both girls. Coach Parr said he was still proud of the rowers.  “I’m not disappointed in the girls at all.  They just couldn’t get back in it after the issues at the start”, said Parr.

From the starting line to the halfway mark in the final men’s double, Bingham and Magnuson held third.  They then moved into second and won the silver medal in their class.  Ninety minutes later these two were out on the course again, joined by Call and Gill for the final men’s quad race.  The crew had a strong start, moving into second position only to fall back to third, then fourth, and fifth by1000 meters, fatigue setting in.  With just 250 meters to go they rowed a beast of a sprint that moved them to challenge the second place boat, crossing the finish .02 of a second and four inches ahead, winning the team’s second silver medal.  “At 500 meters these guys weren’t even in contention.  That sprint was the best I’ve seen at any level of rowing”, said Parr. “Overall, we had very good results for a small club.”

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