Local rowers compete at at national championships
June 29, 2010
By Christopher Huber
While preparing to compete in the national youth rowing regatta in early June, members of the Sammamish Rowing Association had to show up to practice wearing heavy coats and layers of long-sleeved shirts. The idea was to get their bodies used to rowing in the hot, muggy climate in Ohio.
One time, Jonathan Carrigan, of Sammamish, nearly got sick after a workout.
“Heat training was miserable,” he said.
But it was all worth it, as the rowing association sent four boats, with 31 athletes, to the U.S. Rowing Youth National championships June 11-13 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Six of them are from Sammamish and another three go to Issaquah High School. The athletes competed with 163 other rowing clubs from 29 states, according to Regatta Central, a national rowing-event website.
Rowing as one
The 31 youth rowers made up the largest group from any single rowing club in the country, according to the association.
Erin Antono, a Sammamish resident and junior at the International Community School, and Issaquah High’s Ellie Place and Margaret Misner helped the women’s youth eight boat finish sixth in the nation, coming in at 6 minutes, 44.10 seconds on the 2,000-meter course.
Among those in the seventh-place women’s youth lightweight eight boat were Issaquah resident Madison Dutro, and Maggie Yuse and Milan Vu, of Sammamish. The girls finished in 6:53.03, soundly beating the rival boat from the Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center.
“This year was pretty crazy,” Yuse said. “We actually ended up surprising ourselves.”
Dutro a first-year rower, said she was a bit overwhelmed upon arriving in Cincinnati.
“There were boats everywhere. It was crazy,” she said, adding that the first race day was a challenge.
The men’s youth lightweight eight placed 14th in its national race, crossing the finish line in 6:16.69.
“Overall, they did very, very well,” said boys head coach Sam Greenblatt.
Blake Knuth and Jack Elder, of Skyline High School, and Carrigan, of Eastlake, were part of that crew.
“For me, it was a new experience and an awesome experience to compete against all teams from all across the nation,” Carrigan said.
The fourth Sammamish Rowing Association boat, the men’s youth quad, placed third in the nation with a time of 6:14.732 on the 2,000-meter course.
“We just had to be one team,” Yuse said about the girls’ primary goal during nationals. “I think we really did a good job. Once we were there, we became one boat because we all wanted to do really well.”
Different from the rest
The youths seem to like that their sport is different from all of the others offered at the high school level. People think rowing is easy, too, they said.
“There’s a lot more technique than people think,” Elder said.
People tend to join a rowing team later than, say, a baseball or soccer team. But with the right commitment, one can become a strong rower relatively quickly, they said.
“People who have been rowing a long time have that edge,” Yuse said.
Another misconception outsiders have, according to the youths, is that the coxswain (a nonrower at the head of the boat) simply yells to keep them in rhythm on the water.
“People think the coxswain just says, ‘Row, row, row.’ They don’t,” Carrigan said.
They actually holler words of encouragement throughout the race.
Elder, Carrigan and Yuse said the 2009-2010 season was their third in competitive rowing. It was Carrigan’s first time competing at the national regatta.
Elder, whose brother began rowing as a seventh-grader, decided to join the Sammamish Rowing Association after taking a summer introductory course.
Carrigan got into the sport when a family friend, who rowed at Gonzaga University, suggested he join the rowing club.
“She thought I would make a good lightweight rower,” he said.
Other than it being a good way to stay in shape in the fall and spring, rowing helps the youths develop a sense of teamwork and camaraderie.
Yuse said she was interested in the sport because her mother has been rowing for 10 years. Once she started, it became a good release from the stresses of school and such.
“It’s really rewarding,” she said. “It’s also really beautiful. When the water is really calm, it’s really nice.”
Dutro joined the rowing club after a summer trial session and after realizing other sports just weren’t for her.
“It’s so different and no one really does it,” she said. “It’s a challenge and a lot of fun.”
All about commitment
Like many of their peers who juggle multiple varsity sports with school and social life, the rowers said staying busy with practice helps keep them on track with homework. They spend about three hours a day, five days per week practicing and dedicate a full day for weekend regattas, Dutro said.
“Commitment is the biggest thing,” she said. “You need everyone to show up every day for practice.”
Tucked away at the end of a short trail on the shores of Lake Sammamish in Marymoor Park, the rowing association’s boathouse is a home away from home for many of the youths.
“I spend more time at the boathouse than I do at home sometimes,” Carrigan said.
Training for nationals meant getting up at 4 a.m. each weekday for three weeks, Elder said.
“You don’t have to be the biggest, but you need to have a really big internal drive,” Greenblatt said. “The thing that helped the most is, they had fun.”
After qualifying for nationals in mid-May, the teams had to prepare mentally and physically for the heat and overwhelmingly competitive atmosphere.
“Luckily, we didn’t have to do any two-a-days,” Carrigan said.
But even if they would have doubled the practice load, the youths would have made room for it in their schedules and toughed it out. They’d simply follow the advice of a board that hangs in the boathouse with one word on it: “Commit.”
Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.