The San Diego Crew Classic (SDCC) has been around since 1973 and was created by individuals who sought to bring the nation’s top collegiate crews together for an incredible racing experience. One of the first attendees included the University of Washington. The university harbors an impressive and renowned collegiate team that Sammamish Rowing Association (SRA) has sent many of its high school alumni to.
Today, the San Diego Crew Classic has grown considerably since 1973. Over 4,000 athletes in over 100 races compete in this two day, nationally acclaimed regatta. Thousands of spectators flock to Mission Bay Park to enjoy watching races in person, but even more watch via live stream footage on the regatta website.
Early this April, SRA sent four masters boats and six junior boats to the SDCC ensuring that our presence was noticed in the west. Every single SRA rower gave everything they had and enjoyed impressive race results. One of the well earned finishes belonged to the Junior Girls JV 8+ that captured a second place finish in their grand final on Sunday, April 5th.
Coached by Kelley Pope and Dennis Ferrer- the entire girls team has been working hard during their practices to see results like this. Pope and Ferrer discussed how ever since this past fall they knew they had the potential for speed. The girls JV 8+ has had an impressive season and their hard work combined with unwavering teamwork and determination gave their coaches confidence as the girls headed down to California.
Pope said, “We knew that boat was going to do well. They’ve been working hard so to see them actually perform under pressure to their capabilities was awesome. That was the biggest success- they were able to execute their race against fast teams they’ve never beaten before.” The SDCC brings together top crews from around the nation. It can be quite intimidating facing crews you’ve never raced against. The junior girls were able to manage that pressure and come out on top of a difficult group of competitors.
In a pre-race meeting, Pope said the team’s focus was on having a good race and performing as well as they possibly could. She told the girls to be proud of how they finish regardless of what other crews might do. The girls were positive and excited to race, and ended up coming together as a boat to hold each other accountable. Ferrer said, “I knew they were going to do well, so it wasn’t surprising to see them ahead in the race. Watching the heat was exciting, but during the finish the biggest thing I was happy with is that they rowed well down the whole course. They maintained composure and what we’ve been working on.”
Pope was with the girls in California while Ferrer was watching the livestream up in Seattle. Pope watched the race from near the finish line and said, “I was excited to see them race Saugatuck all the way down. They fought with top teams and had a successful race.”
Following their race the girls were celebrating with hugs and big smiles. They always start thinking about what they could have done just a little bit better in the race, but were overall very proud of their performance. As the crews who went to San Diego reunited with the rest of the team the following week- positivity was high. Pope and Ferrer said that the entire team has been doing extremely well and this race helped validate all the hours, weeks, and months of hard work. Pope mentioned, “The biggest thing is they came away with the lesson that they play a part in each other’s success. Their attitude and mental positivity plays into how well they are going to do.”
Looking ahead the girls and their coaches know more hard work is needed to keep their momentum going. The route to the San Diego Crew Classic was filled with intense practices and tough work. Ferrer added, “the weekend showed their efforts paid off and they will continue to the rest of the year.”
Congratulations to the Junior Women’s JV 8+, and to all of the other SRA boats who competed at the San Diego Crew Classic. SRA is immensely proud of your work and can’t wait to see what we accomplish as a team in the spring racing months ahead.
The SDCC Experienced Girls 2V Lineup was as follows:
Coxswain: Lauren Lozier
Stroke: Kennedy Harder
7: Lexa Wendl
6: Megan Culbert
5: Kathryn Clemens
4: Alex Lalor
3: Kristina Snyder
2: Olivia Feistner
Bow: Grace Epp
Years later Creighton would move to Washington and have a family. In 2013 her daughter, Frances, joined Sammamish Rowing Association (SRA) and piqued Creighton’s interest in the sport. She said, “my daughter had started as a novice so I did Learn To Row (LTR). I’ve always done sports, but at 5’2” I had never thought of my height as a competitive disadvantage. Luckily my fellow rowers have welcomed me ,and I’ve found my vertical disadvantage can be overcome with hard work and and a good sense of humor.” As someone who loves the outdoors, she also enjoys how immersed in nature the sport is. “On a cold and wet day, when you come off the water soaking wet, we have our beautiful and warm boathouse to come back to”
For three years Creighton was on the mid-morning team, but switched to sculling because it seemed like the right fit for her light weight. SRA has four masters teams so adult members are able to row on the team that best fits their schedule. The teams are known as 5AM, Mid-Morning, Evening Competitive Masters (ECM), and Sculling.
“Rowing anchors my life now,” Creighton commented. Her daughter is off to college at Washington State, but Creighton and her husband Mark share responsibility for managing care for their son with a profound disability. “It’s a tough aspect of my life and it is really nice for me to have something I can count on. At SRA I am with people who make me laugh and bring me joy, which makes it easier to cope with these things.” SRA provides around 2 hours of practice time for our adults. During that time all concerns outside of the boathouse are forgotten and your focus is completely in the boat or on the erg.
Another draw to rowing is the longevity of involvement in the sport. At SRA we have rowers ranging in ages twelve to eighty! Since it is a low impact sport, many people find it to be a great alternative to the sports they used to enjoy but can no longer do for fear of injury. “It’s been really fun to see the people who are ahead of us to keep us going,” Creighton said. She looks up to older rowers and is excited to continue pursuing the sport she loves.
With her years of experience, Creighton had some final advice for new rowers. “Show up,” she said. “When you’re starting something new it can be hard to feel competent, but if you commit to showing up and participating with the team, it makes a big difference. Recognize that there could be people there that might be more serious than you are or better, but make it your own journey.” She also hopes that new members can appreciate how lucky we are with our Hod Fowler Boathouse, completed in 2016. Years of dedicated fundraising from rowers and their families have made it a reality for all new rowers to SRA to enjoy.
SRA is lucky to have members like Ann Creighton who light up our boathouse and add positive energy to their boats. Ann takes times to appreciate all aspects of our sport from the intricacies of technique to the simple wildlife viewings during practice. She can turn an unfortunate moment into a positive new outlook, and she enjoys the laughter she shares with teammates and friends. Thank you Ann for being a ray of sunshine at SRA even when skies are grey.
Our community also includes those who will never row, and those volunteers deserve just as much recognition. While they might not be getting PR’s on 2K tests every few weeks, their contributions can be just as impressive. Such is the case of Vanessa Harder, the SRA Volunteer of the Year for 2018.
Susan Freeberg spoke at the September 2017 mandatory parent meeting that Harder attended (as a novice parent), where Freeberg asked for someone to take charge and manage the food tent at regattas.
Since she was in the 7th grade, Harder has been volunteering, beginning with National Charity League (NCL) which is a mother – daughter philanthropy organization she joined with her mother. Fun fact, Harder and both her daughters have been a part of NCL here in Washington. Her donation of time and devotion to her community continued through high school, college, and up till now. When those emails kept flooding her inbox, looking for an SRA food tent leader, she felt like she should check it out. Harder said, “The thing is that it’s been with me for so long [volunteering] that giving back is part of who I am.” All her life, Harder had always focused on giving back to her community. She has logged far too many volunteer hours to count and has been involved in numerous organizations and sports. “My volunteering resume is more extensive than my career resume,” she said
A lot of what she does with the food tent, she had to learn herself; alongside her husband, or from other volunteers. Not only is she intensely focused on doing everything properly and in an organized manner, she also adds her own personal touch. She recalls once making several gallon sized zip-lock bags of homemade dry rub to flavor the steak and chicken for the chipotle style protein bowls, now know as “SRA Bowls” they had at the food tent for junior regionals last year. She focuses on staying away from pre-made food, and invests time in researching healthy, nutritious meals and snacks for the rowers and coaches.
Harder works in tandem with Pam Halverson, another junior parent, who is in charge of looking at food alternatives for athletes with allergies to ensure that every rower has plenty to eat regardless of the limits of their diets. Harder said, “We want volunteers to be happy. Getting parents engaged in the food tent and close to the racecourse makes them love it.” Harder and her husband contributed a gift to the food tent supplies- bright red Williams Sonoma aprons with the SRA logo on front. Donning these aprons, and red SRA hats, volunteers feel like they are truly part of the team as well- and they are.
Harder has taught her children to “leave everything better than you found it,” and she is applying the same principles to her volunteer work at SRA. She finds under buying food for regattas “unacceptable” and make sure every rower can have as many servings as they like to properly fuel for races, while also making sure she is fiscally responsible to stay within SRA’s budget. Her personal touch is seen everywhere from her hand crafted menus to the oatmeal bar wagon she plans to have at Regionals this year. Her desire to make volunteering at the food tent a pleasant experience has dramatically risen the number of parents who sign up to volunteer and wear the now famous red aprons.
Kennedy is finishing up her sophomore year so the Harder’s plan to be around a little while longer. However, Vanessa is already preparing to pass on the food tent baton. “When the time comes, I want to hand it off better than I found it”. For now, she is savoring every experience as her daughter continues participating in the sport she loves.
SRA has amazing athletes, no question about it, but we also have an incredible support system. People generously give their time, attention, and effort to make this organization, “better than they found it,” as Harder would say. Without our volunteers, much of what we do wouldn’t be possible. It truly takes a team- one made up of more than just athletes- to accomplish our mission. Thank you to Vanessa Harder, SRA’s 2018 Volunteer of the Year, and all of our volunteers for the outstanding work you do for our team.