The Everett Rowing Association’s varsity men’s 8-plus-cox boat (from left) Justin DeHart, Elijah Hellman, Ethan Senn, Andrew McCartney, Owen Moody, Ethan Miedema, William Sweeney and Dylan Stengel pause after a brief warm-up during a May 31 practice on the Snohomish River in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Everett Rowing Association’s varsity men’s 8-plus-cox boat (from left) Justin DeHart, Elijah Hellman, Ethan Senn, Andrew McCartney, Owen Moody, Ethan Miedema, William Sweeney and Dylan Stengel pause after a brief warm-up during a May 31 practice on the Snohomish River in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Unheralded local crew to compete at USRowing nationals

The undersized Everett Rowing Association’s varsity 8 boat beat the odds to compete for a title.

Just think of them as the Bad News Bears of the water.

The Everett Rowing Association men’s varsity 8 plus cox team is the definition of a sporting misfit. There are no NCAA Division I rowing coaches beating down the team members’ doors. When they go to races they usually find themselves looking up at their taller and more physically-imposing competition. Heck, the team was struggling so much in the fall that it even lost one race to its own JV boat.

But Everett has embraced its ragtag persona, and the team is taking it all the way to Florida.

Everett’s men’s varsity 8 boat is headed to the 2019 USRowing Youth National Championships this week in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, as the regional champs. Racing begins Thursday and continues through Sunday at Nathan Benderson Park, site of the 2017 World Rowing Championships.

And Everett is the team no one thought would be headed to Florida when the spring season began.

“You would have said we were a sixth-place boat, because we had a pretty rough fall season,” Everett youth men’s coach Patrick Secor said. “But the thing that’s most impressed me is they didn’t let the fall dictate their main goal.”

The Everett men’s varsity 8 went where only one previous boat from the club ever went before when it took first place at the USRowing Northwest Youth Championships on May 18 in Vancouver, Washington. It was just the second time in club history that an Everett boat won a regional title in the event, the other time coming in 2011.

“It feels kind of historic,” team member Ethan Miedema, a senior at Bothell High School, said. “Especially because in the fall we weren’t very good, if I’m being frank.”

Indeed, Everett did not take a traditional path to nationals.

Everett was coming off a season in which it qualified for nationals, placing 11th in Cordova, California. However, just one rower — Arlington junior Ethan Senn — returned from that boat in the fall, and the team just couldn’t get things right. The team went to the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston in October and placed a distant 49th. It participated in the San Diego Fall Classic in November, where the varsity boat was smoked by Everett’s JV boat. The idea of Everett making a return to nationals seemed laughable.

A patch of sunlight illuminates Andrew McCartney during the Everett Rowing Association’s varsity 8 boat’s May 31 practice on the Snohomish River in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A patch of sunlight illuminates Andrew McCartney during the Everett Rowing Association’s varsity 8 boat’s May 31 practice on the Snohomish River in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

But during the winter things started to change. Andrew McCartney, a senior at Arlington who, like Senn, was a member of last year’s team that went to nationals, returned to the fold to give the team another strong rower. Aidan Richer, a freshman at Everett who’s a newcomer to the sport, was installed as cox. And the team got serious about training.

“Our thought process was our fall season wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be,” Archbishop Murphy junior Elijah Hellman said. “But we all showed up for winter, our attendance was amazing, and we kind of had that mentality of, ‘Everyone thinks we’re bad, so let’s show them what we’re made of and what we’re here for.’”

A man watches the Everett Rowing Association’s varsity 8-plus-cox boat team with binoculars during a May 31 practice on the Snohomish River in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A man watches the Everett Rowing Association’s varsity 8-plus-cox boat team with binoculars during a May 31 practice on the Snohomish River in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The minor lineup tweaks, along with some repositioning within the boat, were made for the start of the spring season. Everett won its first race, then just kept on winning — Everett had only one race this spring it didn’t win.

Meanwhile, the entire club was following suit, and it culminated with a regional regatta in which Everett nearly swept every race — Everett won the varsity and JV 8s and finished second in the third 8s, and though Everett was forced to withdraw from the varsity 4 it won the JV 4, third 4, fourth 4 and fifth 4.

No one could point to a specific reason for the dramatic turnaround beyond finding the right chemistry.

“It wasn’t so much getting more fit, it was just our mindset and what we call the X-factor,” Senn said. “There’s your technique on the water, there’s your fitness, and there’s the X-factor where things kind of magically happen together. We all knew that last year we qualified the 8 for nationals, so let’s do it again this year. We also had a ton of guys step up from fall to spring. We have some guys who were 3V and JV last year who have gotten a lot better.”

Dylan Stengel (left) and William Sweeney talk with Ethan Miedema (seated) as they get into their boat before a May 31 Everet Rowing Association practice on the Snohomish River in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Dylan Stengel (left) and William Sweeney talk with Ethan Miedema (seated) as they get into their boat before a May 31 Everet Rowing Association practice on the Snohomish River in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett has done it while continuing to be the runts at most competitions.

“A lot of the other boats are very large guys, and we don’t have a lot of guys with high (ergometer) scores, so it’s definitely more of the boat working together and flowing,” Owen Moody, a sophomore home-schooler from Everett, said. “We enjoy being the underdogs a bit because we aren’t the most spectacular or fancy team — or the largest team, we have a fairly small program — but we still manage to pull it out.”

Everett has modest goals for nationals, with most team members saying they’d be thrilled if the boat was one of the six that qualified for the A final.

“We’ve seen that since we’re the fastest in the region and we’re doing better than we did last year, we could definitely make top 10 at nationals,” Kamiak sophomore Dylan Stengel said. “But I don’t have any personal goals at nationals other than to beat the crews we’ve already beaten.”

Just don’t underestimate Everett. The team has proven it can defy expectations.

If you have an idea for a community sports story, email Nick Patterson at npatterson@heraldnet.com.

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