Westerville high school club rowing coach Matt Chase can't remember having a boys varsity 4 boat that consistently raced as fast as the one he worked with this season.
Although the boat left the USRowing Youth National championships held on Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif., wishing it had finished higher, the fact that it reached the grand final gave Chase reason to smile.
"We wanted higher, but those other boats are so fast," Chase said.
Each event at Youth Nationals featured boats that had qualified from various regional regattas and included heats June 13 and qualifying competitions June 14. The top six boats advanced to the A Final on June 15, with the next six moving on to a B Final and the next six qualifying for the C Final.
Westerville's boat placed fifth of six boats in the A final, finishing in 7 minutes, 16.26 seconds as Pacific A was first (7:01.46). It was the highest-finishing boat among the four crews from central Ohio that competed at nationals.
David Wexner, who attends Columbus Academy, sat in the stroke seat. Also in the boat were Brad Luckett (Academy), Grant Eberst (Westerville Central), Harrison Ellis (New Albany) and coxswain Jadzia Fonseca-Folden (Westerville South).
The boat advanced to nationals after finished first (6:47) in the Midwest Junior championships held May 17 and 18 on Harsha Lake in Batavia.
"There were 135 programs that made it to nationals, and it gets tougher every year," Chase said. "This was the fastest (varsity) 4 (boat) I've ever had, and we got fifth. Eight years ago, we would have won. These good teams just come out of the woodwork. It was just an incredibly fast race.
"It was a lot of fun. We're really happy to represent the Midwest well."
Also qualifying for nationals was Taran Savoie, a home-schooled Powell resident who took third in the boys varsity 1x (8:12.1) in the Midwest Junior meet. He didn't compete at nationals because of an injury.
UA boys led by Bruce, Hemleben
Upper Arlington had three boats at youth nationals, with the highest finisher being its boys varsity 2 comprised of Peter Bruce and Nick Hemleben. The duo finished sixth (8:22.11) in the B Final and 12th overall.
The boys varsity 4 of Houston Burchan, Zach Dickinson, John Masters, Nick Kochanek and coxswain T.J. Kennedy placed third (7:17.33) in the C Final and 15th overall.
In the Scholastic Rowing Association of American (SRAA) national meet for high school programs held May 23 and 24 on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J., the boys varsity 4 earned a runner-up finish (5:02.19) behind Ridley College (4:59.76) from St. Catharines, Ontario.
"The kids stepped up and did very well," coach Chris Swartz said. "Until (youth nationals), this boys 4 was unbeaten.
"We were pretty happy (with the season). We were disappointed in our 8s results this year, but we're still a pretty young crew and hopefully the young guys will step up. But I am proud of these guys."
The girls lightweight 4 of Tobey Kegley, Grace Saalman, Allison Mellor and Jordan Popson and coxswain Yena Zerkel finished second (8:28.5) in the C Final and 14th overall at youth nationals.
Also competing at youth nationals but not placing was the girls varsity 4.
At SRAA nationals, the girls varsity 8 that featured Bridget Schodorf in the stroke seat placed sixth (5:15.55).
"We did pretty well," coach Mike Rice said. "We officially were 14th (in the girls light 4), but we had the ninth-fastest time.
"I've been really happy with the way we've performed all year long. We took three 8s (to SRAA nationals), which is an achievement since we only have 18 girls. We're losing six seniors, but we had a big group of novices this year."
Two boats place at nationals for Dublin
The Dublin club had two boats at youth nationals.
The girls varsity 2 of Treasa O'Tighearnaigh (Olentangy Liberty) and Gina Michael (Dublin Coffman) placed fifth (9:05.67) in the B Final and 11th overall.
Placing fourth (8:42.97) in the C Final and 16th overall was the girls light 4 of Rachel Bushman (Coffman), Kristi Bushman (Coffman), Kelsy Michely (New Albany), Bridget Geyer (Watterson) and coxswain Todd Akin (Worthington Christian).
"I rowed at Ohio State and have been at some major regattas, but for my girls, it was really the first time they've realized that there are some really fast crews in high school," coach Farrah Edwards said. "What I'm hoping is that they're going to come back and tell their teammates how fast and strong the other crews are and they'll do everything they can in the summer.
"On (the first day of youth nationals), both boats were a little nervous, but by Sunday they were ready to go."
Akin and Michely both will compete for Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., and O'Tighearnaigh will row for the University of Notre Dame.
Arch City caps first year at nationals
The first-year Arch City club had its girls light 4 finish sixth (8:48.56) in the C Final and 18th overall at youth nationals.
The boat was comprised of Kayla Coggburn (Westerville Central), Justine Quick (Westerville North), Jessica Osburn (Big Walnut), Emma Farris (Thomas Worthington) and coxswain Shannon Myers (Westerville North).
"We finished sixth (in the C Final), but we were in the thick of it the whole way," coach Dave Ferris said. "The last three boats finished within eight seconds of each other. It was a great experience for everyone."
Even though only the top three boats automatically advanced to youth nationals, the girls light 4 received an invitation the day after the Midwest Junior championships.