Burton Beach Pair Ready for First Youth Nationals

GOLD RIVER, Calif. — Two young athletes racing at the 2018 USRowing Youth National Championships come from the newly formed Burton Beach Rowing Club based in Vashon Island, Wash. Gabbie Graves and Kate Kelly are racing in the women’s youth pair this weekend at Lake Natoma before heading to junior national team camps this summer.

Graves and Kelly punched their ticket to the Youth National Championships after placing third in their final at the 2018 USRowing Northwest Youth Championships in Vancouver, Wash.

“They were fourth with about 300 meters to go, and they had a really good finish,” said Coach Richard Parr. “It was probably one of the best races at the regatta and to see the girls have the maturity and the confidence to back themselves in that final sprint was really good.”

Parr has worked as the volunteer coach for Burton Beach since its creation this past January. Graves and Kelly have been training for youth nationals, alongside the rest of Burton Beach Rowing Club, after their performance at regionals. The girls also have scrimmaged with crews like Seattle Prep.

“I think in preparation for nationals we’ve made a lot of technical changes together. It’s really nice because I can correct her and she can correct me,” Kelly said.

Only in ninth grade, this is Graves’ first time competing at youth nationals after rowing for a year and four months.

“It’s kind of overwhelming because I’ve never been here before, and it’s super cool seeing everyone here, especially teams from all over the nation that you never even knew existed,” Graves said.

Graves started rowing in eighth grade and is now going to Junior National Selection Camp after racing at Lake Natoma.

“I’m pretty nervous,” she said. “It’s going to be a big experience, and I’m going to meet a lot of super cool people that are really strong. I’ve never been surrounded by that many people, and it’s definitely going to be eye opening.”

Kelly picked up the sport when she tried a summer class and rowed in a double with one of her best friends. Last year, she placed ninth as bow of her pair at youth nationals. She is headed for Junior National Development Camp this summer.

“I’m really excited because I’m also going to work with people who are so much better than me, and I’m excited to improve alongside them,” Kelly said.

Parr is looking forward to seeing the girls learn from their nationals and camp experiences. Parr said that the girls’ individual strengths are what work together so well in making the boat strong.

“My main job with Gabbie isn’t to teach her much but to stop her from getting burnt out or getting injured because she’s incredibly self-motivated,” Parr said. “And, Kate’s only a 10th grader, but she’s sort of our team leader. She’s the mature one; she’s the bow of the pair. She does all the thinking and talking. She’s not as strong as Gabbie, but we really trust Kate to run the show, make smart choices and steer the boat. It’s a nice combination.”

Graves and Kelly will race for the first time at youth nationals on Friday at 8:21 a.m. in the time trial.

Check out the racing schedule for the 2018 USRowing Youth National Championships at https://www.herenow.com/results/#/races/20504/heats.

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