A BIR Girls 4x JV team: Veronica Conklin, Linden Skalak, Annabel Nemeth and Natalie Noel. (Contributed photo)

A BIR Girls 4x JV team: Veronica Conklin, Linden Skalak, Annabel Nemeth and Natalie Noel. (Contributed photo)

Smaller-boat work helps BIR in post-season

The youth athletes of Bainbridge Island Rowing have ended their seasons with exceptional showings at both the regional and national levels despite the constant adjustment of programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Island rowers took part in the Northwest Youth Regional Championships in Vancouver, WA May 21-22 and then traveled to Sarasota, Fla. to participate in the U.S. Youth National Championships from June 10-13.

Among the high-level performers were Bainbridge High School sophomores Alex Morrison and Hannah Cutler, who placed fifth in the nation in the U17 2x women’s category. Ben Chapman and Roan Dalton finished 11th in the U17 2x men’s category while finishing 28th in the men’s category were graduating senior Spencer Fleming and juniors Luke Collins, Dane Verharen and Will Seibert.

“We were very proud to have found a way to keep over 65 youth athletes active and engaged during an extremely isolating time in their lives,” said BIR coach and board member Sue Entress.

BIR had to change its programs on the fly this year. Typically, the youth programs have focused on what are known as “sweep” boats, which have one oar per rower with either four or eight rowers in a boat. But COVID social distancing protocols compelled the program to move to “sculls,” which have two oars per rower. As restrictions relaxed, the teams moved back to the larger boats, but the work training in the smaller boats, which were loaned by local private owners, paid off.

“The smaller boats require more skill and finesse,” Entress said. “Ultimately, that proved to be an advantage as we re-entered our larger boats at the end of the season.”

Although all formal competitions were canceled for the season, the regional championships were able to go ahead thanks to the efforts of the 22 teams involved. Five of BIR’s six boats were able to make it to the podium.

Varsity coach Chelsea Vessenes said rowing in smaller boats temporarily forced the team’s coxswains to the sidelines, but had no trouble picking up where they left off once they got back into larger boats.

“Competing in larger boats at regionals got these talented athletes back in the boat,” Vessenes said, “where they once again proved that they truly are worth their weight in gold.”

Eight rowers went on to the national championships. Director of Rowing and varsity boys coach Bruce Beall said it was important to have some of the program’s younger athletes get experience at the highest level of competition.

“Only one of these rowers [Spencer Fleming] is graduating,” Beall said. “So both of the girls and five of the six boys will be playing a critical role in the goal of continuing to make the junior team competitive at the highest level. They’re excited to work hard on improving their rowing performances and motivating their teammates to do the same.”

On the morning of Morrison and Cutler’s finals race in Florida, the rest of the team gathered on Bainbridge Island for a 4:30 a.m. cheering party as they followed the action on livestream. “Having all of your teammates cheering you on while competing at that level was incredibly motivating,” Cutler said, “and I’m so thankful BIR gave us that opportunity, especially this year.”

U.S. Youth National Championship

U17 Women’s 2x (BHS sophomores Alex Morrison and Hannah Cutler) placed fifth in the nation.

U17 Men’s 2x (BHS sophomores Ben Chapman and Roan Dalton) placed 11th in the nation.

Men’s 4x (BHS graduating senior Spencer Fleming and juniors Luke Collins, Dane Verharen and Will Seibert) placed 28th in the nation.

NW Regional Youth Championship

Girls Varsity 4+: First Place: Cassidy Parr, Hannah Cutler, Maddi Stoehr, Aubry Ackland, Abbie Doane (coxswain).

Girls 4+: Third Place: Alexandra Morrison, Sofia Forslund, Eleanor Calvez, Nicoletta Paxhia, Kayla Musser (coxswain).

Boys 4+: Second Place; Owen Sykes, William Taylor, Aidan Driggers, Hugo Pizarro, Tanner Reightley (coxswain).

Boys 4+ Fourth Place: Luke Watson, Liam Reinders, Keon Deng, Carter Ragan, Erin Weiss (coxswain).

Girls JV 4x/Final B: First Place: Veronica Conklin, Linden Skalak, Annabel Nemeth, Natalie Noel.

Girls JV 4+/Final B: Second Place: Adelaide Poehner, Felicity Watson, Eloise Marshall, Cara Wolf, Norah Pearce (coxswain).

The boys foursome of Luke Watson, Liam Reinders, Keon Deng, Carter Ragan with Erin Weiss (coxswain) finished fourth at regionals. (Contributed photo)

The boys foursome of Luke Watson, Liam Reinders, Keon Deng, Carter Ragan with Erin Weiss (coxswain) finished fourth at regionals. (Contributed photo)

A group of BHS freshmen on the water: Adelaide Poehner, Felicity Watson, Eloise Marshall, Cara Wolf, with sophomore Norah Pearce (coxswain)

A group of BHS freshmen on the water: Adelaide Poehner, Felicity Watson, Eloise Marshall, Cara Wolf, with sophomore Norah Pearce (coxswain)

Coxswain Tanner Reightley prepares Owen Sykes, William Taylor, Aidan Driggers, Hugo Pizarro for their race. (Contributed photo)

Coxswain Tanner Reightley prepares Owen Sykes, William Taylor, Aidan Driggers, Hugo Pizarro for their race. (Contributed photo)

More in Sports

All 3 local schools win boys, girls games

Bainbridge, North Kitsap and Kingston all won their opening games this week.… Continue reading

Jonas La Tour of North Kitsap was the league MVP last spring. File Photo
Winter prep sports previews

North Kitsap boys basketball; Kingston wrestling

With the strong winds, Viking quarterback Colton Bower (2) was more effective running the ball in the first half. Here Quinn Knivila- Ruchie (52) and Jesus Mares (53) block for him. Steve Powell/North Kitsap Herald photographs
Wind, rain, Lions knock NK out of playoffs

It’s hard enough to beat the second-ranked team in the state playoffs… Continue reading

Viking quarterback Colton Bower was named MVP, again, of the Olympic League. File Photo
Bower MVP, again; 11 others also honored

Gee, wonder who the Most Valuable Player is in the Olympic League… Continue reading

NK defense shuts out 6th opponent

Vikings blank Shadle Park, host Steilacoom

Marion Stejer, a Kingston senior, dinks the ball for a point against Lindbergh. Steve Powell/Kingston Community News photos
Kingston goes 1-1 at district tourney

The Kingston girls volleyball team easily won its first contest at the… Continue reading

The moment North Kitsap realized it had won and would advance to state. Steve Powell/North Kitsap Herald photos
NK advances to state in girls volleyball

After qualifying for state last week, North Kitsap’s girls volleyball team went… Continue reading

Colton Bower. File Photo
N. Kitsap hosts state playoff game Saturday

14th seeded Shadle Park will face No. 3 seed Vikings

The North Kitsap boys basketball team celebrates after pulling off an improbable comeback in the semifinals in the 2A state tournament against Lynden. (File photo)
Krulish: A look back at my 4 years in Kitsap

After a little over four years covering high school sports, and occasionally… Continue reading

Most Read