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Students from across Lake Oswego headed to Florida on June 11 and 12 to compete against rowing teams from around the U.S. 

The student-driven Lake Oswego Community Rowing club headed to the Youth Nationals on June 11 and 12 and broke local records. 

Lake Oswego Community Rowing is a nonprofit rowing club from Charlie S. Brown Water Sports Center on the Willamette River. This year, 18 young Lake Oswego rowers headed to nationals in Sarasota, Florida, where they competed against teams across the United States. In May, the team secured its spot after high scores at the NW Regionals in Vancouver, Washington. 

"I am so proud of all the time and effort my qualifying boats have contributed to work towards this goal. There have been a lot of ups and downs along the way, but it feels great to earn the external award of attending nationals this year," said Kate Birdsall, an incoming sophomore at Lakeridge High School. 

The team qualified seven boats for the competition, but took only six to Florida. This was still a new record for the team, according to director of rowing Simon Hoadley. 

And during the weekend-long competition, the rowing team took collective and individual awards. Almost every single boat rowed by Lake Oswego team members placed above bronze.

"It's nothing short of rewarding to see all the hard work that we've put in over the years finally pay off. All of the youth athletes have been working really hard all year to do well at regionals. I feel really blessed to have this opportunity," said Kai Nickell, a Lake Oswego High School incoming sophomore.

Owen Benincosa, a student from Lake Oswego High School, earned an individual second place finish in the semifinals. This was the first medal the team has taken home since 2007. 

"It feels fantastic and really exciting (to go to nationals), in terms of just being able to demonstrate to the athletes the amount of talent that I see as their coach. Through COVID, there was a bit of lack of belief that the team could achieve at a high level. So this has really been a bit of a transformational moment for the team and they're all quite excited to train hard and fast the next year,"  Hoadley said. 

Beyond performance success, Hoadley said that the team's trip to nationals was also a push to motivate team members.  

"We are not purely about performance. We've achieved all of this on the back of trying to be a community-focused club and create pathways for everyone on the team. A lot of the rowers came in as people who only wanted to do it once or twice a week, but just developed a passion for the sport. So some of the people here motivated themselves to get to this stage and compete in nationals — and that is really powerful,"  Hoadley said. 

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