Liberty’s Izzy Teal makes history for Renton Rowing Center

Teal, a senior, is the first rower to ever qualify for the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships from the Renton Rowing Center.

The waters of Lake Washington are home to one of the few crew rowing clubs in South King County. The Renton Rowing Center opened back in 2014 with the support of the George Pocock Foundation. Now, the Renton Rowing Center (RCC) is separate from the foundation and has run independently since January.

For the first time in its existence, the RRC is sending a rower to the U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals Championships. Liberty High School senior Isabelle Teal is the one to break through. She not only is the first representative to make the national event from Renton. She is the first rower to podium in the RRC short history at the Northwest Youth Championships.

“You always have race nerves. But they seemed to be amplified because I had the potential to do something really cool,” Teal said.

The RRC is home to about 40 youth athletes and 40-50 masters (adults) who take lessons and compete under the Renton Rowing Center moniker. Because the RRC is a smaller club in relation to other teams in Seattle, Executive Director Rachel Wong says she enjoys having a relationship with each athlete.

“Because we are a smaller group, I get to be a little bit more hands-on. I like it that way, it’s super important for me to be really hands-on and get to know the kids really well,” she said.

Teal has been rowing for almost seven years, and it started more as a hobby than something she was fully dedicated to all those years ago. “When I started it was just a fun activity for me to do. I was just here because I liked being on the water, I thought we would paddle board and kayak more,” she said.

Teal was one of 14 Renton rowers who reached the Northwest Youth Championship in Vancouver, Washington from May 19-21. She entered the final race needing to finish in the top four, and she turned it one when she needed to. “At 500 meters left, I was like, ‘this is it.’ I went as hard as I possibly could,“ Teal said.

Then brought on the elation, her coach said.

“I chose to run, I ran alongside her for the last 250 meters, and was just so… It wasn’t that she just qualified, but she medaled,” said Head Youth Coach Matt Oclander. “It’s the fact that she’s the third fastest in a really competitive region.”

Once the race was over, Teal had given her all to get to this point, and she said the relief and accomplishment she felt was something special. “As soon as I finished the race I was the most tired, but relieved, but also in pain. I looked over to the shore and saw my entire team losing their minds … It was overwhelming but in a good way.”

Getting a boat to nationals seemed like a long road for Executive Director Wong. She came on board with the RRC two years ago. “I wanted to get a boat to nationals. I didn’t think it would happen this quickly,” she said with a laugh. “But if anyone was going to do it. It would be Izzy.”

Teal, Wong and Oclander are all making the trip out to Sarasota, Florida for the race from June 8-11. The nerves for Teal are hard to find going into the biggest race of her career, she said.

“I’m surprisingly less nervous than I ever have been for a race. I’m sure it’ll hit me on the plane and all that. But I think no matter how I do, I’ve made it to the biggest race that I could as a youth athlete. I could place dead last and be perfectly happy,” Teal said.

During her sophomore year, she put the work in and realized that the sport could take her places. “My sophomore year, I started getting more serious. I could see progression in my own personal times and dedication,” Teal said.

“Previously I had never thought about rowing in college, ever. But then I was like ‘Okay this is a possibility for me.’ I want to do it. So I got really serious and have always been in love with rowing and just fell even more in love with it,” she said.

Teal is the first RRC rower to be recruited to college for rowing. That is something that Oclander and Wong hope opens the door for more of their youth rowers. “She and her co-captain are the first ever to be recruited and both by Seattle University to row,” Oclander said. “So they’re a couple of trailblazers.”

Having the need and want to be the best is Teal’s mentality going into the race week in Florida. “I’m going to do the best that I can, as a senior representing my boathouse.”

Izzy Teal out on Lake Washington for practice preparing for Florida. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Izzy Teal out on Lake Washington for practice preparing for Florida. Ben Ray / The Reporter