Mt. Baker fourth at Opening Day

Thomas Ehlers, a senior at MIHS and member of the Mt. Baker Crew team, will try out for the junior national team this summer. If selected he will row at the junior world championships in France in August. - Contributed photo
Thomas Ehlers, a senior at MIHS and member of the Mt. Baker Crew team, will try out for the junior national team this summer. If selected he will row at the junior world championships in France in August.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Members of the Mt. Baker Crew teams are preparing for the biggest race of the year, the regional championships. The event, held in Vancouver, Wash., is the first postseason race of the season. Seven Mercer Island High School students participate in the men’s and women’s teams, which recently took part in the University of Washington’s Opening Day events.

Local students include: Ai Tanaka, Thomas Ehlers, Luke Gering, Robert Capelluto and Cole Johnson, members of the men’s varsity 8s, and Lizzy Vincent and Jennifer Travis, members of the women’s varsity 8s.

At Opening Day in the boys junior club 8s division, Mt. Baker took fourth place with a net time of 6:16.9. The girls team, in the girls junior club 8s division, also took fourth with a net time of 6:53.1.

“It was like a big parade,” said men’s team coxswain Tanaka. The event drew thousands of spectators who view the race from both land and sea.

Girls team coach Jason Coffman said that while he never turns down an invitation to race at Opening Day, timing-wise it puts the team in a tough spot as they prepare for the biggest race of the year, the Northwest Junior Regional Championships during the weekend of May 15.

“It is one of the most unique spectacles in our sport, and the athletes eagerly anticipate racing there,” said Coffman of Opening Day. “The invitation to race at Opening Day was a reward for our performance at Brentwood, which I wanted them to enjoy. The challenge for me was to keep the expectations in check and allow them to enjoy the unique environment.”

He said that despite placing fourth behind two teams the girls had just beaten, he saw his team push themselves in the second half of the race when fatigue hit home.

“While I thought we probably could have handled that situation better, one thing I know about our crew this year is that they give everything they have in every race, and I know that to be the case here,” said Coffman. He added that it was so loud on the water, the crew couldn’t hear the coxswain at the front of the boat during the last 600 meters of the race.

Even though the team may not have finished where they wanted, the experience of Opening Day was worth it.

“The row back through the course after the race is an experience which stays with anyone who has had the opportunity,” said Coffman. He said that thousands of people watching from yachts and other boats during the first 1,200 meters of the course applauded the teams as they passed by after the race.

As the team prepares for the regional championship, Coffman said they will focus on preparing for the postseason, never forgetting that anyone can take home the top spot when another team is having an off-day. Tanaka agreed, saying that the boys’ focus would be “keeping on track like we normally do.”

“I think they took these lessons to heart, and I think they came away with some fond memories in the process,” he said.

Ehlers, a longtime participant with the Mt. Baker team, was recently invited to the junior national team selection camp, to be held in Princeton, N.J., this summer. As one of 26 rowers and coxswains from around the country invited to attend, he has the chance to be chosen to row at the junior world championships in France this August.

Ehlers plans to attend the University of California, Berkeley, this fall, where he will be a member of the crew team.

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