Ben Kropelnicki said he got into rowing “because I found out I wasn’t good at other sports. In rowing you don’t have to be blessed with a lot of natural talent. It all comes down to who works the hardest.”

The St. Vincent High School graduate not only works hard, but he has discovered he is really good at rowing.

Kropelnicki and his teammates in the North Bay Rowing Club’s junior Lightweight Four boat worked hard enough, and were talented enough, to compete with the best in the nation at the USRowing Youh National Championships.

Competing at Lake Natoma near Sacramento, the Petaluma team — four rowers and the coxswain — won the C final and finished 13th overall in the nation. Competing for the Petaluma-based team were coxswain Ren Demsher, Miko Brown, Kropelnicki and brothers Patrick and Michael McDermottt. Demsher is going into his senior year at Credo, Brown is a junior at Petaluma High, Kropelnicki and Michael and Patrick McDermott are recent graduates, the McDermotts from Cardinal Newman.

Racing started with a time trial for all invited crews, The top eight teams advanced to the A/B semifinal. According to NBRC coach Will Whalen, the North Bay team struggled to find its stride and finished in 15th place in the time trials, relegating it to the repechage, where five boats competed with two moving on to the A/B finals.

North Bay held fifth place for the first half of the race before a strong move with 700 meters remaining drew it even with crews from Washington and Massachusetts. The local team managed to sprint to a narrow third-place finish with only 0.4 seconds separating it from the rest of the field.

Qualifying times from the other repechage put all qualifiers for the C Final within less than 3 seconds of each other.

In the C finals, North Bay drew a favorable lane, but again struggled at the outset. “Demsher called a decisive move halfway through the race that pushed the bow of North Bay’s boat into first place,” Whalen said.

The Petaluma team held on to finish first ahead of boats from Seattle, Miami, Boston, St. Louis and Bainbridge Island, Washington.

“The boys finished the season with a great win,” Whalen said. “I am really proud of the way our squad handled the event. The breadth and depth of the sport across the country is always astounding, and that makes it really exciting for the boys to compete on the national stage for the first time.”

To qualify for the nationals, the NBRC team took third place in the Southwest Junior Rowing regional championships.

“Getting to the national level is really an honor,” the coach said. “It is an indication of how hard they worked.”

Whalen said the trip to the nationals was a testimony to the strength of the entire club.

“The guys in the boat knew there were four guys right behind them pushing,” he said. “The competition within the club made it possible.”