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Newport Sea Base’s Rybus twins qualify for World Rowing Championships

Clay (left) and Sean Rybus of Newport Sea Base race in the Under-19 Time Trial in Florida.
(Courtesy of U.S. Rowing)

Twin brothers Clay and Sean Rybus are lightweight rowers, meaning each has to weigh less than 150 pounds to compete.

There were no such requirements when the Rybus twins stepped into the Under-19 National Team Rowing Trials in Sarasota, Fla.

“There were guys that were way stronger than Sean and I, way bigger, way faster,” Clay said. “That was a big challenge for us to overcome. One way we were able to do that was learn how to row the boat in perfect sync and work on our swing.”

The 17-year-old twins, incoming seniors at Newport Harbor High School who represent Newport Sea Base Rowing, proved that size doesn’t always matter.

They placed first at the trials on Wednesday in the junior men’s double division, booking their ticket to Bulgaria in August for the 2021 World Rowing Junior Championships.

Clay sits in the stroke seat and Sean in the bow seat in the two-man boat. They are coached at Newport Sea Base by James Long-Lerno, a Long Beach native who rowed at Orange Coast College and later at Cal.

Charlie Koontz, the duo’s assistant coach, will be a senior in the Georgetown University rowing program.

“James was on the U23 national team in college, so he’s really excited to see that all of his coaching has paid off,” Sean said. “His job is rewarding right now.”

Making the U19 national team was the culmination of several days of competition for the Rybus twins. At the same site in Sarasota last weekend, they finished fifth in the USRowing Youth National Regatta.

From left, Clay Rybus, coach James Long-Lerno and Sean Rybus.
From left, Clay Rybus, coach James Long-Lerno and Sean Rybus.
(Courtesy of Newport Sea Base Rowing)

Clay and Sean finished first in the U19 1,900-meter time trial Wednesday morning against five other teams, including Maritime Rowing Club of Connecticut, Malvern Prep School of Pennsylvania, Sarasota Crew and Oak Neck Academy’s two teams from New York.

That afternoon, Sea Base’s twins won by six seconds in the 2,000-meter final race.

“We didn’t know what the crews were going to bring out, because we haven’t really raced them before,” Sean said. “But Clay and I knew that if we just went out hard in the first 1,000, it would be our race. Previously, we were having trouble doing that, so we just went out hard and did our best to get first place.”

Clay said neither of the twins has ever been outside the country, so going to Bulgaria should be quite an experience. They have been training together in a two-man boat since last summer, during the coronavirus pandemic, after originally starting to row as freshmen.

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Clay said. “I know once I get all my gear and I start training with other teams, it will start to hit me. I’m super-excited to meet other people that row.

“I think it will be cool to see all of the other countries. One thing that people do when you go to worlds is they trade uniforms with each other, so I think it would be really cool to get a bunch of national merch from other teams.”

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At the Youth Nationals in Florida, Newport Aquatics Center’s varsity eight teams in both genders each earned top-10 finishes.

The boys’ team of coxswain Adam Casler, Johnny Sherburne, Jake Bascaglio, Cannon Kenney, Will Deutschman, Aidan Murphy, Kian Aminian and Zach Vorrath placed sixth in the nation.

The NAC girls’ varsity eight of coxswain Hannah Hykes, Miya Meskis, Fiona Batstone, Gabby Babin, Sheya Lavin, Melissa MacKenzie, Annie Buda, Chloe Zollman and Skylar Wilkison finished ninth.

It was the first NAC girls’ varsity eight to make nationals since 2016.

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