Mercer Islander earns gold at Jr. Crew Championships

Members of the winning Lake Union Crew boat include Michael Wales, second from right. - Contributed photo
Members of the winning Lake Union Crew boat include Michael Wales, second from right.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Islander Michael Wales won a gold medal after several rowers from Mercer Island performed well over the weekend, when they competed in the U.S. Rowing Junior National Championships near Cincinnati, Ohio. Island teens raced as participants in local rowing clubs. Wales rowed for the championship with the Lake Union Crew’s Men’s Lightweight-4 while two women’s boats featuring Islanders from Mt. Baker Crew raced as well.

Wales and his four teammates from the Lake Union Crew brought home gold medals on Monday as they won the national championship in Harsha Lake after finishing their final race with the time of 6:42.60, mid-Sunday morning. The group of teens won all their races en route to the final. The Sunday final was close to a repeat of the semifinal, said Wales. The Lake Union team beat teams from San Diego and Oakland, Calif.

Wales switched to the Lake Union Crew after previously racing with Mt. Baker, which he raced with in the national championships last year. Wales, who just finished his sophomore year at Seattle Prep, said the championship win was the cap to a great season.

“It’s been a great season. I’ve had a lot of fun, and our boat has been successful,” said Wales. “I didn’t feel like we rowed our best races, but we did row really well. The competition was really tight and while we were able to get out ahead, the difference between second and third was really close.”

In other races, Islanders fared well in the Midwest humidity. After winning their initial heats on Friday, a tough loss in their semifinal race took the Mt. Baker Crew Women’s Lightweight-8 boat out of contention for the final. However, the girls rebounded and raced their best time ever in their final. They placed seventh overall, but their best time was also the fourth best in the nation at 7:03.59. Islander Katie Caudle, who just graduated from Mercer Island High School and will be attending Santa Clara University in California this fall, rowed in the Lightweight-8 boat. Caudle said she was happy that the team was able to turn around their semifinal setback and win their consolation final. During the semifinal race, Caudle said their boat was in second but “caught a crab” — which is when one oar catches water, interfering with the boat’s momentum — and the team did not finish the race.

“It was hard. We were all crying. We were miserable,” said Caudle. “But we got it together and with the two other seniors and our coaches, we were able to make Sunday our best race ever. We took our frustration from the day before and turned that into motivation.”

In addition to Caudle and Wales, Islander Kyle Wunderlin raced with Lake Union as Lizzy Vincent and Margot Brown rowed in another Mt. Baker boat. Wunderlin placed 12th in the C-Final on Saturday in Lake Union’s Youth-4 boat. Vincent and Brown placed 11th in the Lightweight-8 final on Sunday with a time of 6:46.94.

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