LBJC just returned from their first regatta since the pandemic began. Apart from a scrimmage, we had not officially raced on the water as a club since March 7th, 2020 when we hosted the Southern California League Cup at the Long Beach Marine Stadium.
The challenges of the last 15 months have been enormous. We should all be very proud about how we have successfully navigated these obstacles as a club. Last week’s successful racing at the 2021 USRowing Youth National Championships was a celebration of our club’s hard work and perseverance over the last 15 months. With the help of our board members, coaches, athletes and parents, the kids were able to continue to row at a national caliber level and serve as a shining example to the Long Beach community that we will continue to move forward no matter the challenge.
The 2021 USRowing Youth National Championships was unlike any other national championship regatta before it. For starters, usually each region in the country sends the top 3 boats in each event from their respective regional championships. This year with most regional regattas cancelled, entries were open to anyone. Secondly, there were no lightweight events, which LBJC has a long history of doing well in. Finally, there were U17 events in each boat class for the first time, giving the younger athletes a chance to make their mark earlier in their careers than before. All three of those changes combined with this being our first regatta in 15 months meant that our coaches were going to take a slightly different approach.
Both Coach Tom and Coach Weston saw the opportunity for balancing absolute performance with athlete development for the future.
In a typical year, LBJC would take a handful of boats to nationals. This year we took 11 boats, 5 men’s boats and 6 women’s boats. This was the largest nationals trip ever for LBJC with 39 athletes, including 5 novices who have never officially raced before. Hopes were high for some great performances but more importantly we were looking for some great racing experiences to set these athletes up for future success.
The racing started on Thursday with 1900m time trials in all events. The racing progression was that the top 12 in each event from the time trials would go automatically to the semi-finals, places 13-19 would go to the C Final, places 20-26 to the D Final, and 27 and above would be eliminated after the time trial. Needless to say, the stakes were high starting on Day 1. There were boats going down the course in Time Trials in rapid succession.
LBJC’s first boat down the course was Andrew Josephbek in the Men’s Youth 1x. He finished a very respectable 17th out of 36, 6 seconds out of qualifying for the A/B semi. Not bad in a very competitive event. Next up was the Women’s Youth 2- of Lydia Dillion and Olivia Lestelle. They finished 14th out of 21 boats, missing the A/B semi by 2 spots. Both the single and the pair qualified directly to the C-Final on Saturday.
The Men’s Youth 2x of Kian Price and Jacob Padilla finished 46th in a time of 7:35.7. The guys looked sharp but finished outside of the top 26 spots. The doubles events were very competitive this year because of the amount of teams forced to scull due to covid. No matter the result, lining up with the best in the country takes guts and yields respect. The next race was the Women’s Youth 2x of Stella Cucu and Gabriella Schaub. They finished in 26th place, successfully snagging that last spot qualifying for the D final.
Finishing off the morning of racing were LBJC’s big boats: the Men’s and Women’s 4x’s, the Women’s 4-, and the Men’s 8+.
The Men’s 4x comprising Travis Infante, Jack Snow, Augustine Freijo, and Andrew Josephbek was the first of the big boats down the course. Jack and Augie are both 8th grade novices that were brought up to varsity only a week before leaving for Florida and this was their first official race. While the 4x did not qualify in the top 26, this was a great opportunity for the young guys to gain the experience for next year.
Next up was the Women’s 4x of Sydney Macklin, Sinead Quirke, Samantha Hutchings, and Charlotte Burnham. The crew had a great race finishing 10th out of 34 crews and became the first LBJC boat to qualify for the A/B Semi!
Now an example of how the coaches were juggling all sorts of challenges and ups and downs. Earlier in the day Coach Weston was made aware of two athletes in the Women’s 4- that had come down with what appeared to be food poisoning. So, two novices, Olivia Aceves and Leah Short, stepped up to have their first-ever racing experience, and at Nationals no less. With a rearranged lineup the Women’s 4- of Sydney Perry, Olivia, Leah, and Heidi Maxson did well to finish 16th and qualify for the C-Final despite having never rowed in that line up before. Just goes to show why bringing alternates on the trip is so important.
The final race of the morning was the LBJC Men’s 8+. Coxswain Jacob Bazulto, Charlie Josephbek, Brock Brandmeyer, Liam McDermott, Andrew Geller, Tate Griffin, Cooper Hemmings, Zachary Hutchings, and stroke Nick Gonzalez raced their hearts out and finished 21st out of 35 qualifying for the D final, just 8 seconds out of the A/B Semi.
On Thursday afternoon the first ever U17 events at Nationals were held. LBJC had three boats racing and Sydney Macklin was up first in the Women’s U17 1x. She had already been down the course in the 4x earlier in the day. She finished in 3rd place qualifying directly to the Semi Final, which was very impressive but not surprising if you know her.
Next down the course was the LBJC Men’s U17 4x of Travis Infante, Tate Griffin, Charlie Josephbek, and Nick Gonzalez. All four of these guys were doubling up and had already raced earlier in the day. The guys had a great piece finishing in 2nd place earning a spot in Friday’s semifinals.
The last race of the day was the Women’s U17 8+ of Annika Morallos, Lynna Ov, Allegra Steege, Hayley Bergstrom, Jade Steege, Sydney Chait-Walter, Taylor Donato, Izabella Gwizdak, and Tessa Griffin. The girls raced to a 3rd place finish in a solid time of 6:53 qualifying them directly for the semi.
Wow, that was a lot of races. Talk about a long day for the athletes, coaches and volunteers, especially considering the tremendous heat!
Well done everybody. There was nothing left to do but rehydrate, eat, and sleep. Onward to the Semis on Friday.
The first race of the morning was the Sydney Macklin, Sinead Quirke, Samantha Hutchings, and stroke Charlotte Burnham in the Women’s 4x. The girls had arguably the race of the regatta for LBJC in this semifinal. After 500m, they were sitting in 5th place with just the Top 3 to go on to the A Final. At the halfway mark, our girls had pushed up and were now tied for 4th place with Texas. Then in the second half of the race the girls really made a statement. They put in a negative split which is extremely impressive at the junior level. The girls averaged 1:45.8 to the 1500m mark and then dropped to an astonishing 1:42.4(!) last 500m to move past perennial contender Maritime and into 3rd place and qualify for the A Final. Well done ladies! A little under an hour later Sydney Macklin was back on the water. This time in the Women’s U17 1x. Clearly still riding high from the 4x race, Sydney blasted off the start and led her race from start to finish. She qualified for the A Final on Saturday.
On Friday afternoon, the U17 Men’s 4x of Travis Infante, Tate Griffin, Charlie Josephbek, and stroke Nick Gonzalez kicked off racing with a commanding performance. They lead the entire race wire to wire and finished 1st in a time of 6:38.
The last race of the day was the Women’s U17 of Annika Morallos, Lynna Ov, Allegra Steege, Hayley Bergstrom, Jade Steege, Sydney Chait-Walter, Taylor Donato, Izabella Gwizdak, Tessa Griffin. The girls were sitting in last place after the first minute of racing and then began chipping away at the field. They moved throughout the piece: 5th at 500, 3rd at 1000m, and 2nd at 1500m. The girls clearly had the right mindset and fitness to get the job done. All in all, Friday was a great day with all 4 LBJC boats qualified for the “medal round”.
On Saturday there were U17 finals in the morning and then C and D finals for the U19 events in the afternoon. First up was Sydney Macklin in the Women’s U17 1x. She raced fearlessly, getting out to an early lead and held on as long as she could. She was leading at the 1k mark and racing at an impressive 34 strokes per minute. Sydney held on to 2nd place and won a silver medal! Well done!
Next up was the U17 Men’s 4x. Unfortunately, during the start of the race the boat’s rudder cable broke and Travis, Tate, Charlie, and Nick had to wrestle their boat down course to keep it in their lane. Struggling to go straight, the guys did an amazing job considering the circumstances. With potential disaster looming, they somehow managed to hang on to 3rd place, just 0.2 seconds behind second, earning them a bronze medal. Phenomenal job men!
The last of the U17 Finals was the Women’s U17 8+. Similar to their semifinal, Annika, Lynna, Allegra, Hayley, Jade, Sydney, Taylor, Izabella, and Tessa were down early. At the 500m mark they were in 6th and then worked their way up through the field. By the finish line, they had passed Cincinnati and RowAmerica Rye and finished in 4th place just 2 seconds away from a medal in a time of 6:58. This was the best finish in the 8+’s events from any southwest team. Not bad for three 8th graders, wow!
Later in the morning the C and D finals for the U19 Youth events took place. First up for LBJC was Andrew Josephbek in the single. He was right in the thick of it the entire way down the course. At the halfway mark, all seven crews were overlapped with each other, less than 3 seconds apart. Andrew finished in 4th place in a time of 7:48, good enough for 4th in the C Final and 16th place overall. That is a very impressive result for such a competitive event. Many of the guys he was racing against are far and away the top in their region.
Next up was the Women’s 2-. Lydia and Olivia had an amazing race in their final. Keeping your cool in a boat with just two oars is a tough thing to do especially when you are down, but the girls did just that. They were 4 seconds down and in 4th place at 1000m, but they stuck to their race plan and out-rowed the other teams in the last half of the race. The girls went on to an impressive 3 second victory in the C final and 13TH place in the nation.
In the last race of Saturday morning, LBJC’s women’s 4- raced in the C final. This was the girls’ second race together with two novices filling in. Sydney, Olivia, Leah, and Heidi blasted off the start and were leading for the whole first half of the race. The girls reported that they may have let their adrenaline get the best of them and couldn’t keep up the pace- but in our opinion that’s just brave racing and we need more of it! The girls hung on to 3rd place, good enough for 15th in the nation. A very decent result considering the last minute line up change and this being the first regatta ever for half the boat, well rowed!
A few hours later in the afternoon our Women’s 2x raced in the D final. To give some context, Stella and Gabriella both used to be coxswains and have grown and developed a lot over the last two years. To be racing at Nationals is a great learning experience, but it was awesome to see them qualify for the D final out of 41 crews. They raced hard and well and crossed the line in 7th matching their 26th place from the Time Trial on Thursday. Well done ladies.
Our last race of the day was the big boys of LBJC, the Men’s 8+. Jacob, Charlie, Brock, Liam, Andrew, Tate, Cooper, Zachary, and Nick really rose to the occasion in their final race. At the halfway mark, Central Catholic was 4 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Everybody else, including LBJC was within 1 second of each other. Six boats 1/3 of a boat length apart… That’s some good racing! At the 1500m mark, Milwaukee had pushed into 2nd place and LBJC was in a 3-way tie for third. Then our boys exploded. They ended their Nationals experience by dropping the hammer and having an epic sprint. They dropped a 1:33.7 last 500m, the fastest last 500 of the race. Not only did they emerge victorious from the 3-way battle, but they sprinted ahead of Milwaukee in the last 250m to take 2nd place, 21st overall. In the heat of battle they also closed the gap on first place to only one second. Great racing men, way to finish it off.
Sunday’s schedule had the U19 A and B Finals in the morning and then teams would pack up and head out in the afternoon. LBJC’s only race on Sunday was the Women’s 4x. Charlotte, Samantha, Sinead, and Sydney did very well to make the A final with their amazing sprint in the semifinal. In a really competitive field the girls hung with the pack for most of the race and finished in 6th place in the A final. 6th overall is an accomplishment to be very proud of- especially for being mostly a lightweight boat in an event known for power and size. The boat is returning 3 out of 4 girls next year and the experience of being in the A final with the top girls in the country will be a huge benefit for next season. Well rowed ladies!
The final challenge on Sunday was loading the trailer. Our fearless trailer driver, AC DuPont, hauls boats for many of the southwest teams. Special thank you to him for all his hard work and expertise. Also special shout out to some of the guys who really put in extra effort to help AC load everybody’s boats on the trailer: Kian, Brock, Nick, Zach, Tate, Andrew, and Charlie.
After the trailer was loaded, the team was able to cut loose and hit the beach for some fun in the waves and little football! We are proud to report that everybody made their flights and made it home safe and sound. A special thanks to Vanessa Quirke and Olga and Eric Josephbek for being team chaperones and making everything run smoothly in Sarasota.
After navigating the tremendous challenges over the past year, it’s no surprise that LBJC pulled off a successful campaign in Sarasota. Despite having issues like a food poisoning and a broken rudder to deal with, the athletes were resilient, stayed focused, and turned in some very impressive results. We are incredibly proud of everyone.
Well done LBJC! Thank you seniors! See everybody else for summer conditioning!
The LBJC Coaching Staff