Vashon Island Junior Crew: 21 Years and Still gROWING Strong!

Vashon Island Junior Crew:  21 Years and Still gROWING Strong!

At least two or three times a month each spring and fall, a story is bound to show up in the Beachcomber about Vashon Island Rowing Club’s Junior Crew.  From articles about success at regattas to stories of junior rowers headed off to a college or university on a rowing scholarship, it is easy to see Vashon’s junior rowers are succeeding on the water and in the classroom.  The program is currently marking 21 years of history, camaraderie, hard work and character building on the beautiful waters of Quartermaster Harbor connecting Vashon and Maury Islands.

It started on May 8, 1996 when Vashon Island Rowing Club’s (VIRC) coach Claire Lichtenfels and member Debby Jackson submitted a proposal to the VIRC Board recommending that a youth rowing program be initiated that summer on a trial basis.  The program attracted 6 girls and 4 boys. The highlight of that summer program was attending the Greenlake Summer Extravaganza Regatta.

Just a few months later, at the November 16, 1996 VIRC membership meeting, a “motion was made and passed to formally adopt the Youth Rowing Program as a subgroup of VIRC and empower the VIRC Board of Directors to govern the program…”

Less than a year from inception, in the spring of ’97, there were 10 girls and 9 boys rowing for Vashon.  With coach Claire Lichtenfels, the Vashon juniors were making progress.  The March 1997 newsletter congratulates rowers on their success at the Greenlake Spring Regatta—gold in the girl’s novice eight “with lots of open water,” the girl’s novice fours finished first and third, and the boy’s fours, though not in the medals, “did row strong races against competition that had been rowing since fall and/or five days per week.”

Back in 1997, Vashon juniors rowed 3 days per week in the fall and then 4 weekdays in the spring until the annual Northwest Regional Junior Championship Regatta in May.   Besides regionals and Greenlake the team attended Brentwood International High School Regatta for the first time, where they placed two boy’s boats into the finals.  They also attended an April regatta at American Lake with Commencement Bay Rowing Club.

The purpose of Vashon Island Junior Crew (VIJC) was first formalized by an ad hoc Youth Rowing Committee in February 1998.  They wrote “the mission of Vashon Island Junior Crew (VIJC) [was] to provide youth within the Vashon-Maury Island community an opportunity to learn and improve rowing skills through an organized approach which reinforces the attitudes of hard work, good sportsmanship, and cooperation.”  That mission continues to be as true today as it was two decades ago.

An important part of the rowing club, and especially the youth program, was the Vashon Park and Recreation District (VPD).  For the first couple years, the relationship between the two organizations was fairly loose–VPD primarily provided publicity for junior crew classes through their newsletter.  VIJC was a separate entity with its own checking account and parent advisory committee, though VIRC had a fiduciary and organizational role. However, in 1998, junior crew became an official Vashon Park District program, which helped to “institutionalize” the program within the community structure.  VPD brought the additional benefits of collecting money and keeping records, hiring coaches, and provided insurance coverage.  Junior crew is no longer a park’s program but we are still grateful for VPD’s support over the years, and for the opportunity to row out of the park’s beautiful Jensen Point Boathouse.

Another necessity for all sports teams was/is to create a fundraising event.  Vashon Junior Crew had its first “1st Annual Car Wash/Bake Sale” on April 4, 1998.  Now a successful fundraiser, repeated multiple times a year, the first carwash was recorded in the April 1998 junior newsletter. It stated “You did a great job!  Despite 2 other carwashes going on at the same time, we raised $238.87.”  These days the crew fundraiser can raise 10 times that figure (but you must remember the inflation factor).

By the Spring of 1998 the masters and juniors had a new coach.   Meg Shoch (a former VIRC master rower) held the reigns for the next 4 years.  After that, nine coaches lead VIRC over a ten year period. And then the winds blew a British/Canadian/Kiwi named Richard Parr onto the shores of Vashon Island and with his leadership came coaching with multi-level coaching experience, drive and much needed stability.

Vashon crew thanks all the coaches who gave their time and talents to the junior crew—and to the master rowers who volunteered to coach and be assistant coaches for many years.

Vashon Island Junior Crew Coaches – Past and Present:

  1. Claire Lichtenfels 1996-1997
  2. Meg Schoch 1998-2002
  3. Nicole Borges 2002-2003
  4. Marek Little 2003
  5. Perry Estevenin 2004
  6. Lauren Estevenin 2004-2005
  7. Claire Lichtenfels 2005
  8. Lucas Ridinger 2006-2009 (assistants: Russell Ridinger/Dan Packard)
  9. Sam Burns 2009-2010
  10. Steve Full 2010-2011
  11. Charlie Helsby 2011
  12. Richard Parr 2012-2017 (assistant coach Tom Kicinski)


The huge physical and time commitment required by crew leaves few who pursue rowing in college. About two dozen Vashon juniors have gone on to row during some or all of their college years; many with the aid of rowing scholarships.  Below is a list of those who have distinguished themselves during and after their years as Junior rowers:

Vashon Junior Crew Statistics:

  • -Over 500 juniors have rowed for VIRC since 1996
  • -65 juniors have competed at US Youth Nationals since 2005
  • -14 juniors have medaled at US Youth Nationals one or more times

2011: W4X-                   Silver (Alaina Williams, Emmie Kehoe, Mia Croonquist, Avalon Koenig)

2011: MLt2X –               Bronze (Ryan Bingham, Tim Hanson)

2012: M4X & M2X –     Silver (Ryan Bingham, Gus Magnuson, Tate Gill, Baxter Call)

2013: M2X –                  Bronze (Tate Gill, Gus Magnuson)

2014: M4X –                  Bronze (Patrick Hanson, Tate Gill, Jacob Plihal, Baxter Call)

2014: W2X –                  Bronze (Mia Croonquist, Kirsten Girard)

2017: W2- –                   Bronze (Riley Lynch, Rhea Enzian)

  • -4 juniors have competed for the U.S & 2 have medaled at Jr. Worlds

2006 (M8+) –                Tom Kicinski

2011 (Gold in W4) –      Mia Croonquist

2012 (Silver in W8+) –   Mia Croonquist

2014 (Silver in W4) –     Mia Croonquist

2017 (M4X) –                 Jacob Plihal

2017 (Bronze in W4) –   Riley Lynch

-2 juniors have competed for the U.S. & 1 has medaled at U-23 World Championships

2015 (Gold in W8+ & W4) –   Mia Croonquist

2017 (M4X) –                          Jacob Plihal

(Statistics compiled by Ellen Call with apologies for any inaccuracies.)

There are so many more stories that can be told about rowing for Vashon.  Please come and share some of them at the Vashon Junior Crew 21st Anniversary Celebration & Reunion on Tuesday, December 26, 2017.

This two part event begins with an all-club & alumni row from 8-10am, and follows with a “Boxing Day” pancake feed 10:30am-12:30pm at Lewis Hall (behind Burton Community Church).  There will be special anniversary shirts available for sale (check the website for details in mid-December).  Bring pictures, stories, and the camaraderie and winning attitude you cultivated in crew!

And please let all your former teammates know!

By:  Debby Jackson and Ellen Call, both current VIRC masters rowers, past junior program coordinators, and proud moms of past Vashon Junior Crew rowers.

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