San Diego Rowing Club juniors win 9 regional medals, qualify five boats for June championships

San Diego Rowing Club’s gold-medal winning rowers, from three quadruples sculls squads, qualify for national competition in June. Front row, L-R: Kyle Blackburn, Varsity Men’s Coach Benton Sparks, Varsity Women’s Coach Susan Francia, Novice Men’s Coach Patrick Hurley, Novice Men’s Coach Patrick Kington, Erik Aasted. Middle row: Samantha Shao, Mariko Kelly, Alexander Wen. Back row: Matthew Piegza, John Carruthers, Andrew Rose, Jillian Renly, Delaney Lindsay, Jonathan Engle, Jacob Mitchell, Ethan Schauer.

Local rowers raced a blazing path down Sacramento’s Lake Natoma to claim nine regional medals at the 2015 USRowing Southwest Youth Championships, besting dozens of clubs to qualify five boats for national championship competition in June.

After three days of intense racing to claim regional medals and national bids, San Diego Rowing Club juniors earned medals across all four of its squads, proving the depth and strength of its team.

San Diego’s strong finish put it on the map for the best of youth rowing: The club earned the third-highest number of bids for nationals racing in the region, finishing only behind much bigger squads from Long Beach and Marin.

To qualify for nationals, the club’s Varsity Men’s and Varsity Women’s teams each won gold medals in quadruples sculls racing (4x, four rowers, eight oars), and claimed silver medals in the double sculls (2x, two rowers, four oars). The Varsity Men also clinched a silver medal in the lightweight men’s double sculls (lightweight 2x).

All five boats now qualify to compete at the 2015 USRowing Youth National Championships, to be held June 12 to 14 in Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.

“It’s a team-wide success,” said Varsity Men’s Coach Benton Sparks. “The men’s program hasn’t sent anyone to nationals in four years. On the first day of practice this fall, the whole team made this the goal, and now they’ve achieved it. On top of that, the boys who won in the quad and took silver in the doubles showed real character and maturity. They trusted each other and never backed off while being pushed by some very fast, very experienced competition.”

Varsity Women’s Coach Susan Francia, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the U.S. Women’s Rowing team, said, “I am so proud of the girls’ results at Southwest Regionals. The girls worked very hard for the placements that they achieved, waking up for 5 a.m. practices, and coming in on Saturdays and Sundays. I am impressed with their work ethic and we are excited for Nationals. After Nationals we have a good number of athletes headed to U.S. Junior Selection and Development camps, so we are looking forward to next year!”

Southwest Regionals competition, held May 1-3 at Lake Natoma, included 571 crews, with 54 earning national berths, according to USRowing’s website. The field represented 35 clubs and more than 2,000 competitors, according to USRowing.

San Diego’s novice squads finished strong as well: The club’s Novice Men claimed three medals, including the gold in quadruples sculls racing with a coxswain (4x+, four rowers, eight oars, one coxswain) and bronze medals in the eight (8+, eight rowers, eight oars, one coxswain) and 4+ (four rowers, four oars, one coxswain).

The club’s Novice Women earned a silver medal in quadruples sculls racing with a coxswain (four rowers, eight oars, one coxswain).

Novice teams compete for medals, but are ineligible for national competition.

Capping a successful season, a number of the club’s rowers have also been invited by USRowing to attend elite training camps this summer, where they will compete for a small number of spots on the USRowing Junior National Team or train with a USRowing High Performance or Development Camp. Rowers ultimately selected for the Junior National Team will have the opportunity to represent the U.S. at Junior World Championships in August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Among the highlights at regionals, the blinding pace of the Varsity Men’s 4x final resulted in a photo finish, with San Diego’s squad finishing in 6:36.369, a fraction of a second — 0.005 — ahead of second-place finisher Stanford Rowing Center at 6:36.374.

The Varsity Women raced to their gold medal in the 4x final comfortably ahead of their second-place finisher, at 7:16.837.

The San Diego Rowing Club Junior Crew, with about 120 members, rows on Mission Bay out of its boathouse on El Carmel Point in Mission Beach.

For those interested in learning the sport, SDRC is hosting Learn to Row and training camps on Mission Bay this summer, available for ages 11 to 18. Each camp is two weeks long and meets 10 times. Former National Team rower and SDRC Juniors Program Head Coach Chris Callaghan will lead the camps. No previous experience is required to attend the Learn to Row program.

Visit www.sdrcjrs.com or contact Chris Callaghan, SDRC Director of Rowing, at chris@sandiegorowing.org.

Here are the San Diego Rowing Club’s gold medal-winning rowers at Southwest Regionals and their high schools:

Varsity Women’s 4x: Samantha Shao (Canyon Crest Academy); Delaney Lindsay (La Costa Canyon High School); Mariko Kelly (La Jolla Country Day); Jillian Renly (University City High School)

Varsity Men’s 4x: Andrew Rose (La Jolla Country Day), John Carruthers (Francis Parker School); Matthew Piegza (The Bishop’s School); Kyle Blackburn (La Jolla High School)

Novice Men’s 4x+: Alexander Wen, coxswain (Torrey Pines High School); Ethan Schauer (River Valley Charter School); Erik Aasted (Torrey Pines High School); Jacob Mitchell (Point Loma High School); Jonathan Engle (St. Augustine).


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