With the temperature sometimes climbing into the 90s and a slight breeze on Lake Natoma in Rancho Cordova, California, Westerville Central High School student-athlete Brigid Haugh found the trip that she and her teammates on the Westerville club rowing team took last weekend difficult to top.
Westerville had six boats and more than 20 athletes participate in the USRowing Youth Nationals. The event, held June 8-10, featured hundreds of competitors from around the United States.
The girls varsity 8, which included Haugh, was joined at nationals by girls 2, boys 2 and boys 4 boats as automatic qualifiers from the Midwest Junior Rowing Championships held May 19 and 20 on Harsha Lake in Batavia.
In addition, Westerville’s boys varsity 8 and boys lightweight 8 successfully petitioned to compete in California.
“Competing at nationals means so much to me,” said Haugh, a rising senior. “I never thought I’d ever go, but it has always been a dream of mine as a rower. It’s a huge accomplishment for not only the girls in my boat and my coach, but for our program as a whole. This is the greatest opportunity of my life.”
Westerville’s boys 4 boat, which was stroked by Zach Thurston and also included Keith Cook, Joey Trybus and Anders Seline, finished second in the B final and eighth overall in 7 minutes, 1.86 seconds. Its boys 2 boat of Adam Bloom and Lance Berry also placed second in the B final and eighth overall (7:27.23).
The girls 2 boat of Tori Cooke and Maddie Kirwin finished third in the B final to place ninth overall (8:18.42).
The top six boats in the second qualifying race competed in the A final, followed by the next six in the B final and the six after that in the C final to determine placement.
The girls varsity 8 was 22nd (6:57.11) in the first time trial and fifth (7:38.72) in its next qualifying race to come up short of advancing to the finals.
The boys light 8, which placed fourth at the Midwest meet to miss advancing automatically to nationals by one spot, also finished 22nd (6:30.25) in its first time trial before placing fifth (7:07.3) in its next qualifying race to miss advancing to the finals.
The boys varsity 8 finished 23rd (6:05.57) in its first time trial and fourth (6:53.92) in its next qualifying race to fail to advance to the finals.
Joining Haugh on the girls varsity 8 were Emily Cahill as coxswain, Kirwin in the stroke seat, Cooke, Megan Casner, Kathleen Keating, Danielle Shuttleworth and Aenea Karen as well as Hailey Martin in the bow seat.
“Competing at nationals means we’re a strong, competitive team,” said Cahill, a 2018 Central graduate. “The Westerville women’s 8 hasn’t been to nationals in over 10 years, so being the boat to make it means the world to us. This boat has worked and pushed every day at practice morning and evening, overcoming a lot of obstacles throughout the spring season and beating teams that we thought we couldn’t. This opportunity is one that every rower and coxswain dreams of. … Being here with our other teammates makes this regatta a lot better.”
For Shuttleworth, a 2018 Central graduate who has committed to West Virginia, competing at nationals was a reward for all of the work she and her teammates have put in.
“Honestly, competing at nationals means everything to me,” Shuttleworth said. “When I first started as a novice, I couldn’t even begin to dream of making it to a regatta as elite as nationals.”