The best kept secret in the local sports scene occurs daily on the Lexington Boathouse and Reservoir, 15 minutes from downtown Los Gatos.
That’s the home base of the Los Gatos Rowing Club, which offers programs for all ages but is known for its outstanding high school talent. LGRC and its Club Varsity High School program had one of its most successful seasons ever in the recently completed 2022-2023 school year, qualifying eight boats to the top A-level finals—four of which came away with medals—at the Youth National Championships June 8-11 in Sarasota, Fla.
“It was a great weekend overall for our club,” LGRC Director Jaime Velez said. “I thought our athletes did an amazing job across the board. Yes, we would’ve loved to have a couple of national champions and one to two more medals, but the amount of work they put in charging down the course and being able to almost pull it off, from my standpoint I’m very proud of everything they accomplished.”
The program had three silver medalist boats: the men’s youth—which is 19-and-under and U18 combined—4x Quad (with coxswain), the men’s youth 4- (without coxswain) and the women’s 4-. The men’s 4x quad featured Miles Kramer, Ian Moss, Alberto Lasso and Jonas Thieme.
The first three all are recent Los Gatos High graduates and Thieme is a Bellarmine grad. Kramer (Syracuse), Lasso (Harvard) and Thieme (Dartmouth) are expected to row in college. The men’s 4- had Leonard Shetler, Oliver Powell, Kyle Brown and Diego Lasso, the latter two incoming Los Gatos High seniors.
Shetler is an incoming senior at Saratoga High and Powell (Bellarmine) was the only graduated senior of the quartet, and he’s expected to row at Georgetown. The women’s youth 4- featured Annika Sivi, Brynna Ruf, Julia Kiplinger and Sarah Drabkin.
Kiplinger (Los Gatos) and Ruf (Mitty) are recent graduates and expected to row in college—Kiplinger at the University of Portland—while Sivi and Drabkin are incoming Los Gatos seniors. The men’s U16 Coxed quad team of Liam Austin, Cameron Degraff, Cameron Brown, Nicholas McKinnon and Simon Stokes took home a bronze medal.
The women’s youth 4x boat of Ashley Olson, Eleonora Fasoli, Lucy Boillet and Uma Kasik finished in fourth place. Lindsay Bader, an incoming St. Francis High junior, took 31st place in the women’s U17 single.
The women’s U15 coxed quad of Sophia Juarez, Rylan Clevenger, Lexi Pirooz, Lena Vantress and Natalie Dischler took sixth place. The women’s U16 coxed quad boat of Aretha Liu, Jenna Yoder, Ines Madson, Julia Valencia and Mariana Teh finished in eighth place.
The men’s U17 quad of James Tiglao, Cormac Nolan, Rushil Ramachandran and Tanav Shankar placed 27th, while the women’s U17 coxed four of Emerson Adams, Harriet Cheetham, Scarlett Coke, Alexandra Buchowski and Kyra Cherlopalle finished fifth with a terrific performance. Taj Chunawala served as a spare.
Velez deflected attention and credited coaches Channing Walker and Matt Pinschmidt for guiding the high school rowers to continued development and success.
“Channing and Matt are the ones really driving the youth program,” Velez said. “They’re the head coaches but we have an amazing coaching staff for high schoolers all across the board.”
The athletes train year-round to qualify for Nationals, the premier event for high school rowing. Los Gatos reached Nationals after a strong showing in the Southwest Regional Championships, which is one of the strongest regions in the country despite rowing still being an East Coast-dominated sport.
The Southwest Region features competitors from California, Arizona, Utah and Hawaii. LGRC draws athletes from 30 different high schools including Bellarmine, Mitty, St. Francis, Notre Dame, Westmont and Leigh.
Velez said there are 120 high school rowers in the program, another 120 adults and approximately 50 middle schoolers. In a typical year, LGRC has a handful of graduating seniors who end up rowing in college.
Rowers tend to latch onto the sport after growing up with a different sport. According to Velez, rowing’s appeal revolves around how far an athlete can advance by simply having an indefatigable work ethic.
“Rowing really rewards people who put in the work and stay the course in training,” he said. “You think about ball sports and at some point people that have the natural ability kind of take over. Our athletes train five to six times a week year-round. For the most part, they’re training all the time and the number of hours they devote to the sport is remarkable.”