Clay and Sean Rybus missed their graduation from Newport Harbor High School last week.
The Rybus twins had a good reason for doing so. They were too busy winning a national championship.
“It wasn’t too hard of a choice,” Clay Rybus said.
Clay and Sean were part of the Newport Sea Base Rowing team that won the US Rowing Youth National Championships in the men’s youth 4x division on Sunday in Sarasota, Fla. They teamed with senior Ryan Martin of Pacifica Christian High and junior Aiden Domingo of Fountain Valley High to form the winning quad.
There were more local success stories at the regatta. The Newport Aquatic Center men’s varsity eight finished second in the country. The NAC women’s varsity eight took fifth place in the nation, their best performance at nationals in program history.
The Newport Sea Base group, which finished the 2,000-meter race in 6:04.739, was coached by James Long-Lerno. The youth 4x team finished off an undefeated season that included victories at the Pacific Invitational, San Diego Crew Classic and Southwest Regionals.
“It was a real surreal moment, but I knew that we had the speed,” Clay Rybus said. “We’d been racing the crews that we raced against in the ‘A’ final all year. All we had to do was just go our speed. It was nice to go and set down a really good time, make everyone else proud that helped us get all the way. It’s definitely been a long year, but it was nice finally crossing that finish line and being able to say that we finally did it.”
After the conclusion of youth nationals, the Rybus twins stayed behind to race in the Under 23 National Team Trials. That’s usually a college-level event, but Clay and Sean still placed first in the men’s lightweight 2x trials.
As such, the Georgetown-bound twins qualified for the World Rowing Under-23 Championships, held in Varese, Italy in late July. Last year, they raced in the U19 world championships in Bulgaria.
The Newport Aquatic Center men’s varsity eight, which was runner-up to a boat from Greenwich, Conn., featured Princeton University-bound senior coxswain Adam Casler. The other seniors were Johnny Sherburne of Pacifica Christian High (Boston University), Will Deutchman of Newport Harbor (Cal), Davis Schroeder of Newport Harbor (OCC), Kai Blom of Futures Academy and Zach Vorrath of Crean Lutheran (Cornell).
Juniors Travis O’Neil of Back Bay, Kian Arminian of Fairmont Prep and James-Anthony Chavos of Orange Lutheran also aided the cause of the runners-up, who finished in 5:50.68.
“It was a little tough for our guys,” NAC coach Nick D’Antoni said. “We’d been undefeated all year, so I think they kind of got their heads and hearts set on one place higher. All things considered, though, I thought that was a really strong showing. You’re still second in the nation. Nothing to be ashamed of, by any means. They’re just a really ambitious bunch.”
D’Antoni said Casler, O’Neil, Arminian, Deutchman and Schroeder are currently competing at the national team selection camp in Chula Vista. Casler and O’Neil were part of the men’s eight that won gold last summer in Bulgaria at the World Rowing Junior Championships.
The top NAC women’s boat, led by junior coxswain Hannah Hykes of Corona del Mar High, finished fifth in its historic race. Other Sea Kings on the boat, coached by Garrett Pickard, included juniors Millie Clark, Kat Odeen and Ruby Srinivasan.
Columbia-bound senior Annie Buda of Orange Lutheran, Duke-bound Newport Harbor senior Chloe Zollman and Tennessee-bound Newport Harbor senior Sheya Lavin also aided the cause, as did Newport Harbor junior Vivi Spitz and Huntington Beach sophomore Charlotte Dosier.
“Having our last race of the season be in the grand final of youth nationals, racing against the top other five boats in the nation is a huge accomplishment,” Hykes said. “It is a testament to all of our hard work and hours of training.”
The Youth Nationals regatta in Florida featured 778 entries in 34 events, comprising more than 3,500 athletes.
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