Photograph by Christina McCarthy
For the first time in fifteen years, the Berkeley High School (BHS) men’s varsity quad will be competing in the 2018 USRowing Youth National Championships. This achievement adds to the list of victories earned by the men’s and women’s varsity crew teams, both of which have had successful seasons.
Both the men’s and women’s varsity crew teams competed in the Southwest Regional Youth Rowing Competition in an attempt to qualify for Nationals. This year, Regionals were held in Folsom, California on Lake Natoma. To qualify for Nationals, boats must first make it through time trials. Then they move on to semi-finals, where they must place in the top three in order to qualify for finals. The top three boats in finals then receive an automatic invitation to National Championships.
This year, almost every boat of the men’s varsity team made it through time trials to semi-finals and two boats made it to finals, with one boat placing third and receiving an invitation to nationals. Robert Hess, one of the captains, was in the boat that placed third in finals and recalls the moment as surreal. “I had finally earned something I had been working towards for four years,” Hess said. He also said the team is working hard to prepare for nationals. “We’ll be having practice on the water in our boat and on land on the rowing machines pretty much every day for the next month,” he added.
The Nationals competition is structured into A, B, C and D finals, and the A final is the only group to receive medals. Hess said the team’s two goals for Nationals are to qualify in heats for the A final and to beat Redwood Scullers’ top boat. “We’ve been chasing Redwood down all season and we’ve been getting closer to them each race. They beat us at Regionals, but we’re close enough now that we can do it,” Hess said.
The women’s crew team also had a successful season following the arrival of new coaching staff. Eliyana VanDoren, a captain of the women’s team, said this change was “extremely positive” and led to a great atmosphere. “The people on crew are incredibly driven and determined. We push each other every day to be the best athletes we can be and … the team is like a family,” VanDoren said.
One of the main challenges the women’s crew team has faced is going up against bigger club teams.
Maren Frye, another captain of the women’s team, said that the BHS team doesn’t have as many rowers as the private schools, nor the resources. “We don’t have as much equipment as they do, which meant that we couldn’t always race all the boats we wanted to because we didn’t have enough racing shells,” said Frye.
The women’s team had a great weekend at Regionals, with varsity taking first place in several races, and beating their season-long rivals: Saint Ignatius. “We had one of our best races of the season and we were very proud of our improvement,” said Frye. The National Championships take place June 8 through June 10.