On a year when everyone in Philadelphia spent the winter talking about the weather, the spring produced new material for conversation. What was solid and slippery for most of February became fluid and fast moving in the spring. As the rain poured down on the Schuylkill, it affected regatta schedules, practices on Boathouse Row, and a regatta that is traditionally the fairest of the fair: The Stotesbury Cup. Heavy rain flooded Kelly Drive just last week. The rain made its return Friday for the beginning of Stotes.
"The officials did the best they could with a bad situation," summed up Mike McKenna, Varsity coach of Mount St. Joseph's Academy. Rapidly rising water, floating debris and countless heats and semi's to get through made for a challenging regatta. Chief referee Dennis Smith faced many coaches eager to get their athletes on the water, but the decision to alter the schedule was made Saturday morning.
Ultimately it was decided that semifinals should be eliminated along with the singles and doubles finals. The singles and doubles were later added back into the program after the conclusion of racing with the contingency that they may have to shorten the course.
Boys Freshman 8+
The frosh crews at Chaminade and Mainland started the afternoon by heating up the stands with a finish just .15 seconds apart, similar to the time trail standings Friday. Chaminade won this bout, leading a freshman final with the top-3 boats separated by less than two seconds. Coach Vincent Marchetta said of his crew "they are inspiring; they have a great attitude and are always trying to take it to the next level." The Chaminade freshman took first and second in the fall at the Head of the Fish, and he says they have been "building off the energy ever since." Marchetta has 23 freshman athletes, but this boat is the same line-up as the fall Head of the Fish winners. Coxswain William Mulhall started with this crew in the fall, and has been the voice of the crew since. "We made a move at about 750," he said they were losing the battle in the early half of the race with Mainland. The move took them through their lane four opponents. Mulhall admits he started rowing "because my parents said I had to," (rowing is in the family) but, he also really likes the sport. Kudos to the parents who suggested he take a seat in the stern.
Girls Freshman 8+
If rowing were still a betting sport, one would be hard pressed not to put money on a Saratoga freshman girls 8+. This is a category they have dominated in at Stotesbury, NY States, SRAA Nationals and even Canadian Schoolboys for many years. The 2014 Stotesbury regatta was no different. Saratoga won with a 5 second margin over Holy Spirit, also a very strong program. Coxswain Mary Laniewski said "this is the best race we have had." The boat includes three girls in 5-7-and 2 seats who have been rowing for about 2 months. Stroke Catherine Padzierski says they have all looked up to their teammates who won last year and they try to row as hard as their predecessors. "We are strong in the middle 500." Saratoga rowed a shortened semi-final the day prior and athlete Grace Kabanuk said that was a challenge. "We really specialize in endurance…that is what sets us apart." They set themselves apart by about 5 seconds today, after trailing Holy Spirit early in the race.
Boys Junior 4+
The Vineland surge at the finish propelled them past St. Peter's Prep. Already in a sprint, Vineland dug deep for a short burst that pushed their bow ahead in convincing fashion. Six-year Assistant Coach Will Breese said stroke (and youngest rower) Kyle Leimeister is a leader for that crew. Kyle has been invited to junior selection camp. Head Coach of the program Joe LaRosa (who had to leave the course earlier in the day) went over a race plan before he left. Vineland made a move just a minute and a half into the race, but they really did their most effective push in the last 150. At the 150 Vineland raised their rating to a 41 or 42 and drove the legs for a solid and exciting win.
Girls Junior 4+
The junior fours really delivered on sprints. Just after the Vineland boys 4+ completed their impressive high-rating at the 150 meter mark to cross first, the Mainland junior girls separated from the pack by 4 seconds with poise and power. "The last two weeks we have been working on sprints," said first-year coach Dave Bird. The new Mainland coach was previously with Absegami. He admits the season had some ups and downs, but they are weathering a couple injuries and gaining experience with every race. Three seat Jenna Rosado said that at one point they were bow-to-bow with Lawrenceville and she knew she had to go harder. At the island, Mainland powered it up without losing the critical quick catches in fast water. They separated from the cluster of the three boats behind them (Lawrenceville, O'Connell and Branksome).
Boys Freshman 4x
Coaches Gregg Francis and Keith Ferguson say they have a "good group of guys" in the freshman program at Haddon Township. They have about 10 boys and 8 frosh girls in the group and "they have been winning." Some of the team has been with Coach Francis since Learn to Row while one rower has only been rowing for 2 months. (Luke Brown who was two-seat today) "They are a bunch of characters that race hard," says Coach Francis. Coach Ferguson adds, "They haven't lost a medal race yet this season." Coach Ferguson said his race plan was pretty simple and with a freshman quad taking on a floating start at a big race, it was intentional. They seemed to handle it well, regardless of the plan. Haddon Township kept their cool with perennial sculling powerhouse Malvern Prep breathing down their necks in the adjacent lane.
Girls Freshman 4x
Conestoga High School has been an all-sculling program since Coach Paul Coomes took the helm in 1999. "It just made sense for our program," he adds, "I like sculling for younger kids." A product of that focus was displayed today in the freshman girl's quad. Coaches Jackie Davison and Matt Freyhof say, "The system has worked." Freyhof says they try to get their athletes to "perform at a level they are physically able to achieve." With only four freshman girls in the program, this was the boat from the beginning; no seat racing, no injuries, no back-up plan. The Conestoga coaches focus on technique and let the athletes evolve. In the case of the freshman quad, they talked before the race about quick catches in fast water, then let the girls fly. As they crossed the finish line ahead of Ridgewood by almost 3 seconds, they had well-schooled control, and probably a solid dose of athleticism.
Girls Junior 8+ Final
Branksome (CAN) coach Lisa Dumont said her crew "has really come together" over the past two weeks. On Saturday, they came together to win by two seconds over Niskayuna out of New York. "We have a couple 9's and 10's (freshman and sophomores, to translate the Canadian grade-level terms) that really stepped up," said coach Dumont. "Seniors are in exams and we are three weeks from our National Championships," she explains about the boat’s line-up. "We had a few girls in this boat who lost by a bow ball last year and four girls who won the junior four. It was a good mix of girls who are young, excited, and have a lot of motivation." Branksome, a private girl's school, rows on Lake Ontario under Head Coach Scott Fleming. In the coming weeks their 9's and 10's go on the row at Canadian Juniors, while their 11's and 12's will row in a senior category.
Boys Junior 8+
Six-seat of the St Joe's Prep's Junior 8+ Brendan Carney said his boat felt so good at the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, they bumped up their rating to a 38 and just kept it there. Although the plan suggested by SJP Coach Bob Madden was a couple beats lower, the fast water and their swing just felt right so they went with it. Coxswain Ryan Shearn said coach Madden had told him that it is “going to be a quick race, don't leave anything out there,” instruction that he took to heart. They had been working on the quick catches and finishing the stroke. This technical work, partnered with that slightly higher rating drove them past Don Bosco by more than two seconds.
Boys Junior Quad
"We go old-school," said Danny Gearing when asked how he stroked the E.L. Crossley Junior Quad. "No stroke coach!" They (he and Nicholas Tavares, Peter Epp, Dylan Minor) row an older boat and use their own 'metronomes' to keep pace-today. They had just the right speed to beat out Montclair at the finish line by .07 seconds. "It's not the boat, it's the motor," they all agreed. The Crossley crew said they were in the last place after the floating start. Although they felt their own start was good, there was some question about how to line up when the starting "line" is a moving target. E.L. Crossley won this event last year; this crew is comprised of all 11's (juniors). Canadian scholastic crews normally row 2000 meters. With a floating start on a shorter course, they all felt like this was a sprint the entire way, especially starting from the back of the pack.
Girls Junior Quad
Another win for the 'Stoga fans in the crowded grandstands. The Conestoga Junior Quad won by a 2-second margin over Woodbridge in the girls junior quad. "We focus a lot on technical skill…the kids are rowing very well, but they are also strong and very fit," says Coach Paul Coomes. "They have been undefeated all year and they have a great attitude." The boat is comprised of two sophomores and two juniors. Conestoga has become the 'team to beat' in any two-oared event. Coach Coombs says there is an expectation to do well, but on his team it is more about "understanding what it takes to be part of a team."
Girls Lightweight 8+
Caroline Bradley, 5-seat of the Holy Spirit Lightweight 8+, says they row well because they have confidence in each other, but Stotesbury holds a special place for her and the team. "The grandstands; there is nothing else like it." The Stotesbury Cup fills the grandstands to capacity and the energy at any finish can be heard at City Hall. Cow bells, chants, cheers and outright shouts fill the shoreline and drown out the announcer. "All the fans, everyone's watching, really is motivating." says Bradley. For this race, the coxswain and coach told the crew to "do whatever it takes to get ahead.” For Holy Spirit, that meant bumping the rating up to about a 39+ at the finish and holding it together. That determination to do what it takes propelled them in front of another local crew, Merion Mercy, to win by almost 2 seconds. "The Eight has won four years here, 2-7-and 5-seat have won here before, and stroke won in the Frosh 8," says 5-year Holy Spirit Coach Rory Roberts. "We really focus on technique, they should be self-motivated," he concludes. It appears that they are.
Boys Lightweight 8+
The St. Joe's Prep lightweight men's crew has the fortune or perhaps misfortune of having a stroke that is the brother of national team rower and last year's US Rowing Athlete of the Year, Mike Gennaro. Fortunate, because good rowing runs in the family; misfortune because Mike Gennaro and US Rowing teammate Glenn Ochal might have taken some of the spotlight from a good overall crew by taking photos with winners on the award dock. Steve Gennaro says he is "so over" being Mike's little brother and that "we all compete for being the 'golden child' of the family." Today, he says, it is his turn. Not to miss a step, Mike quipped, "I think he is riding coat tails a bit." The St. Joe's Prep boys won this race by a confident 5+ second margin over local team LaSalle, who they have been racing for the entire season. They will race again at City Championships Sunday (a race postponed due to the exciting spring weather.)
Boys Lightweight 4+
Christian Brothers' (NJ) Coach Scott Belfour was thrilled to be on the awards dock with his crews twice on Saturday. CBA earned gold in the lightweight four and a silver in in the senior four. In the lightweight four, three of the guys returned to defend their win from 2013. Their two-second victory over St. Francis was sweet for a team who started rowing late this season. The squad, who does not have a boathouse and wades into the water to practice, has to wait until the water is warm enough to walk in and manage a 90-minute workout without succumbing to hypothermia. Where they normally row is regularly hit by storms, including a complete washout after super storm Sandy. CBA has seen cars and other large submerged objects where they row. These conditions make CBA a very resilient crew, which came in handy for the sprint. "I told them, we have won this race, you are at an advantage," said Belfour. He went over different race scenarios with coxswain Rick Magliozzi to make sure they were prepared for any conditions, they were.
Girls Lightweight 4+
After an undefeated season in 2013 that culminated in a victory at Youth Nationals in Oak Ridge, the Manhasset lightweight 4 has regrouped with a new, younger crew. Success has continued for Manhasset, although not without a few losses this season. "It was a great race, we didn't know who had won until we docked," said stroke Keagan Hanley. Stroking in an adjacent lane was her friend and summer rowing partner Gina Fram in a Lawrenceville boat. On the other side was Great Bridge. Manhasset and Great Bridge finished within .16 seconds of each other, followed by a 4 second gap to the next crews. No one seemed to know in the stands or in the boats who had won the race since there were no celebrations. Manhasset sophomore coxswain said "I could feel the power in the last 300," she adds, "we were behind at the 750, maybe even third. We bumped it up to a 38 (from 34) at the wire." That surge proved effective. Coach Hugo Guardado says the crew has only one senior (Hanley, who will be rowing at Stanford in the fall), two sophomores and two juniors. "We have a small crew, only 18 girls, but they are 100% committed."
Boys Second 8+
Not to spoil the later part of the coverage, but for the second time, Gonzaga won the first and second varsity eights at Stotesbury Cup. Sixth year coach, Mark Mandel's specialty appears to be neutralizing the hype and jitters while harnessing the power of his talented team. In a professorial manner, Mandel has kept the Washington, DC team focused and moving forward to the next challenge. "With the floating starts they had to expect the unexpected," Mandel said. "Other than that, I told them to row our race. We row well and we are fit…regardless of conditions, they row well." Mandel said the two victories in the 2V and 1V are a good start for their championship season. They will be at SRAA Nationals at Mercer (where river flow is not an issue) and there will be an entirely different set of conditions. Gonzaga won by nearly a 3 second margin over a strong crew from Jesuit College Prep from Dallas, TX.
Girls Second 8+
James Madison High School in Virginia has a tradition of producing some of the finest girls eights under 7 year Coach Paul Allbright. Although the elimination of the semi-finals really hurt his 1V squad, he was happy that his talented second 8+ rose to the top and won the Girls Second Eight at Stotesbury over local competitor, Merion Mercy. The same girls have been in the boat all season. "We had Korzo down during spring break, and he was working with the 1V and 2V on confidence and suspension and putting some juice in the leg drive," says Allbright. "Korzo" is referring to coaching legend Kris Korzeniowski. The JMHS crew is looking forward to SRAA Nationals next week.
Girls Senior Quad
Conestoga does it again. Although they had a tough time in the time trials, catching a crab in the last 100 meters, this poised crew had a boat meeting and figured out what they needed to do to win the Stotes final. In fact, they figured it out so well they won by more than six seconds over Ridgewood. "The stroke and I have been rowing together since freshman year," says bow Megan Hudson. "We were on our home course, but the conditions with fast water and floating starts were definitely tough," Hudson adds. The Wisconsin bound senior said this is the first year of this particular line-up and they are looking forward to being tested in the races to come. It was overheard that one of the second place Ridgewood girls rowed only arms-body as her feet came out early in the race, it will be nice to see those crews race again.
Boys Senior Quad
Ridley College, which rows on the St. Catherine's FISA course, figured out how to row on fast-moving river water. Fourth year coach Jason Dorland said his crew "works very hard, they are very committed." The winning Ridley crew is comprised of all seniors, all heading to college to row. Two will row for American colleges: Penn and 'likely' Boston University, while the other two will row for Canadian schools, the University of Victoria and Brock University. This same crew will compete as a coxed four next week at American schoolboys (SRAA), then they will compete at Canadian Schoolboys followed by a possible trip to Henley, U.K. They train 2000 meters and this short race and win over a strong crew from Roman Catholic was a different kind of challenge. Dorland says training in sweep and sculling "keeps it fresh and makes them better technical rowers."
Boys Senior 4+
Note: this was an event that we did not speak to a coach or athletes from the winning Mathews Crew. As the winners were lining up for awards around the grandstand, the condensed interview schedule produced this miss. Congrats to the boys senior 4+ who won by nearly 2-seconds over Christian Brothers/NJ!
Girls Senior 4+
Manhasset Crew has mastered the fours. With a smaller (in numbers) team, Coach Hugo Guardado keeps the athletes in fours and works on technique. Coach Guardado says his athletes have an impressive work ethic and this crew is no exception. Stroke and Manhasset Crew’s junior captain Mari Catherine Gillis, gives props to her junior coxswain Emma Hanley (sister of winning LW 4+ stroke Keagan), for keeping the crew within striking distance of a convincing win as they powered down the fast course. Emma says "It was stressful at the floating start, I just told them to keep their oars buried at ¾'s slide and to be ready." "We started behind, but we walked through lanes 5 and 6," adds Gillis. The Manhasset Senior 4+ won by more than 4 seconds over Egg Harbor. "The entire race was a sprint," said Gillis. "It was really make it or break it," she explains.
Boys Senior 8+
Gonzaga lit up the grandstands with cheers and purple shirts with a nearly four-second victory over solid crews from Holy Spirit and Montclair. Three-time Stotesbury champion, Leo Toch, led Gonzaga to the victory. Toch who stroked the boat the last two years is heading to Princeton in the fall. His celebration after the victory, a spontaneous duplicate of last year's performance, was the most expressive of any athlete on a day of exciting wins. Head Coach Mark Mandel and Assistant Coach Paul Hamm brought home three Stotesbury medals: gold in the first and second eights, bronze in the lightweight eight. Toch says of Coach Mandel, "He really keeps us grounded…we owe so much to him," he adds. "He really focuses on the bonds and brotherhood of rowing," explains Toch. "But, he also gets us to go as fast as possible." This was the third year in a row for Gonzaga to win the Boys Senior 8. That kind of consistency is hard to come by, congrats to the boys and coaches at Gonzaga. Gonzaga has won both 1V and 2V two years in a row, which bodes well for them in the 1V for next year.
Girls Senior Eight
"The Mount" or Mount Saint Joseph's Academy, has been winning races on the Schuylkill and beyond on coach Megan Kennedy and Mike McKenna watch for years. This powerful and exciting win by more than 5 seconds over National Cathedral School (DC) was an example of what The Mount is capable. After some less-than-optimal floating starts in other categories (lightweight 8's for instance), this win was a statement ("payback" says Coach Kennedy) for the strong team. "They are determined, they are a really focused crew," says Kennedy. "They had the weight of expectation and desire for the entire team (After disappointing results for other MSJ squads)." says Kennedy. She notes that their boat was named after the deceased father of one of their team members, Edward Stromberg. "My task through the season has been to build the confidence throughout the season," says Varsity Coach Mike McKenna. The crew is looking at SRAA's and will likely take the trip to California for Youth Nationals. "If we qualify, we go." says McKenna.
Boys Junior Double
Friends Select in Center City Philadelphia has a team cap of 16 athletes, male and female, say Coaches Megan Roe and Colin McAllister. Their junior double of Jacob Jamison and Emmett Orts demonstrated today what that kind of coach-athlete ratio can produce. "They are really dedicated, they row all summer," says Roe of this double. They also kept their poise as they "were swallowed by multiple trees" floating in the water during warm-ups, said Jamison. Their race plan, he adds, was to "crush it." They kept it steady to row at a 33-34, winning by three seconds over Germantown Academy.
Girls Lightweight Double
After the Boys Junior Double, the racing went to just 1000 meters. "In the junior double before us they were almost running into the bridge getting lined up," said Maeve Cannon of the Ridgewood LW double. They rowed the girls down to in the front of the St. Joe's dock to start the remaining races. "We sprinted the entire time," said Sophie Noel. "We usually row at a 28 or 30 or longer races, this time we were up at 32." They kept their lane 3 point to win by more than 5 seconds over Episcopal, Dallas.
Boys Lightweight Double
Roman Catholic has a history of consistency in sculling events; the boys lightweight double was no different. Ivan Soltera and Nicholas Olimpo continued that tradition with a 2-second victory over another crew with considerable sculling history, Malvern Prep. "We focused more on power than technique with only 1000 meters," said Soltera. "It was a sprint the whole way," adds Olimpo.
Girls Senior Double
Holy Cross’s (Canada) Julia and Lauren Vander Hoeven powered out a short sprint piece to win by more than 5 seconds over Conestoga. These look-alikes with easygoing personalities clearly were not laid-back on the water. They didn't row until late this year because their body of water was frozen, but they still have a lot of season left in Canada. These seniors are rowing at Syracuse (Julia) and Tulsa (Lauren) in the fall. Part of their talent lies in their ability to read the water and course. "There were not any buoys and the course was so short. We both steer and we just never settled into the piece, we sprinted the whole time," said Julia and Lauren, together of course.
Boys Senior Double
One of the narrowest margins of the day on a 1000-meter race, Malvern Prep won by just .02 seconds over Rye to win the Senior Double. James McManus and JP Clark row for head coach Craig Hoffman, who has brought athletes both to the highest scholastic level and prepared them for college rowing (McManus will go to Cornell LW program, Clark to Drexel). "They are really coached by Art Post and this is the first time Malvern Prep has won this trophy at Stotesbury, so we are all really excited," said Hoffman. "They were 2-time National Champions in the Lightweight Quad, now they are rowing a heavy double," adds Hoffman. A great win over Rye for Malvern, on to SRAA.
Boys Senior Single
Dan DeGroot of Governor Simcoe School Canada won the John B Kelly Trophy for single sculls, presented by John B. Kelly III. DeGroot, who will be attending Princeton in the fall, is training through the scholastic season to prepare to be the 1x representative for Canada at Junior Worlds this summer. Even in this shortened race, he won by 6 seconds over Matt Scholl of Cornwall, who will be attending Berkeley in the fall. "It was a 1k sprint, I never settled…I didn't know what rating I was at because I disconnected my stroke coach," DeGroot said.
Girls Senior Single
Kate Horvat of Germantown Academy has raced second-place finisher Natalie Stuart from Episcopal Academy all season, losing to her in the first bout of four. This time, "it was really close" she says. Her win at the Stotesbury Cup by only .4 seconds was one of the closest margins on the day. The Yale bound senior says the singles "lined up easily in the floating start, but with only 1000 meters and a quick start…there was no 'settle'." Horvat is the daughter of Schuylkill Navy Vice Commodore Paul Horvat.
The trophy and medal distribution lasted until nearly 7:30 with the change in how the awards were presented, but it was the best solution for the fast-moving water and debris by the awards dock.
This Stotesbury was the last for a fixture on the organizing committee at this race (the Schuylkill Navy) and Boathouse Row, Clete Graham. When asked about his swan song as Stotesbury Regatta Director he said he was a little sentimental, but that "it is time." Thank you Clete for organizing a special Philadelphia race.