Sequim rower Elise Beuke, 18, has given up a lot to be among the best.
The former Sequim senior missed graduation in June to compete at the U.S. Rowing Youth National Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla. But Beuke took second.
She chose training over another love, singing in the school select choir. Instead she would row early in the mornings for an independent physical education class as a graduation requirement.
Beuke also gave up sleeping in, eating junk food and valuable time with family and friends.
But now she’s on the U.S. Junior Championship team and all training to compete Aug. 5-9 in the World Rowing Junior Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She’ll ride double sculls with Bella Strickler from Detroit, who placed third behind Beuke at nationals in single sculls.
Giving up all these things, especially graduation was hard, Beuke said.
“But at the beginning of year I told people that I promised myself I wanted to go to nationals and I wanted to work hard,” she said.
“What’s cool about rowing, every single day you work really, really hard to run a course in 8 minutes. Even if I didn’t (do well at nationals) I wouldn’t have felt the training was wasted.”
Beuke has gotten some tastes of home though.
Her best friend Victoria Cummins used her phone to share their graduation night.
Beuke’s parents and two siblings visited her in Florida, too. But since then Beuke has been training seven days a week in the Northeast mostly in New Milford, Conn., she says.
After time trials against other top-notch rowers her age, Beuke was selected to live in a house with other rowers and compete in the world championships.
Her routine has been two practices a day in the morning and afternoon with some downtime for movies, reading and art. Sometimes afternoon practices are alternated for weightlifting.
The girls plans their meals and go to bed early.
“That’s how everyone likes to roll,” Beuke said.
Novice to the top
Last summer, the Gazette profiled Beuke as a newcomer to the sport where she was quickly coming up the ranks among the Olympic Peninsula Rowing Association headquartered on Port Angeles’ Ediz Hook.
She started rowing at an OPRA camp in 2013 as a sophomore.
Her mom Mary Beth Beuke said they enrolled their three children because they wanted them to stay active but Elise is the only one who stuck with it.
“It was a natural thing for her right away,” Mary Beth said.
“I remember her coming home saying, ‘Mom, thanks for raising me as a water baby.’ It was really a good fit for her.”
Looking back to the camp, Beuke said she “honestly had no idea about the world of rowing.” But Beuke felt she could be good at it.
“I’ve always been an athlete but never felt I found my sport until now,” she said. “It’s more mental than physical and I like how it pushes you further than you ever thought you could go. You finish practice and realize you could do more. There’s always another level.”
Beuke said her coach Rodrigo Rodrigues, who also co-coaches the U.S. team, compares the mentality to a book.
“It’s like turning the page and starting over again,” she said. “There’s another fun thing to achieve like a specific time or medal you want or a specific boat you want to be in.”
Beuke’s goals continue to change but she and Strickler are eyeing the finals at the world championships.
“We have just started rowing together so we’re still finding our rhythm,” she said.
“We want to be in the A final among the top six boats racing.”
She’s also considering the opportunity to row for the varsity crew for the University of Washington this fall where she was accepted to attend on scholarship.
“I think I want to win a NCAA championship at UW,” she said.
From competition to collaboration
Beuke said she is the most inexperienced among the girls readying for the World Championships, but she doesn’t notice it much.
“It definitely shows with the vocabulary,” she said. “There’s a lot of weird rowing terms that I don’t know but I just ask people, ‘What does that mean?’”
Some of the girls take a different approach from her, too, with some eating a specific way to whom they talk to before a race.
“My partner likes to talk a lot before a race but I don’t want to waste any energy before a race,” Beuke said. “I want to build up all my adrenaline before the start.”
After nationals, Beuke said she reminisced with Strickler about their first impressions of each other.
“She was talking to everyone and I was dead cold,” Beuke said.
“She thought I was quiet and nerdy. I remembered being so annoyed. Who is this chick blabbering her mouth at the national championships? We’re really opposite but it worked out really well.”
Beuke said there’s a lot of pressure on her but she recalls Rodrigues’ advice.
“I’ve done everything he’s told me, done baby steps and everything that he said would happen has happened,” she said.
“He’s shown me your limits are really not what you perceived them to be and that rowing is a mental sport.”
That attitude has helped make Beuke one of the top eight rowers her age in the U.S.
“When you’re in the situation like this it doesn’t seem like a big deal but when you step back you realize it’s something you never thought was possible,” she said.
For more information on competition times and possible live streaming, visit worldrowing.com.