Riding a wave of discovery

Camas rowers compete at nationals in Tennessee

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After seven months of rowing, Kayla Yraceburu advanced to the U.S. Rowing Junior Nationals June 10 to 12, on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The Camas High School graduate took third in the women's youth single "B" final.

Kayla Yraceburu missed her Camas High School graduation ceremony for a good reason.

On the day her friends and classmates received their diplomas, she was skimming the surface of the water with the best in the nation at the U.S. Rowing Junior Nationals June 10 to 12, on Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

The former Papermaker finished third in the “B” consolation final of the women’s youth single, with a time of 8 minutes, 52.48 seconds. This made her the ninth fastest individual rower in the nation in her event.

“I had a lot of fun over there,” Yraceburu said. “I’m still pretty new to the sport, so I was just soaking it all in.”

Hard to believe, but Yraceburu has only been rowing at Vancouver Lake for about seven months. What started as an activity to do with her brother and sister to stay in shape after high school swimming has guilded her in a new direction. The metamorphosed swimmer will attend the University of Oklahoma City on a rowing scholarship.

“There are a lot of opportunities for rowing in college that I didn’t even know about,” Yraceburu said. “Once I started getting offers, things got a little bit crazy. I started looking at rowing programs, and pretty much restarted the whole college application process in a limited amount of time.”

After a visit to the Oklahoma City campus, Yraceburu said it was the perfect fit. Her experience at nationals only motivates her to get stronger during the summer so she can go faster by the time she gets to college.

“I had never been to a level of competition like that in anything before, not even swimming,” Yraceburu said. “You’re in there with the best rowers in the country. It’s fun to keep training and try to get faster. Hopefully, I’ll be as fast as them some day.”

Two other Vancouver Lake Crew rowers also competed at nationals. Sawyer Schultz of Camas and Sarah Wu of Vancouver teamed up to finish fourth in the “C” consolation final of the women’s lightweight youth double, with a time of 8:26.79. It was the last race for Wu before she goes off to college.

“I’m sad to see Sarah go. We both share the same reign, and she’s definitely become one of my best friends,” Schultz said. “It’s great getting to travel and represent this side of the country. You think you’re ready, but there’s always room for improvement. It’s just a really good experience you can’t get anywhere else.”

Schultz, a junior, has been rowing for about three years.

“On a nice day, it’s nice to be out on the water,” she said. “You can get so busy with school work and life. When you get out here, you can put all of your concentration into being on the water and going as fast as you can. Then, it’s a great day.”

Schultz enjoys doing something that is unique. It is what made rowing stand out to her when she was in between other sports.

“I’m pretty sure most of my friends don’t even know what rowing is, but they’re always supportive,” she said. “It takes a lot of dedication, but it’s something fun and different to tell people about.”

Yraceburu discovered rowing in just the nick of time. Sometimes she wonders how different things would be had she uncovered that potential sooner. But life is too short to live with regrets. Yraceburu would rather ride this wave of discovery.

“Had I gotten into this earlier, I might have done better at nationals. But I also really love swimming and wouldn’t have wanted to give that up,” she said. “Multiple college coaches have told me swimmers make the best rowers. If I wasn’t a swimmer, I definitely wouldn’t be a rower.”