San Diego rowers qualify for U.S. National Championships, win gold and silver medals in Sacramento

double gold four quadVarsity women athletes representing the San Diego Rowing Club (SDRC) have clinched bids to compete against the best junior teams in America next month at the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships.

SDRC Varsity Women earned coveted spots in three national races by claiming gold and silver medals at the Southwest Junior District Championships, held May 2 to 4 on Sacramento’s Lake Natoma. In all, 36 teams from California, Arizona and Utah raced in divisions featuring boats with 8 rowers, 4 rowers, 2 rowers and single rowers, and coxswains (8-seat and 4-seat boats), who are responsible for steering, speed, timing, and fluidity.

SDRC rowers Marissa Gibson, Mariko Kelly, Jillian Renly and Sarah Hoskin raced to gold in the Varsity Women’s “4x” boat (4 rowers, 8 oars), besting a field of 30 women’s teams in multiple heats on the windy 2,000-meter (1.25-mile) course.

Renly and Hoskin joined forces to win silver in the Women’s Varsity “2x” boat (2 rowers, 4 oars) competition to advance to nationals, and Gibson and Kelly paired to win silver in the Women’s Varsity “2-” boat (2 rowers, 2 oars) and qualify for nationals.

The U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships will also be held on Sacramento’s Lake Natoma from June 13 to 15.

SDRC’s first-year Novice Men’s rowers were also victorious at the May 2-4 regionals, taking home gold in the Men’s Novice “4x+” boat (4 rowers, 8 oars, and a coxswain). Racing to victory were teens Jack Piegza (Bishops School), Kyle Blackburn (La Jolla High School), James Jacoby (Point Loma High School), and Jason Ke (Canyon Crest Academy), led by coxswain Samara Assomull (La Jolla Country Day).

The SDRC Novice Men’s team, which is coached by UCSD Rowing alumnus Benton Sparks, finished first among 20 boats in multiple heats. Regional competition is the highest measure of first-year rowers and a novice team’s success. Novice teams do not compete in nationals.

Additionally, SDRC rowers earned several Top 5s and Top 10s at regionals, including boats for Men’s Varsity 4-, Men’s Varsity Lightweight 2x, Men’s Novice 4+, Men’s Novice 8+, Men’s 2nd Novice 8+, Men’s 3rd Novice 8+, Women’s Varsity 4-, Women’s Varsity 4x, Women’s Varsity Lightweight 2x, Women’s Novice 4x+ and Women’s Novice 8+.

Two SDRC Varsity Women heading to nationals are high school seniors, facing their final competition as members of the SDRC team before rowing in college: Gibson, a senior at La Jolla High School, will attend the University of Wisconsin this fall on a rowing scholarship. Hoskin, a senior at the Academy of Our Lady Peace in San Diego, heads to Fordham University on a rowing scholarship next year.

Kelly, of Del Mar, is a junior at La Jolla Country Day School, and Renly is a sophomore at University City High School. After national competition, both rowers will continue racing with the SDRC junior team.

The Women’s Varsity Team rows on Mission Bay out of its boathouse on El Carmel Point and is coached by Susan Francia, a two-time gold medalist in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics.

Founded in 1888, SDRC is a non-profit organization committed to helping develop and expand the sport of rowing. The club’s Juniors Program offers one of the premiere places to learn to row, developing strong athletes who go on to compete on college crew and national teams each year. The club trains students from dozens of middle schools and high schools across San Diego County, who compete in races at venues in California and Arizona.

Starting next month, the club is offering 2-week “Learn to Row” summer camps that will give juniors and teens (ages 10-18) the ability to enter the sport and be a part of something special.

The first of four 10-session morning camps (from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (M-F) begins June 16.

No rowing experience is required. The club is recruiting for the 2014/2015 racing season.

For more information on the SDRC Junior Crew program, please visit or contact Chris Callaghan, Director of Rowing, Head Coach & Men’s Varsity Coach, at