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Mars native on cusp of making U23 World Rowing Championships national team

Mars native Blake Vogel competes in a rowing competition. Vogel is attending the U.S. Under-23 National Team Selection Camps this week, aiming to earn a spot in the U23 World Rowing Championships. Submitted photo

Medals are won in the winter, but collected in the spring.

That mantra sticks in Mars native Blake Vogel’s mind. A rising senior at the University of Washington, he’s attending the U.S. Under-23 National Team Selection Camps this week, aiming to earn the right to compete at the U23 World Rowing Championships in St. Catharines, Canada, next month.

Vogel earned a bronze medal in the coxed four — an event in a shell which fits four rowers and a steering coxswain — at the U23 World Rowing Championships in Bulgaria last year.

“The main priority is the eight, which will have, I think, at least eight other countries (competing),” Vogel said.

The U23 National Team is a tier down from the U.S. Rowing Senior National Team. Vogel has been in the program’s system since the U19 level and continuing in it would allow for projections on his placement for the higher level after college.

Vogel, a Central Catholic High School graduate, began in the sport when he was 14 and was drawn to the level of dedication it demands.

“Your performance is based on how hard you work,” Vogel said. “You can be naturally good at rowing, but you can also be really good at rowing just by working hard — even if you’re not naturally good at it.”

The main rowing season is in the spring, but preparation begins between summer and fall. Vogel likened the workload to a part-time job while he’s at school. The team is limited to 20 hours per week in organized training time with coaches.

“We are fortunate enough to be able to row all year round,” Vogel said. “The water in Seattle actually doesn’t freeze. ... Compared to schools on the East Coast, like the Ivy Leagues, they can’t because the rivers freeze here.”

The advantage, Vogel added, is evident later in the season.

“A lot of people don’t understand how much time and dedication it takes to do what we do at the level that we do it,” Vogel said. “You have to be perfectly in time with the eight other guys in the boat while you’re going as hard as you can to make this yellow shell goes as fast as possible.

“I’ve played multiple sports ... for sure rowing is definitely the hardest sport that I’ve done.”

Vogel has yet to decide his future in the sport. He’s waiting to make a choice until after his final exams.

“It’s always in the back of my mind,” Vogel said of maybe someday competing at the next level. “I really have to decide after college what I want to do. Because if I want to go the senior team route, then I would have to go down to California and train out of a boathouse with other Olympians — so I can train with the best of the best.

“Or if I’m satisfied with my rowing career, I just want to come back home to Mars.”

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