Ben Delaney needed a solitary, tangible piece of evidence that all of his hard work and dedication accounted for something.
With the pressure mounting, Delaney settled into the stroke seat and headed out onto Melton Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Five minutes, 52.99 seconds and 2,000 meters later, Delaney found what he was looking for.
And in that moment, the Sarasota resident fell backward and began to cry.
As his teammates splashed water and cheered around him, the realization that Delaney had finally achieved what only a select few athletes ever achieve finally began to set in.
Delaney was a national champion.
Delaney and teammates Andre Dupuis, Nick Edwards, Jose Colon, Andrew Konecny, Maddux Castle,
Travis Taaffe, Ryan Hails and Benson Stevens won gold at the 2013 USRowing Youth National Championships June 7 to June 9.
The Crew finished ahead of Oakland Strokes (5:55.50) and Marin Rowing Association (5:57.15) to become the first Sarasota Crew team to win a national championship.
“Winning was confirmation that all of the work that I’ve put in through my entire rowing career finally paid off to something tangible,” Delaney says. “Everything I’ve done for the past four years has meant something, and I’m leaving a legacy here at Sarasota Crew. Everyone wanted it as much as I did. This has been a long time coming.”
The team finished second at last year’s national championships, and, ever since then, Delaney has been focused on making his final Sarasota Crew race count.
“We don’t train for states — we train for nationals,” Delaney says. “Hard work got us that win. You can’t really see any progression because there aren’t any races after (regionals), so we just had to work hard and trust the training plan.”
Delaney started rowing during his freshman year of high school, after his parents encouraged him to take up a sport. The former home-schooled student lived a mile from the Orlando Area Rowing Society, so that summer he decided to try the sport and he enjoyed it right away.
Delaney spent two-and-a-half years rowing for OARS, where he made the 2011 Junior World Championship team. In 2012, after moving to Sarasota, he joined the Crew.
Two months ago, after helping lead the Crew to another sculling state championship, Delaney approached his coach about moving from the fifth seat back to the stroke seat.
“My old coach never gave me a chance, and I thought maybe I could try something different,” Delaney says.
Following the transition to his new position, Delaney helped lead the Crew to a come-from-behind victory over rival Winter Park, one of the fastest clubs in the nation, at the sweep state championships.
The two boats were neck and neck before the Crew ended up trailing by about half of a boat length with 650 meters to go. Delaney and his teammates upped their stroke speed to 38 strokes per minute with 400 meters to secure the victory.
“We all wanted it and we knew losing was not an option. That was really the defining moment for us,” Delaney says.
Now with state, regional and national championships to his credit, and his final Sarasota Crew race behind him, Delaney will spend the summer preparing to head to the University of Wisconsin, where he was recruited to row for the Badgers.
“Right now I’m hoping to make the Olympic team,” Delaney says. “That would be one of the coolest things ever. That would be really awesome to do that.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].