By the time the end of the day arrives at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta, the carefully choreographed awards dock rotation, the lines of tents, the time trails and semis, and the abundant volunteers have soaked the Schuylkill with a positive vibe that is unmatched. It doesn't hurt that the scholastic nature of the racing makes it a bonding event for students and parents that have built relationships around the sport of rowing.
Speaking of soaking, anyone who was at the Stotes got a fair one, but the rowing water remained calm and ideal even as a solid drenching was enjoyed by spectators who didn't make it under the covered section of the finish line seating for the last eight races. And for those who stuck around, history was made at this regatta for certain – so let's start with congrats to Gonzaga College High School!
The finals commenced with the Boys Frosh Eight, and they were ready to go—maybe too ready.
The first start was recalled after Winter Park stopped rowing just a couple strokes into the start series, after which they were issued a warning, and racing started again – and now Saratoga was really ready.
"We had a horrible first start, and on the next start we were lightening," said Saratoga coach Chris Chase. Saratoga was able to benefit from the re-do, and coach wanted the boys to emerge from the bridge ahead. In the semis, these young crews were reaching 40 strokes per minute, and Saratoga went at a 36. Come the final, without it really being the plan, Saratoga cranked it up to a 40.
"It was a duel, it was fast," said frosh coxswain Lucy Mastrianni about the 2-second time interval between first and second, Winter Park (third-place boat St. Joe's Prep was 5 seconds back).
The Frosh Girls from Saratoga also won by a two-second margin, this time over local favorites Mount St. Joseph's. The Saratoga crew had not really been pressed before, so they were a little shocked to be rowing right next to a crew for most of the race. Kudos to the crews who have caught up over the season, if not quite, to a boat load of rowers who have even some middle school rowing behind them.
Said Saratoga coxswain Grace Wales, "It was a tight race at the end—we were a little scared—but we never doubted we could win." On the awards dock, Saratoga's Coach Chase said to Mount Coaches Mike McKenna and Megan Kennedy, "See you next week!" referring to Scholastic Rowing Association Nationals in Nashport, OH Memorial Day weekend) .
It is not too often you see a winning crew row without a slide, but that is just what the stroke seat of the Augustine Classical Academy Junior Boys double did Saturday. Ethan Chaffee and Ben Hopkins were winning as they raced past the island in the last 250 of the race, when Chaffee popped his slide. Somehow, the double managed to hold on to their lead. On the podium, this double was genuinely thrilled at their win under the circumstances; way to fight through adversity, ACA.
In the girls race, St. Michael (Canada) won with an astounding 22-second victory over Ridgewood and Ursuline. Unfortunately, due to the chaos on the dock, row2k missed talking to these two champions, but congrats to them!
The initials PLP were found on the arms of all the members of the Episcopal Academy (PA) crews. The short version of the story is that they were for Episcopal student Paul L. Pratt, who died in 2013 the day before Stotes, where he was going to be racing. This year, the team rowed in his honor as a tribute to him and his family.
The inspiration combined with the training from Coach Molly Konopka to help the Episcopal Boys Junior Four win by just a second over local inter-AC rival Haverford. "We see each other a lot during the year—we have a lot of respect for their crews, and it means something different when Haverford races Episcopal" said Konopka. "We have good kids, good athletes…rowers do a lot of other sports at Episcopal," she explains. This was a tight race with Montclair completing the top-three.
Branksome Hall School from Canada took the Girls Junior Four, having won this category last year as well with two of the same girls, now 16 year-old juniors in the boat. As one of the athletes got out of the boat to get her medal, she stepped gingerly and said, "Oh, my legs!" After getting her award, she slowly sat down on the dock, and couldn't get up. She had "left it all on the course," said Coach John Heder.
On the way back to recovery dock, the rower sat in the bow-loaded four and the coxswain rowed in her place—a great effort for a crew headed for Canadian Scholastics Champs in two weeks. Behind Branksome was Governor Simcoe and Mount Saint Joe's girls.
John Stephanik, head coach of Haverford School Rowing, was standing in for freshman coach Jackie Wagner this weekend, and after a phoned-in race plan from Jackie at the trailer, the boys were ready to go. The Freshman Quad at Haverford has been undefeated this season, so they had some reason to expect the same at Stotes.
All year, says Stephanick, this crew has been working on "sitting up tall, staying long, and being really focused on getting catches in," he says. Whatever their focus, it seems to work, and they won the category by two seconds over Conestoga, and seven seconds over Episcopal-Dallas.
Conestoga has a long, established history as leaders in the sculling events, this year is no different. The Girls Freshman from Conestoga won three seconds over Saratoga. "It is a result of how fast they have come together and learned to row as a team," explains Coach Brian Severi. With only 6 freshmen in the program this year, it is respectable that coaches were able to put together a fast boat with little team peer pressure/competition for seats. The other two frosh raced in the lightweight double, with upper classmen. Said one of the freshman in the boat before the race, "If we don't win this race all those body circuits this winter were for nothing!" It is all so simple to freshmen, yes?
The Saratoga lightweight double of Maddie Dodd and Catherine Grabowski (who is uber-lightweight at 100 pounds) had an analytical approach to their race. "These girls are brilliant" said their Coach Chris Chase. After 'kinda doing their own thing' at the regatta this weekend, the two went through semis and "listened to when Baldwin was making a move" and did not react to the moves. In the finals, they applied silent moves just before when Baldwin had taken their moves in the finals. This sophisticated plan by 15-year olds got them a trophy. Said Coach Alida Durrant, "We have been pretty comfortable, they have been pretty tight with their splits in practice." Baldwin came in second, with St. Michael's (Canada) third.
The Boys Lightweight double was won by Denis Morris of Canada. The crew of Marcus Kabel and Andrew Kerr rows sweep in the fall, but the double has been the focus of this spring season. Coach Megan Ansterther said the coaches identified how the two boys had similar build and rowing style, and matched them up – effectively - earlier in the year. They won by three seconds over Conestoga and Malvern Prep, two very solid sculling programs in the Philadelphia region. They head to US Scholastic Nationals next week and Canadian Scholastics in two weeks.
Coming from lane two and ranked third after the time trail, Niskayuna Girls surprised Holy Spirit (second, two seconds back) and Mount St. Joe's (third, three seconds back) by storming down on the second half of the race for the "W" for the Warriors of Niskayuna. Led in the coxswain seat by GiGi Bennett, who drove the come-back, the crew are coached by Stacy Apfelbaum, Pat Grosso and Sabrina Skotarczak. "They learned from each race—time trails, semi's," said Skotarczak. She added that the team is mostly sophomores and three juniors.
Chaminade (NY) has not won the Boys Junior Eight since 2005, but took it this year in grand style and with some very good rowing. "They haven't lost all season, "says Coach Lawrence Moebius. "They are fighters all the way down the course, and have worked hard in the off-season. The coxswain is one of the best we ever had."
Chaminade celebrates in boys Junior Eight
The boat is five sophomores and three juniors, and will be heading to SRAA and CSSRA Nationals in the next two weeks. There was a protest in this race, so the boys were on the dock, pondering that cox toss and trying to stay warm, for about 30 minutes. It appeared from the original results that Montclair came across the line in third, but as a result of the protest, ultimately were placed in fifth place, with Gonzaga taking silver and St. Joseph's Prep being awarded the bronze.
Ridley College School won the Boys Junior Quad by a solid and confident five seconds. Says coach Dereck Schwandt of his St. Catharine's/Ontario-based team. "They are awesome guys to coach, the effort they put in every day." They are all "Grade 11" to use the Canadian term for Juniors, and will be heading to CSSRA's in two weeks, but will have to row-up to a U19 category.
Episcopal Dallas came from the Texas to win the Girls Junior Quad. "It makes travelling 1500 miles worth it!" said Coach Cait Dunn. This exact crew won the Frosh Quad by open water last year, and they returned to grab this next category up. Two of the girls will be going to US Rowing Nationals in June as a Lightweight Double. Travel is difficult when it is a local bus—to add the distance and the youth of this quad, you have to congratulate them for making the most of their frequent flyer miles. Good luck to the girls at Youth Nationals.
The Mount St. Joseph's teams have included a strong lightweight crew for years, and have proven themselves at big regattas with consistency. This year, a match race between the locally-based Mount crew and TC Williams in the Girls Lightweight Eight resulted in a half-a-second win by the girls from Flourtown, PA, with third place Manhasset 13-seconds back. The crew was "mostly the same" as the ones who won in 2015, with Holy Spirit just behind and TC Williams third.
It is worth noting (and knowing that rowing conditions were a tad different) but ALL six finals boats this year would have been ahead of the winners last year—it was a fast lightweight Eight final, with just five-hundredths of a second behind the 2V winning time and three seconds ahead of the Junior Eight.
"We practice every day doing what we did today… at race day they just do the same," says Coach Mike McKenna. He exclaimed to the girls on the dock, "You didn't do it the easy way!" noting that they were at a 40 and shortening up a bit to get blades in the water and bow over the line first as they passed the stands.
Another St. Joe's crew won the Boys Lightweight category. St. Joseph's Prep also dueled TC Williams to the wire at 400 to go, but came out three seconds ahead by the finish, with Christian Brothers Academy was less than a second off TC.
"They really balance each other," says Prep coach Sean Clarke. "This is the strongest group we have ever had; lots of horsepower," he explains. From the beginning he says, regarding the balance of the boat (often fleeting for young crews) these guys would row and "it would be blades off the water." Setting the boat early has allowed them to really train rather than drill endlessly, and thus tap into their horsepower. The boat goes on to race at SRAA Nationals in Ohio, and there they will face perennial winners in the Lightweight Eight category, Belin Jesuit from Florida. Represent, SJP.
Oh, Canada, our home and native land. EL Crossley, a Canadian crew, won both Lightweight Fours in 2015, and repeated that result in 2016. When you ask this rowdy crew what their secret is, they blurt out some obvious facts in unison about rowing in Canada. They row in snow and cold—they are dedicated to the sport, and they appear to like it. They are also (not to state the obvious again) all lightweights. Their coach is always absent at the awards dock, and lets his carefree athletes handle the media. (More on Crossley with the Senior Double.)
The Fours won by three seconds and four seconds respectively over Father Judge (Boys) and Mount St. Joseph's (Girls). As they rowed away, the boys in the four paused and made a "C" with their arms; four out of five of the girls won last year, three out of five of the boys won last year. Nice to keep bringing home the hardware.
It was the EL Crossley show again for the Senior Boys Double, and due to the timing, the entire team was on the dock at once (whew). Braeden Rush and Jared Naar won the Junior Double last year, then came back to repeat that at the Senior level with an eight-second win over Eden and 10-seconds over bronze-winning Roman Catholic.
Last year, the crew quipped that their secret was Tim Horton's (a Canadian breakfast/bakery joint). When asked if coffee fuels their training, they both said they were not coffee drinkers. "I prefer Earl Grey tea," said Naar. Ok then. They also both said they love this regatta and they will be parlaying their victory here to participation in the US Scholastic Regatta as well as the Canadian Scholastic Regatta.
The Girls Senior Double was a sisters show. Emerson and Pheobe Solms go to St. Stephen's and St. Agnes in Alexandria, VA, what their father Tim calls "a lacrosse school." They do not have a rowing program, but their Dad—a former rower at The Citadel—took the girls out one at a time in a double to learn the basics. From there the junior-senior duo started rowing with Potomac Boat Club, and eventually was welcomed to row junior/youth for Potomac. Training seems to be working, they won by 8 seconds over Conestoga and 10 seconds over Ridgewood. Older sister Emerson is heading for Princeton in the fall to row for the Tigers, so this is their last junior season together.
Not to be a spoiler, but this was the first of two wins in the big Eights for the National Cathedral School from Washington, DC. Last year, five of the girls in this Girls Second Varsity Eight boat won in the Freshmen Eight, and their Junior Eight won last year at SRAAs. Now, after many line-up switches, they are a fast 2V with a history of winning.
"There is a really good team dynamic," said Assistant Coach Rachel Gabbay. In their pre-race meeting, says Gabbay, they "talked about expectations and what it like to be part of the program." This is a deep, talented team that, if Gabbay or Head Coach Greg King have anything to do with it, will continue to get on the podium at regattas. They are headed for Nashport, OH for SRAA Nationals Memorial Day weekend.
St Alban's won the Boys Second Eight in 2012 and 2015, and made it a two-peat in 2016. The DC-based boys boarding school races rival Gonzaga a lot during the year, says Coach Ted Haley, who has led the team since 1994. "We have a deep team," said Haley. "This is a feisty boat for competitors, they never give an inch."
They have had an undefeated year and have a talented coxswain from Japan (Daiskui Schumada) who has mastered both English and the broad vocabulary of coxing—no easy task. Haley suggests the intense competition from other DC teams like Gonzaga keeps everyone sharp. St. Albans' sister school is National Cathedral School, so it's nice they can put the two trophies in the case together!
Conestoga High School Rowing team only sculls – no sweep rowing - from Bachelor's Barge Club, where they practice along with boathouse-mates Drexel University. Conestoga School District is also fairly far from Boathouse Row, so there is already a level of dedication to rowing just showing up. Several of the girls in the winning Girls Senior Quad crew (or sisters of the crew) have been showing up--and winning-- for years at the Stotesbury and SRAA Nationals.
Conestoga Girls Quad
"We race for each other," says Laura Alcorn. The crew rowed at about a 36 and kept it neat and controlled to win by three seconds over Western Albermarle and Episcopal. Carolyn Gosnear stroked this quad for two years to gold for two years. Onward to SRAA to give it another go.
Roman Catholic (Philadelphia) loves the Boys Senior Quad category. They also won last year, but only returned one crew member from last year.
"It's magic, they have a great work ethic," says Coach Zack Coons. They have been trading places on the podium with Malvern Prep through Flicks and City Champs. Last year, they got the "triple crown" of City Champs, Stotesbury and SRAA Champs. They are aiming to repeat that, and on the day of Preakness 2016 (also the second leg of the Crown) Roman threw down a victory. For SRAAs the boat remains the same, says Coons. Gallop on?
Episcopal Academy PA won the Boys Senior Four last year with the same stern pair that won this year, but before that, they hadn't won since 1995. Dating back to the 1930s, the Fours trophy is one of the oldest trophies at the Stotes, so the names on the base show a long history of rowing in the area. As as did their team mates earlier, the crew all wore the PLP on their arms (for Paul L. Pratt).
Episcopal Academy Boys Four
Bishop Eustace Senior Girls Four has been gaining speed all season, but a personnel switch at two-seat recently made it even faster. "We got second at Mid-Atlantics (US Rowing Youth regatta) and third at Cities," says Head Coach Sam Steffier, "and we have raced some crews like Ocean City and Absegami and won by open water. They upped the power the second 750 of the race; their stamina has gotten so much better…they kicked it up," Steffier explains. "They love each other and row from the heart—these are the girls who got up early and did the extra work; they deserve the trip to the SRAAs."
Elisa Vandersloot of Blessed Trinity Crew, Canada, trains at St. Catharine's Rowing Center, host site for the Canadian Henley. Coached by Drew Edwards, the senior won the Senior Single by five seconds over Hopkins from Augustine Classical Academy. Vandersloot will be heading to Tulsa in the fall. She rowed a double last year at Stotesbury, but has been concentrating on the Single for this season. "She is winning every race in the single," says Edwards.
"I was behind for a while," says Vandersloot, "So I rowed at a 32-34, which is faster rating than usual for me. I just thought about pushing my legs and breathing, and reminding myself I can do it." Yes, she can.
As Vandersloot was still on the awards dock, club rowing buddy Ethan McAlpine's bow crossed the line first in the Senior Boys Single, and Elisa gave full shout of encouragement. They row in the summers at St. Catharine's Rowing Club, and he attends nearby Grimsby.
McAlpine crossed the line, and with a 6-second lead, took a pause. When asked about it, he said it was shock. Last year he caught a crab at 500 meters, losing his chance at victory. "It was emotional for me to work past what happened last year," he explained. "It was a very personal race," said the soft-spoken McAlpine.
It was a big day for Washington, DC-based teams here at the Stotes as they swept (pardon the pun) the 2V and Varsity Eights; big congrats to National Cathedral School, St. Alban's and Gonzaga.
The oarsmen from the Jesuit school Gonzaga are taught the "mens sana in corpore sano," (sound mind in a healthy body) message from the institution, and with Head Coach Marc Mandel they take the corpore sano part to a new level - they have won a record five Stotebury Cup Varsity Boys Eights finals in a row – a fact acknowledged by the Stotesbury folks, who put up the Gonzaga flag at the finish line before the regatta started.
The last time just four races were won in a row was in 1957-1960 for Washington and Lee; five times in a row was the Hun School in 1941/WWII era—it has been a long time and the rowing has exploded in size since WWII.
The final races of the day were drenched with a solid downpour, particularly with the Varsity Eights, who may have lost a bit of the limelight they deserved with spectators and dock staff fleeing to dry cars.
The local presiding champions of the girls Varsity Eight Mount St. Joseph's have won this event more than half of the past 10 years, including last year. This year, the National Cathedral School demonstrated the depth of their program by first winning the Girls Second Varsity, then concluding the day with a win over local Merion Mercy Academy and Mount St. Joseph Academy by 2 seconds and four seconds respectively.
National Cathedral won the Girls Varsity Eight
"There is a lot of positive energy with that boat…. not extrinsic motivation, just good people focused on our team, we like each other, care about each other…this week the theme has been ‘championship trust’," said National Cathedral Head Coach Greg King.
NCS was the last out of the start, but thankfully, "had a powerful 20 strokes out of that a great settle," says King. The coxswain, Kendall Green talked about commitment during the race, and added King, "putting emotion into the race in a positive way."
NCS is a tough academic school, says King. "It is a grinder—these girls get pressure academically, they get it from me as their coach, probably at home." They are committed to a high level.
Gonzaga, ah Gonzaga. This year, the team just did it again, this time taking Jesuit College Preparatory School from Dallas by 2 seconds and Lawrenceville by just over 2 seconds in a tight final, as it should be.
Head Coach Marc Mandel came with son Benjie who enjoyed his time on the awards dock, a nice touch for a historic day. Says Mandel, "The streak is there and the guys and I are more than aware of it, but believe or not during the past five years we have never explicitly addressed the 'streak.' They are a very grounded group and really just take things one day at a time," he explains. "The streak certainly brings added pressure whether we like it or not, it also has provided a tremendous benefit to our program.
"Each year, the work ethic, mental approach and oarsmanship is passed down from the older guys to the younger guys," Mandel said. "Juniors (and the occasional sophomores) in our Stotesbury winning crews learn from those above them, and they are then there to pass on the boat feel, drive and dedication to the younger athletes in the crew the following year. Those are such valuable lessons that are extremely difficult to simply coach." Touché, Coach Mandel, for giving credit to the team.
With that, Stotesbury is a wrap. As the tents came down, thoughts had already strayed to the next round of scholastic championships regattas, the SRAAs in Nashport, Ohio; tremendous luck to all the crews headed there next week.