Wayland-Weston crew rows its way through Youth National Championships


Credit: Courtesy of Paul Hoffman

From Tuesday, June 6 to Sunday, June 11, The Wayland-Weston crew team competed in the USRowing Youth National Championships in Sarasota, Florida. One of the four-person boats that competed consisted of (from left to right) senior Riley Reynolds, sophomore Sadie Batista, junior Ava Balukonis and sophomore Jackie Stjernfeldt. “We made some huge improvements in the days leading up to racing and I’m super proud of our performance,” Batista said.

Bella Schreiber

On Tuesday, June 6, the Wayland-Weston crew team traveled to Sarasota, Florida, to compete in the 2023 USRowing Youth National Championships. Both the boys and girls teams competed, and each had more than one boat compete. The championship races were from Thursday, June 8, through Sunday, June 11.

The girls team sent three boats and 10 athletes, while the boys team sent four boats and 12 athletes, to Florida. The boats sent to Nationals were determined through erg testing and seat racing. Following the coaches decision, each boat had to race in the Northeast Regional Youth Championships to qualify for nationals.

“[My favorite part of nationals is] probably the fact that the best people in the country are there,” junior Maddie Genis said. “No matter what final you make it in or where you end up, you’re still racing against crews that are really good.”

Each day of the championship was dedicated to a different race. Thursday was for time trials, Friday was for semifinals and Saturday and Sunday were both for finals.

“All the best crews in the country were there and it was really cool to race against them,” sophomore Sadie Batista said. “I loved getting the experience of racing at a high level event.”

Each boat in the competition was composed of a different number of people, and were full of athletes who had qualified for nationals and had also been at the top of their clubs and teams.

For the boys team, there were two four-person boats, along with one pair and single boat. The first four-person boat consisted of sophomore Alex Dremov, along with juniors Tanas Kazlas, Miles Reynolds and Sophie Roman. The second four-person boat consisted of sophomore Evan Brown, sophomore Felix Kissell, senior Liam Munford and junior Graham Schwendt. The four-person boats placed 20th and 25th respectively. The boys pair and single boat consisted of athletes from Weston, and placed 17th.

For the girls team, there were two four-person boats and one pair boat. Boat One was composed of junior Ava Balukonis, senior Riley Reynolds, sophomores Sadie Batista and Jackie Stjernfeldt. Boat Two had juniors Natalia Serov, Lulu Kazlas, senior Megan O’Donnell and junior Siena Flanigon. The pair boat had junior Maddie Genis and senior Sophia Xie. Balukonis, Serov and Genis were all stroking for their boat, meaning they sat at the front of the boat and led.

“I think we did really well at nationals,” Batista said. “I think we were seated 14th or 15th, so finishing fifth in the nation was a huge accomplishment. We made some huge improvements in the days leading up to racing and I’m super proud of our performance.”

All of the girls’ boats made it to the final. Boat One ended in fifth place, Boat Two ended in 11th and the pair ended in 16th.

“My favorite part of crew is seeing the work my teammates and I have put in together pay off,” Batista said. “It’s a really rewarding sport. Once you love it, it’s enjoyable to put the work in and you start to see huge improvements quickly.”

To prepare for races, the team holds practice everyday. They have a fall and spring season, as well as winter training. A lot of the athletes, like Batista, also choose to do additional training over the summer.

“Give rowing a chance,” Genis said. “Rowing is very different when you start versus when you’ve been doing it for a few years. This goes for a lot of sports, but I can genuinely say that it gets more fun. Once you start rowing with people who are as competitive as you and you’re in a boat that actually wants to go fast and once you start racing, It’s a whole new level. Just give it a chance.”