The Westerville high school club rowing program has advanced numerous boats to USRowing Youth Nationals over the past decade, including this spring when its boys lightweight 4 reached the B Final of the event June 7-9 on Melton Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Members of the latest national-qualifying boat had visitors who helped make their experience in the event even more memorable, according to Westerville Central senior Ryan Kesselring.
The boat that the boys light 4 competed in is named after Josh Thomas, who died in an all-terrain vehicle accident March 23, 2008, at age 17.
Thomas' parents, Dr. Joe Thomas and Joyce Thomas, traveled June 8 from McClellanville, S.C., to meet Westerville coaches Matt and Trish Chase and the members of the boys light 4 for the first time.
"It was a really great experience being able to meet them and just see how much it meant to them to have a boat named after their son," Kesselring said. "It was a heart-warming experience. We met them Saturday morning and went out to dinner with them Saturday night, and I guess his son played basketball and was pretty tall and very athletic and loved to go deep-sea fishing."
According to Matt Chase, Joe Thomas is a customer of medical software that Chase sells who had donated to Westerville crew in the past.
"Dr. Joe is a physician who knows me and had sent us a donation," Chase said. "I found out his son had died in a tragic accident and (Trish and I) decided to (paint) his name on the boat. It just seemed like every time our kids rowed in that boat, they just loved that boat."
The Thomas's drove more than five hours to Oak Ridge to see the boat in person.
"We put Josh's name on the boat and took a photo of it and sent it to (the Thomas's)," Matt Chase said. "He and his wife were very touched. To have them come was a really touching moment for our kids. He and his wife are wonderful people and it was kind of an instant bond for the kids.
"After we sent him that picture of the boat, we started getting checks from all over the place from people with donations of $10, $30, $25, just saying thank you for remembering him."
Joining Kesselring in the light 4 boat were St. Charles senior Patrick LeCorgne, who sat in the stroke seat, DeSales senior Cody Sarisky, Columbus Academy junior Brad Luckett and Westerville Central sophomore coxswain Kate Malone.
The boat finished fifth in the B Final in 7 minutes, 7.03 seconds June 9 to place 11th overall.
"We wanted to be in the top six in the nation," Matt Chase said. "It's hard. We needed more horsepower. They were all wonderful kids and I just loved coaching them."
New Albany's Taylor competes at Nationals
New Albany senior Evan Taylor was a member of the Dublin boys lightweight 8 that placed 18th in 6:28.94 at Youth Nationals.
Taylor teamed with seniors Luke Neuroth (Dublin Scioto) and Thomas McCabe (Olentangy Liberty), juniors Keegan Graham (Dublin Jerome), Sam Gugliemotto (Dublin Coffman), Johan McGwire (Jerome) and Ian Stamm (Coffman) and sophomores Jon Coyle (Coffman) and Brennan Kelly (Liberty).
Taylor, who plans to row for the University of Cincinnati, was the only member of the boat who had experience competing at Youth Nationals. In the event last year, he teamed with Taran Savoie on a Westerville youth 2 boat and placed 20th.
Taylor said he offered insight to the other members of the Dublin program who had traveled to the event.
"Especially with our coxswain (Graham), I was able to sit down and show him the course, and it also was helpful for the coach," he said. "Just me being there last year helped."