Personal Best: Rowers overcome odds to take silver at nationals 

Ariana Cravalho and Victoria Paterson are two athletes accustomed to digging deep, but they had never pushed themselves as hard as they did at the U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals. In their 120-pound boat with three NorCal Crew teammates, the two rising high school seniors qualified for nationals after a third-place finish at the May 7 Southwest Regionals in Sacramento.

The Redwood City-based boat was the only crew of the six in the June 13 lightweight 4-plus final at Cincinnati’s Harsha Lake not to have won its region. In the final, the team overcame a poor starting sequence to pull the upset and bring home the silver medal.

“We were all so into this race. We just found the inches that we needed,” said the 16-year-old Cravalho, a Notre Dame-Belmont High student and San Mateo resident.

“All of us just started pulling together,” added the 17-year-old Paterson, a Menlo School student and Hillsborough resident.

Their collective rhythm and power began to take hold at 500 meters, the quarter point of the 2,000-meter race. At 750 meters, NorCal had pulled from fifth place into a tie for third with the Long Beach Juniors, winner of the Southwest Regionals.

Coxswain Rachel Ersted then challenged her rowers.

“Silver or bronze, show me which one you want,” Ersted yelled.

“We just went for it,” Cravalho said.

NorCal passed Long Beach and went on to edge out the Sarasota Scullers to win the silver, posting a time of 7 minutes, 28 seconds, its best time of the regatta. The gold was captured by rowing powerhouse Connecticut Boat Club with a winning time of 7:23.

Coach Wayne Rickert’s training plan had worked.

“The five weeks between regionals and nationals was spent almost entirely on technique, rowing technique under intense effort, but technique nonetheless,” Rickert said.

In their final season at NorCal, Cravalho and Paterson will be fighting for seats in the lightweight 4-plus boat and a return to nationals. Nothing will deter these focused athletes, not even the 5 a.m. workouts or the breathless pain they experience during races.

“There’s something special about crew,” Paterson said. “Everyone has to be in sync, quiet and working together. Yet at the same time, it’s really an individual sport. You’re constantly pushing yourself to go further personally.”


NorCal Crew


What: Competitive rowing club for high school and junior high school students

Home base: Port of Redwood City, 1450 Maple St.  

Women’s team: Currently consists of 43 rowers on varsity; 25 on novice

Season: September-May, nationals in June; about one regatta per month in various cities


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David Liepman

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