The vibrations from the voices of screaming fans could be felt on the dock.
The 2022 USRowing Youth National Championships descended on Nathan Benderson Park June 9-12. It was the organization's — and therefore the sport's — largest youth championships, with the top 3,500 rowers in the country in competition, representing 210 clubs.
To get there, athletes had to qualify through regional races. It took a lot of work just to make nationals, and Lakewood Ranch was represented by three athletes who did.
Sophia Stock, Sophie Bell and Gabe Naguib, all Lakewood Ranch athletes who row for Sarasota Crew, didn't make it to the A division Finals, but they put on a strong showing nonetheless. Stock raced on the Women's Youth Second Varsity 8+ team, which finished sixth in the event's B Final (7:04.09).
Bell raced with the Women's Youth 4- team, which finished third in the event's D Final (7:45.50), and also for the Women's U17 4x team, which finished first in the event's C Final (7:39.40). Naguib raced for the Men's U15 4x+ team, which finished fourth in the event's B Final.
Stock was thrilled to be part of the event. It was her second time at the nationals meet, but in some ways, it was like her first. Because of COVID-19 canceling many events in 2021 and cutting down on practice time, last year's event did not have qualifiers. Anyone who wanted could race. It made the event feel less special than she was expecting. Since Stock and her teammates had to qualify this year, being on the water was much more satisfying.
Her boat's finish was good, too. It was the first year that the Women's Youth Second Varsity 8+ has been an event at the Youth Nationals, though it is an established part of events like the NCAA Championships. The event is meant to test each club's depth, asking them to fill a second 8+ boat with different members than its regular 8+ boat. Stock said it was fun to be a "guinea pig" for the event at the youth level.
"I think we did well," Stock said. "We didn't know what to expect. Making the B Finals was a good result for the first time doing this. We didn't have a standard for this before. Now we do."
Rowers from Sarasota, which makes up most of the Crew, had even more success, most of all the duo of Maeva Ginsberg-Klemmt and Maya Schultz, who won the national championship in the Women's U17 2x event. Ginsberg-Klemmt said the pair found out shortly after the Southeast Championships qualifying event May 14-15 that they would be paired together for the doubles boat. As a result, the duo did not get much time on the water to practice their synchronization. It didn't matter. The pair had raced together before, including at last year's nationals on the U17 Women's 8+ team, which took a bronze. They are also, as Ginsberg-Klemmt said, best friends. That helps, too.
Schultz said the pair compared their times to other clubs' boats before the event and came out favorably, but that comparison only goes so far, as it is hard to factor in wind and race pace to pure data. After winning their Youth Nationals time trial on June 9 by approximately 12 seconds (7:35.60), the pair began to believe a gold medal was actually possible. The A Final proved it: Ginsberg-Klemmt and Schultz finished in 7:36.96, more than four second faster than second place Norwalk River (7:41.12).
"All I remember after crossing the finish line is Maya (Schultz) letting go of her handles, leaning back and saying 'We did it,'" Ginsberg-Klemmt said. "And I just looked into her eyes. It was such a content feeling. It was special. We pulled each other the whole way."
Both Ginsberg-Klemmt and Schultz said the feeling of being a national champion is still sinking in, but the designation is undeniably meaningful for two rowers who have been working for years to reach the sport's peak, and now have done so.
"I think I raced in a double in one event this year before this weekend," Schultz said. "We were just thrown into this. It's all so unexpected and crazy, but I'm so happy."
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.