Walter Banfield did his job by qualifying for the World Rowing Championships—now he’s hoping for a little help defraying the costs of competing internationally.
A 21-year-old student-athlete who attends Dartmouth College, Banfield is a resident of Wake, Virginia, but has numerous family ties to the East End, including his grandmother Norma Edwards of Springs, and his aunt and uncle, Kathleen and Charles Marder. Banfield won the Under 23 Singles National Lightweight Rowing Finals in Princeton, New Jersey, back on July 21, defeating the reigning champion, Hector Formoso-Murias, by almost seven seconds, to advance to the World Rowing Championships, which are to be held in Rotterdam, Netherlands, from August 22 to 27.
Banfield began rowing his freshman year of high school at Christchurch School in Christchurch, Virginia, and it wasn’t necessarily his decision. He initially signed up for a running team but someone crossed his name out and put it on the list for crew. That someone was the senior captain of the Christchurch crew team at the time.
Banfield wound up being a three-year captain at Christchurch and placed first at the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Championships from 2011 to 2013 before heading to Dartmouth.
For Banfield, rowing is a love/hate relationship—mostly love.
“I love the sense of accomplishment and toughness that comes from hard work,” he said. “I also love the people rowing puts me around. Most rowers I have met tend to be great people.
“However, it can be very, very hard at times, both physically and mentally,” Banfield added. “Sometimes it can squeeze out everything else in life, so it seems all I do is row.”
Although he’s representing U.S. Rowing later this month, the national governing body of the sport doesn’t help out its athletes financially. Rowers have to front the money at first and are given a fundraising site to help defray the costs, which include travel and equipment expenses.
A couple of weeks ago, Banfield had only raised a few hundred dollars, but that jumped significantly over the past week or so. According to Banfield’s fundraising site, he’s raised $4,645, a little over half of his $9,000 goal. Banfield said he reached out to alumni communities through his fraternity, Chi Gamma Epsilon, and he’s found some generous donations that way. And the local rowing club he’s currently training at, Olympia Area Rowing in Olympia, Washington, has also helped considerably.
Banfield is hoping that the time he spent on the East End will help him out as well. He’s trained at the Sag Harbor Rowing Club multiple times.
Banfield, a humble kid who works on his family’s farm in rural Virginia when he’s not rowing, said he doesn’t enjoy asking for money—he said it actually feels rude to him—but it is a necessity since U.S. Rowing does not lend any financial support.
“We could not have made it this far without the support of others,” Banfield wrote on his fundraising website. “I would like to thank our family and friends for their enormous support up to this point, and [freshman coach] Taylor Black for all of his help at Dartmouth. I would also like to thank everyone who supports our effort to compete at the World Rowing Championships this summer. This skinny Dartmouth kid from Wake will row his heart out with a devoted coach. I hope you can help make our dream of a lifetime possible.”
Banfield reached out to his former high school rowing coach, Richard Laurance, to help train him for the world championships. Laurance moved to Olympia, Washington, not long after Banfield graduated from Christchurch, so Banfield had to travel to Olympia to train. Laurance says his young protege has a real shot at winning a world title.
“He should do really well,” he said of Banfield. “He’s been rowing the boat really well in trials. He beat the defending champion, and that young man was 14th in the world and Walter beat him by seven seconds.
“Walter actually practiced with the Australians last summer and he was pretty close to one of their rowers who finished 10th in the world, and Walter has been rowing much better this summer than last,” Laurance added. “You never know with a world championship but you hope he’ll finish in the top three.”
Banfield is not a stranger to international rowing, having competed in three other world championships. He’s been to Italy, Germany and Lithuania so he should be quite comfortable in European waters, which should give him a leg up on a lot of the competition, Laurance said. Of course, it’ll help having his coach there as well, with Laurance taking the trip.
“[Banfield] didn’t really ask me to go, it was more like, ‘You’re going,’” Laurance said, with a laugh. “He’s been all over Europe now and that should help him. He’s been there, done that.”
For more information on Banfield, or to help in the fundraising effort, go to https://nrf.rallyme.com/rallies/4374/usau23lm1x.