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News / Clark County News

Youth pull together at Vancouver Lake: Regional rowing championships continue through weekend

Rowers from across the region compete for a chance to qualify for June national championships

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: May 17, 2024, 8:40pm
6 Photos
Callum Brown of the Vancouver Lake Rowing Club, left, talks with Jamie Phelps while taking part in the USRowing Northwest Youth Championships at Vancouver Lake on Friday morning.
Callum Brown of the Vancouver Lake Rowing Club, left, talks with Jamie Phelps while taking part in the USRowing Northwest Youth Championships at Vancouver Lake on Friday morning. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Rowers from across the region traveled to Vancouver Lake Park on Friday to compete for a chance to qualify for the June national championships.

Friday kicked off the first of three days of racing in the USRowing Northwest Youth Championships. Hundreds of boats crowded between pop-up tents for teams from around Washington and Oregon. The event drew more than 600 entries from about 30 club teams. Conor Bullis, president of the Portland Vancouver Rowing Association, said this was one of the largest pools of competitors the event has had in years, especially after participation dipped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Out of all the (regional championships), we have the most entries,” Bullis said. “Every year, we send probably about 150 athletes from the Northwest to Sarasota, Fla., for the national championship.”

Today is slated to be the busiest day at the lake, where a race is scheduled to run every seven minutes, Bullis said. Dozens of buoys marked the seven lanes in the 1½-mile course. Competitors raced in time trials Friday, with finals scheduled for today and Sunday.

If you go

What: USRowing Northwest Youth Championships
When: Through Sunday
Where: Vancouver Lake Park, 6801 N.W. Lower River Road
Cost: $3 for parking
More information: regattacentral.com/regatta/?job_id=8094

Callum Brown, a co-captain of the Vancouver Lake Rowing Club, was hopeful Friday morning that his time, which put him into third place at that point, would be enough to keep him in a national qualifying position. He’s been a member of the local club for four years and has been rowing for six years. The regional championships are fun, he said, because he gets to make friends from other nearby clubs whom he typically sees again each year.

“Just about everybody you know from rowing is here,” he said. “And there’s food trucks, which you usually don’t get at regattas. There’s loads of merchant stuff that you can buy. It’s just a great time. And there’s so much free time because it’s such a long regatta that you can just chill with people from other clubs and make new friends.”

Brown, 18, said he feels his team has a bit of a home-field advantage because members are familiar with the lake and its conditions. But ultimately, it’s up to them to put in the work to have a successful race. He hopes the crowd the local race draws can encourage more people to take up the sport.

Members of the Renton Rowing Center drove about three hours to compete this weekend. For some, it was their first trip to the Vancouver regionals; others had been to the lake before. This weekend’s regatta was a culmination of all their preparation throughout the season, they said.

“Lots of the other teams are very supportive,” Audrey Stoughton said. “Like when we get to start line, everybody’s like, ‘Good luck to you guys.’ Obviously it’s competitive, but everybody’s really respectful to each other.”

Bullis said rowing teaches kids a lot of skills and characters lessons, in addition to providing college scholarship opportunities.

“They are on the water with a coach watching them, but they’re responsible for everything. No one gets to do the work for them,” he said. “I think there’s life lessons in terms of hard work and humility.”

Bullis sees the lake and its rowing club as hidden gems in the community. He said many longtime Vancouver residents don’t realize how big the sport is locally.

“I just wish everybody in Vancouver could be as proud of this place as we are — come down and know that we’ve got this park where we host this huge event,” he said.

10 Photos
Members of North Cascade Crew relax in hammocks during a break from the action during the U.S. Rowing Northwest Youth Championships at Vancouver Lake on Friday morning, May 17, 2024.
U.S. Rowing Northwest Youth Championships 2024 Photo Gallery