Even though the conditions aren’t ideal, the members of the Bainbridge Junior Rowing team still head out for practice on Eagle Harbor.
As the city of Seattle sat in the background walled behind a gray sheet of rain Monday, BIRC coach Morgan Seeley calls out the start to the three boats floating in the harbor.
As soon as he yells out “Go!” the sculls take off, oars hitting the water in unison.
They quickly head off into the distance, as Seeley and assistant coach Sam Hobbs try to keep up by motorboat.
The quintet of Jill O’Mara, Haley Allen, Keziah Beall, Jackie Sullivan and Lynn Anderson, along with solo rower Mikey McGuire, are hoping to move past everyone at the 2008 U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships this weekend.
The event, attended by rowing clubs from all over the country, is held on Harsha Lake at East Fork State Park in Ohio, 25 miles east of Cincinatti.
O’Mara, Allen, Beall, Sullivan and Anderson made it with their third place finish in the varsity women’s four with coxswain at the U.S. Rowing Northwest Junior Regional Championships two weeks ago.
McGuire took second overall in the women’s varsity single race.
“Going into (the race), these were the two boats we had the highest hopes for,” Seeley said. “They were the most experienced kids and had done the best over the season.”
It’s the second year in a row that BIRC has sent two boats to nationals, as McGuire made it along with Hobbs and Andrew Powers.
McGuire won the C final last year to finish 13th overall while Hobbs and Powers finished 11th overall.
“It was a lot more competitive than I thought it was going to be,” McGuire said of her time at nationals. “It was so hot last year – it had to have been in the 90s. It was humid too.
“Hopefully it won’t be that bad this time, because I don’t do well in the heat.”
The heat, she said, does help with warmups.
The forecast for this weekend doesn’t look as hot (with the temperature predicted to be in the high 70s to low 80s) but there is the threat of scattered thunderstorms.
Weather concerns aside, McGuire said she has one goal in mind.
“I hope to make it in the A finals,” she said.
“Everybody’s divided by just a few seconds or fractions of seconds so it’s really tight and they do a photo finish and divide everyone up that way.”
The senior, who is headed to Oklahoma City University, an NAIA school in Oklahoma, said she’s been working on getting her stroke rate up and on her end sprints to give her that edge going into the race.
The five rowers that make up the varsity four with coxswain say they’re ready to make the grand final as well.
“It’s just not ‘happy to be there,’” Anderson said. “We definitely want to do well and make it to the final. That’s our goal.”
To get to that goal, the team went through numerous lineup changes this season to get the right fit.
The current team has only been together since mid-April.
“In college rowing I think it’s more normal (for groups to come together in a short time) but on this team it’s more normal to be rowing longer,” Anderson said. “So many people quit – some had some issues.”
“It was kind of a surprise,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think this is the lineup that anyone expected but it obviously worked out.”
The camaraderie is there that enables them to work together (“We all love each other,” O’Mara said) but the other four gave credit to Anderson for her ability to call the race from the stern.
“What we have to our advantage is Lynn,” Allen said. “We do so much more with her. She gives us so much more drive.
“During the race I know we’re all thinking ‘ Why do we do this?’ because it hurts so bad,” she continued. “But Lynn pulls it out of us. She tells us where we’re at and makes us row harder than we ever have before.”
Anderson gave the crew kudos of her own.
“They have a lot of drive,” she said of her teammates. “They’re all willing to give a lot of effort all the time and they all trust they’re working their hardest.”
Seeley likes their chances this weekend.
“They’re not technically the best boat we’ve ever had, but they row better together than any boat we’ve ever had,” he said of the varsity four. “I honestly think they have a good chance to make it in the top six.
“I would be shocked if she didn’t move up in the finals,” Seeley said of McGuire. “I think she has an outside chance of making” it that far.