It started out as a dream. And last weekend, it became a reality.
Bainbridge Island Rowing’s Varsity Girls 8+ and Varsity Boys Lightweight 4+ won two silver medals in open races at Northwest Junior Regionals last weekend and qualified both boats to compete in the U.S. Rowing Association’s Youth National Championships next month in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
The girls’ triumph fulfills a dream for Morgan Seeley, a founding coach of Bainbridge Island Rowing, whose great goal for the once-fledgling club was to send an 8-boat to the premier youth race in the country.
When Seeley and wife Anne, also a rower, heard the news, they said, “We are thrilled beyond desire. We’re so proud of them.”
“This weekend’s success of the Varsity Girls 8+ winning a silver in an open race marks a real coming of age for the junior (high school) rowing program here on Bainbridge,” said Head Coach Tim Goss.
“To cross the finish line ahead of these bigger, prestigious rowing clubs was a real ‘Wow’ moment,” added winning varsity girls rower Samantha Dore.
“This little club that has old tennis courts for a boathouse just put Bainbridge on the map,” Dore said. “People finally realized we’re competitive too. We were prepared, carried the moment into Regionals, and it was a really great race.”
Varsity Girls Coach Barb Trafton said the girls’ win and invitation to Nationals was a huge first for Bainbridge Island Rowing.
“We have rarely qualified for the finals, let alone placed among the big, top crews in the region,” Trafton said.
“Other teams in the finals draw students from a number of high schools, sometimes as many as five,” she said. “They are established, strong teams — every one of them. The fact that our eight comes from one high school and that the girls were drawn from only 13 open-weight athletes at BIR is quite extraordinary.”
The girls making the trip to the USRA Youth Rowing National Championships will be Maia McNett as coxswain and rowers Justeen Komok, Samantha Dore, Hanna Christoffersen, Hannah Schneiderman, Eryn McCassey, Elisabeth Chun, Katrina Kerrigan and Ena Nimb, and Samantha Pelliciotta as spare.
The Varsity Girls Lightweight 4+ also raced very well. They placed third in a highly competitive race and earned a trip to Nationals as well.
Rachel Perry as coxswain, Sam Pelliciotta, Sam Dore, Kate Hathaway and Isabelle Staff set the tone high early in the season.
Logistics don’t allow the team to take both the eight and the four boats to Nationals, so club members noted with regret the 4+ group won’t be racing in Tennessee.
The Bainbridge junior varsity girls also won third in the final sprint in a very gutsy race.
For their part, the Varsity Boys Lightweight (A) 4+ powered ahead in their race and put open water between them and most of the competition, but still had to battle for the win in a tight race with Seattle Rowing Club (SRC).
The Bainbridge boys finished less than 3 seconds behind SRC and earned a silver and an invitation to the National Championships. The boys heading to Nationals will be Timmy Taylor as coxswain and rowers Thomas Musselwhite, Keegan Dymoke, Alex Derry and Nick Entress.
In the second (B) Varsity Boys Lightweight 4+ race, two Bainbridge boats vied for the top spot in a close race, but were edged out by Mount Baker by .26 and 1.09 seconds and captured second and third places.
And that’s not all.
Not to be outdone, the Novice Girls showed their mettle by completing a clean “sweep of all sweep” rowing events, and won all four of the sweep trophies (sweeping is each rower using one oar on port or starboard side).
The Novice Girls also bagged two sculling medals in an overall impressive display of dominance over the competition (in sculling, each rower uses two oars).
In addition to repeat captures of the first (A) Novice Girls 4+ and first Novice 8+ trophies from 2012, the second (B) Novice Girls teams also won the 4+ and the 8+ trophies for the first time by massive 20 second margins.
According to Novice Girls Coach Chris Lane, the closest race came in the first 8+ final, when Bainbridge held on to a small advantage over a determined Everett crew for the first 1,500 meters.
Everett couldn’t match the sustained power of a composed Bainbridge crew who went on to win by 3.5 seconds and avenged their second-place finish at the Brentwood Regatta three weeks prior. The Novice Boys gave their best performance ever with six medals. They medalled in the second (B) Novice Boys 8+ as well as the Novice Boys 4x+. They also earned first and third place in two of the (B) Novice Boys 4+ boats and gold and silver in both of the Novice Boys 2x races.
In the last races of the weekend, the High School 8, the Varsity Boys easily captured first prize, and finished nine seconds ahead of Lakeside’s distant second. It was the first time Bainbridge Varsity Boys have won the High School 8 race. The Bainbridge Varsity Girls took third.
“Three years ago, we were happy to get one boat in the final races at Regionals,” said Varsity Boys Coach Bruce Beall.
“This year we took home 21 medals. The team gets stronger each year,” he said.
“Our crews have earned Bainbridge a great honor in getting this far,” Trafton added.
“For us coaches, it is very gratifying to watch the levels of commitment and teamwork rise with each season. We see these student athletes learn to find more in themselves,” she said.
“I truly admire their focus in a time when there are so many distractions for kids. We have some terrific kids on this Island. And we are lucky to have a big group of them out on the water for most of the year!”
Bainbridge Island Rowing is now fundraising to pay for the trip to Nationals. Donations to help send the club’s two boats to the Youth National Championships in Tennessee can be mailed to: Bainbridge Island Rowing, 221 Winslow Way West, #204, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions, contact Lynn Chun at 206-780-9931.