BY RALPH DERRICKSON
WEST WINDSOR, New Jersey — Bainbridge Island’s high school rowers placed among the top crews in the nation at the USRowing Youth National Championships held June 10-12 in West Windsor, New Jersey.
The Girls Lightweight Eight participated in a race program cut short due to high winds and rough water at Mercer Lake. The team included four seniors: Chrina Munn (coxswain), Jemma Blazina, Tica Drury and Jessie Sheldon. Joining the seniors in the boat were Elsa Derrickson, Lydia Goss, Ellie Genkinger, Sofia Wilkinson and Marina Bianchi.
Racing in a boat borrowed from Villanova University and without a practice row due to poor weather conditions, the team posted a qualifying time of 7:05.883 on the 2,000-meter course, shaving approximately 25 seconds off of their performance at the Northwest Youth Championships in May.
Unfortunately, due to stiff competition in their heat and cancellation of repechage races, the team was unable to advance in the competition.
“Our rowers showed great composure overcoming adversity to post the team’s best time,” said Bainbridge Island Rowing Varsity Girls Coach Barb Trafton. “The shortened race program tested all the teams and I was especially proud how our girls handled the rough waters and stiff competition.”
The BIR team has qualified for Youth Nationals for the past 11 years and has consistently placed among the top boats in the nation, including winning second in the nation in the Boys Lightweight Four in 2013.
In addition, several Bainbridge rowers have gone on to row in college: BIR alum Samantha Dore recently won gold in Stanford’s Womens Varsity Lightweight Eight at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships, also on Mercer Lake, on June 5, the week prior to Youth Nationals.
When asked why crew appeals to her so strongly, Dore focused on the lessons it has taught her these past five years.
“Crew rewards hard work and perseverance. It requires humility,” she said. “The best rowers simply put their heads down and work, stroke after stroke, practice after practice.
“The hours of work we do culminate in a six and a half minute race. It takes patience and incredible maturity to remember in those long winter months of training that it’s worth it. There’s such an incredible camaraderie on our team that both supports and pushes me beyond my limits.”
Dore also talked about how rowing has made her stronger academically: “Through rowing, I have learned so much about teamwork, commitment and tenacity. Many college students stop participating in sports because they want to focus on their academics, but I’ve actually found that I’m more productive than a lot of my friends. When I sit down to start an assignment, I have the discipline to make myself finish it.”
Dore reflected on how fortunate she was to have rowed with the strong Bainbridge High School program and having the opportunity to race four times at Youth National Championships while at Bainbridge Island Rowing. Dore is grateful that Trafton prepared her well for the rigors of a Division 1 program: “I’m so thankful to have Barb as a mentor in my life. Her passion for the sport is contagious. Barb’s kindness and encouragement inspired me to continue rowing in high school. I’m so glad I stuck with it. Crew provided me direction and empowered me with a newfound confidence I didn’t have before.”
Bainbridge Island Rowing thanks the many community individuals and businesses that generously sponsored the team at Nationals, including Clark Construction, and appreciates the support as well of the parents who traveled with the team.