From Trauma to Trials in under a year.
On July 6, 2016, one day before the SoCal Scullers Men’s Lightweight Quad was scheduled to drive to the east coast for USRowing National Trials, Galen’s life was changed in a moment from a high-impact car crash. Any thought of competing for Team USA suddenly came with a question mark as the small truck sailed through the air, rolling and skidding to a hard stop after colliding head on with a newer car.
The X-rays were chilling. Galen suffered two broken femurs (one clean, one shattered) and feet (one messy, one less so), and his teammate, Nick Wnek, also in the car, suffered a bruised lung, broken vertebrae and significantly injured ankle. Thanks to quick action by their coach, Dan McGill, and response by local emergency teams, however, both rowers admitted to UC Irvine Medical Center, where incredible Trauma surgeons, nurses, and a slew of case managers put them solidly on the road to recovery. And though SoCal did send a crew, Galen missed out on 2016 Trials, and from a hospital bed, pondered whether or not he’d ever have another chance.
Fast forward to 2017 USRowing National Trials, and he’s back, with Danny Madden (who also overcame significant health challenges in 2016). Not only did they make it to National Trials, they made earning their spot on the US Team look easy, winning by several seconds.
Galen Bernick’s comeback to elite rowing is the happy result of a series of fortunate events, and a tremendous amount of determination. For him, this opportunity to row at U23 World Championships is a second chance at a dream, proof to the world that he can row with the best, and able to see that from here, every challenge, no matter how great, will look more doable – and more like a speed bump in the rear view mirror.
This is a very big deal; he is the first Arizona junior rower to qualify for Worlds since 2010 (see Sophie Heywood). From August 6-10, 2014, Galen will be participating in the World Rowing Junior Championships held in Hamburg, Germany.
Galen is a Tempe Town Lake rowing success–an AZ underdog’s/hero’s journey–and he could not have kept rowing without the support we got from family and friends.
Galen began rowing in 2009 through the City of Tempe, in the Tempe Town Lake Rowing (TTLR) Juniors program. He came home from the first week of practice under Alicia Stuebner (now Alicia Jerger) and said “I LOVE this sport—and I think I could be really good at it!” We knew then it was love, and we were all in. He improved his technique there under Coaches Pete Cannia and Sarah Hunt, then continued on to Tempe Junior Crew (TJC) in 2012. Coaches Lucas Duncan, Morten Larsen and Pete Cannia helped him qualify for USRowing’s Youth National Championships for three years running, first as bow seat in TJC’s Jr. Men’s Quadruple scull (“quad,” or 4x, in 2012, with Trevor Day, Connor Mitchell, and Sean Crimmins), then as stroke in TJC’s Jr. Men’s Lightweight Double scull (2x, in 2013, with Trevor Day), and this year in a single scull (1x, in 2014) where he took fourth in the Grand Final. His attendance was made more affordable in each case through the generosity of Tempe Rowers Association (TRA), who provides scholarships to Arizona rowers as funds are available.
Each year he set his aims higher. To make the next level up, he practiced harder and participated in critical opportunities outside the usual team season, including attending USRowing Identification (ID) Camps camps to get on coaches’ radar, Development Camps (“Dev Camp”) at Seattle Rowing Center (SRC) (by invitation), and a Small Boat Development Camp in Mexico (via SRC)]. He and a TJC teammate also took 7th place in the Jr. Men’s Double (2x, with Chase Harris) at the 2013 Head of the Charles Regatta with guidance from his proxy coach Lyn Krahulec, and hands-on support from SRC’s Conal Groom and SoCal Scullers coach Dan McGill that included a generous loan of oars from Braca Sport.
The much-hoped-for invitation to the Selection Camp for the National Team came after his race at the USRowing Southwest Junior District Championships (SW Regionals), and he left the week after Nationals for Seattle. There, the newly-minted 2014 alumnus of TJC qualified first for Trials in the double, and now he’s headed for Worlds. [An aside, because people often ask: Yes, he plans to continue to row at university this fall–and is hopeful about competing in the U-23 age category. He graduated from, Tempe High School and is now headed for Mercyhurst University this fall – about a week after he returns from Worlds...].
In addition to funding Galen, this is a thank you to everyone who made this possible. Galen is astonishingly good at rowing, it turns out—good enough to qualify for World Rowing Junior Championships, and to represent Arizona and the USA in rowing. That’s pretty amazing. And pretty surprising to anyone who looks at a map and says “but wait, isn’t Arizona a desert?” The irony of us moving to the Arizona desert is that it opened a whole new world on the water–one we never imagined could be so integral to shaping his future.
Galen’s rowing success is something Tempe and Arizona can be very proud of. To whatever extent it’s possible to do so, we’d like to share our appreciation, to use this opportunity for Galen to set a bigger, more collaborative precedent — make this inaugural crowdfunding effort the core ingredient in an “anti-kryptonite” campaign for supporting even more rowers in Arizona.
We are excited to watch what happens on the international stage, and wish Galen luck!
Want to help him keep dreaming? Donate here:
Questions? Comments? Ideas? Email us!