On May 20, the crew team competed at regionals in Vancouver, Washington. The mens and womens junior-varsity and varsity boats raced against both high school and club crew teams. The women’s U17 boat placed third in their final race, qualifying for nationals in Florida in June for the second consecutive year.
“We were all really nervous because the expectations were really high from last year. But we got to the start line and everybody chilled out, and we were just having a good time and talking. I think that everybody at that point just decided to trust each other and just see how it would go,” said sophomore Siena Anderson (she/her), the U17 boat’s coxswain.
Sophomore Jordan Hentel (she/her), who rows as the bow for the women’s U17 boat, said their first race was faster than their final because of changing water conditions. Hentel added that the 13 boats they competed against were mostly from wealthy private schools or club rowing teams.
“As a public school, we are usually overlooked because there are so many. They’re really friendly people but very rich and very good competitors.”
In order to prepare for the tough competition at nationals, the girl’s U17 boat extended their season two weeks after regionals. They spent their additional practice time on the water and focused on connecting and swinging as a team. To prepare for the humidity they’ll face in Florida, Hentel said that her teammates have been rowing while wearing three layers.
“I hope we do well because I just don’t want to let people down. I’m really excited to give it our hardest,” said Hentel.
Anderson said that one of the best parts of extending the season to practice for nationals was that the rest of the team came to the optional practices. She said that everyone there loves crew and wants to keep rowing with them, which creates a strong team support system. Captain Amari Love (he/him) applauded the womens team for their efforts and said they undoubtedly added to the team dynamic.
“Crew’s physically draining and mentally draining, but the fun part about it is the supportive teammates and just being on the water,” said Love.
To qualify for nationals, boats had to place top six during the time trial and then top four in finals. The girls U17 team placed third in the time trial and final. However, Anderson said that the district usually only sends a boat if they place top two because it’s expensive. The district still agreed to finance their trip to nationals. The team faced further obstacles when their head coach, Doug Van Gelder was fired only two days before they left for regionals. Love said that the athletic director, Kealey Stanich, met with the team during the middle of their practice to inform them that he was immediately terminated and wouldn’t return, leaving them shocked and confused. Love said he wants to see more communication surrounding Van Gelder’s termination, but Stanich didn’t explain to the team why he was fired. When asked by Nordic News to comment on the situation, Stanich said that because it’s a school and district personal situation, she isn’t able to speak on Van Gelder’s termination.
Although only one coach gets to go to nationals with the boat, Anderson said that the race will be different without Van Gelder. Rower Victor Agbayani started a petition to reinstate him which received over 300 signatures from the rowers and their parents in only 24 hours.
“He always pushed [the district] to give us chances that they would give the football team. So with him gone, nobody’s really pushing for those chances anymore. So we’re just hoping that we’ll get as many opportunities as the rest of the sports,” said Hentel.