Santa Barbara Community Rowing Moves on to Youth Nationals After Successful Weekend at Southwest Regionals

SBCR’s Jacie Dingman and Elsa Loya debrief with Coach Gracie Barbara after their nationals qualifying race at US Rowing Southwest Youth Regionals in Gold River, CA on Sunday, May 5, 2024 (Courtesy)

Two local rowers are heading to USRowing Youth National Championships after a stellar performance this past weekend at Southwest Youth Regionals in Gold River, CA.

Santa Barbara Community Rowing’s junior racing team members, Jacie Dingman (Dunn School) and Elsa Loya (Homeschooler and Classical Resource Learning Center student) are headed to nationals in Sarasota, FL, after qualifying on Sunday in the U17 double at the USRowing Southwest Youth Regionals in Gold River, CA.

After finishing 5th of 12 teams during the time trials on Friday, they went on to place 2nd in their semi-final on Saturday, and 4th in the finals, earning them a coveted berth at Youth Nationals next month.

This is especially noteworthy given their ages – Dingman is only 14 and Loya is 15 – and both were racing up an age category against some of the best teams in the country.

SBCR’s Jacie Dingman also won the U16 women’s single coming from behind to push past Redwood Sculler’s Gabriella Pate at the last minute. “She’s been doing that all weekend,” said coach Gracie Barbara, “coming out patiently and powerful and then really turning it up in the sprint at the end.”  It made for an exciting finish and, as the livestream commentary noted, SBCR is putting rowing on the map on the Central Coast in an area where we have historically not heard much about rowing.

While the U16 single is not a qualifying event for Youth Nationals, it still represents a level of technical and mental achievement given that the single scull is one of the trickiest boats to row.

Dingman and Hadleigh Bolton (Laguna Blanca School) layered on another medal, winning the U16 women’s double in another fast race. The two have been rowing together all year and have been dominant in this category this spring.

This is the second year in a row that SBCR has won the U16 women’s double category, with Dingman and Loya winning in 2023.

Diego Stephenson (Dunn School) competed in the Youth Men’s Singles and advanced to the semi-finals as a sophomore competing against juniors and seniors in a very fast heat.

Bolton and Loya also competed in the U16 and U17 women’s singles, respectively, where they placed 5th and 7th.

Dingman and Loya will now compete at the USRowing Youth National Championships at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, FL June 6th-9th, which is the most prestigious event in youth rowing and a showcase for the best of the best across the country who all converge on a highly professional course to test their mettle against peers from all across the country.

Many of the kids who compete there go on to collegiate and national teams and if you want to see some really fast races and what can be achieved in high school, this is the place to be.

Said Coach Gracie Barbara, “ We’ve got one month to perfect our racing plan and iron out any kinks from this past weekend. There are no guarantees at nationals and we can’t underestimate our opponents.”

Barbara went on to say: “I’m incredibly proud of our small group for putting in the work these past 8 months. These kids are rockstars and their gold medals are proof of their work ethic and patience. It’s easy to think these are individual efforts, but it’s the community we’ve built that directly impacted our performance. I could not be more excited about this program’s first time going to the national championship in Florida and I’m proud to be a part of their success.“

Santa Barbara Community Rowing is the only rowing organization in Santa Barbara County, based at Cachuma Lake. If you are interested in learning more about rowing, SBCR offers summer camps for youth ages 11+, as well as Learn to Row programs throughout the year for adults and kids. For more information visit:

SBCR’s Jacie Dingman and Elsa Loya with Coach Gracie Barbara (Courtesy)
Left to Right above: Jacie Dingman and Elsa Loya (Courtesy)


Gracie Barbara joined Santa Barbara Community Rowing as Head Coach after coaching at UCLA for one year. Barbara’s primary responsibilities at UCLA included leading the novice program and assisting in all aspects of varsity athlete development and program operation.

Prior to UCLA, Barbara, who graduated from Indiana University, spent three seasons on the women’s rowing coaching staff at the University of Alabama. She served as a graduate assistant for two seasons at the University of Louisville (2016-18) while obtaining her Masters degree in Sport Administration after having coached at T.C. Williams High School in Virginia.

While at Alabama, Barbara helped the Crimson Tide secure their first-ever appearance at the NCAA Championships after being selected as one of 12 at-large teams (combined with 10 automatic qualifying teams) in the annual 22-team regatta. Alabama finished No. 13 in the event, leading the way among a four-team tie thanks to the performance by the varsity eight crew in the petite final.

Alabama’s coaching staff was named the 2021 Regional Staff of the Year by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) in June of 2021. The Alabama women’s rowing program reached its first top-10 ranking in program history that season. For the second consecutive year, Alabama placed second at the Big 12 Championships, securing a medal in all four races on Decker Lake.

Barbara rowed for four seasons as an undergraduate at Indiana University (Bloomington, Ind.) from 2010-14. She helped the Hoosiers’ program qualify for the NCAA Championships for the first time in program history in 2014. Indiana’s program finished No. 11, overall. After graduating from Indiana, she returned to her high school – T.C. Williams (Alexandria, Va.) – to coach the women’s second varsity eight to a silver medal at the Stotesbury Cup and to a bronze medal at the 2016 Scholastic Nationals.

Hailing from Alexandria, Va., Barbara began rowing for T.C. Williams, where she served as team captain for two years. She medaled at the Virginia State Championships for five straight years and won a silver medal at the Stotesbury Cup. She also won a gold medal at the 2010 Scholastic Nationals.

Barbara graduated with her degree in kinesiology from Indiana in 2014. She also secured an undergraduate minor in coaching from the university’s School of Public Health.

Santa Barbara Community Rowing online: Website and Instagram

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