Crime - Sacto 911

Body of acclaimed rowing coach recovered from Lake Natoma

John Hooten coached the Johnson Ranch Barracudas swim club for more than 10 years.
John Hooten coached the Johnson Ranch Barracudas swim club for more than 10 years. Johnson Ranch Barracudas

The Johnson Ranch Barracudas youth swim club in Roseville held a candleight vigil Wednesday night for John Hooten Jr., a Granite Bay resident and renowned rowing instructor whose body was retrieved Tuesday from Lake Natoma.

Hooten, 66, was navigating a single rowing shell across Lake Natoma when he suddenly fell overboard about 10:50 a.m. Monday. A friend rowing nearby jumped out of his boat and tried to rescue him as he flailed in the water, but was too late.

Rescue crews from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, California State Parks, California Highway Patrol, Sacramento County Office of Emergency Services, Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, Drowning Accident Rescue Team (DART), and other public and volunteer organizations searched Nimbus Flat for Hooten's body in dark, cold, relatively slow-moving water before finding him Tuesday evening.

Hooten began coaching the Johnson Ranch Barracudas youth swim club in Roseville in 2005 and remained active through 2016.

Hooten was no stranger to rowing and had been training for a regatta in about a week, longtime friend John Jonik said. He coached at Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia for several years, mentoring six athletes – including his future wife, Sue – who represented the U.S. Olympics rowing team at the 1976 games in Montreal, the first time women were allowed to compete.

Eighteen Vesper rowers became Olympians under Hooten's watch, and 32 earned spots on the U.S. national team. He also coached one season at Temple University before retiring from coaching in 1980 to spend more time with his family while Sue completed medical school and her residency.

He also founded the Troopizi Unicycle Club and was Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 121, according to his Johnson Ranch biography.

It is not known what caused Hooten to fall out of his boat. He was not wearing a life jacket.

Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, begel@sacbee.com

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