First time winners, repeat winners, upsets, comebacks, cox tosses (and cox drops), four-generation rowing families – and still again the time-stretching rhythm of the Stotes medals dock, where full medal ceremonies included families giving out trophies, 90-year old legendary coaches climbing down the stairs to give rowing history lesson while presenting trophies, and for another year a direct descendant of Edward Stotesbury himself presenting the big trophy at the end of the day, all done on 10-minute centers - it was all there over the 26 grand finals at the 91st Stotesbury Cup Regatta.
The scorching heat of time trials day on Friday gave way to cool temps and light winds on Saturday, making for nearly perfect conditions on the Schuylkill River for the afternoon finals. We talked to coaches from all the senior event winning crews; here is what they had to say, in reverse order of racing.
In the Senior Boys Eight, Gonzaga has set an extraordinary standard at the Stotes, coming into the regatta on a five-year winning streak. It fell to the Montclair boys to end the streak this year as a crew mixed through with seniors, juniors and sophomores won Montclair's first-ever Stotesbury championship in the top boys eight – a year before coach Jeremy Michalitsianos thought they might be able to do it.
"They gave so much this year, and wanted it from the start, but we thought we would be building for next year, and might be good enough next year," Michalitsianos said after the race. "But they started off the season well and improved through the season, and that was their best row of the year."
Michalitsianos said that the potential for the crew started to show when the crew started racing earlier in the spring.
"It's not a surprise now (that they could win), but it was a surprise when they first went out and started winning races," he said. "Now they haven't lost a side-by-side race all year.
"We made the competition for the 1V as hard as possible, and kept it open to changes all season, which is difficult for the kids but we had to do it," he said. "All the crews in the final were impressive, and especially Gonzaga has raised the bar so high for everybody, for high school rowing, and we wouldn't be here without teams like that to show us the way."
On the girls side, National Cathedral posted their second straight win in the Girls Senior Eight – and the streak extends to the Second Eight as well, which NCS won again this year.
National Cathedral does not row in the fall – they are required to do a sport in the fall, and compete in soccer, field hockey, cross-country, and other sports in the fall – and get together for winter training on the ergs.
"The team started the season with their goals set, with winning this race in mind," King said. "We only have about three months together as a team, and we do try to peak at this regatta. This is a really determined group of kids in all ways; as athletes, family members, and students. They were really good at setting their priorities in their lives, and when you can do that, the pieces start to fall into place."
National Cathedral repeats in the Senior Eight (and Second Eight)
Girls single winner Lauren Kelly, a junior from Blessed Trinity HS and the top junior sculler with the training group at St. Catharines RC, will be trying out for the Canadian junior national team this year. Kelly rowed in sweep boats in the fall at the Charles, and then got back in the single for the junior assessment camp and won a bunch of spring regattas at home. Kelly beats the solitary nature of the single by training with friends.
"We have a training group, and they all hang out together," her coach said.
Kelly has another year in the scholastic ranks, so will be one to watch next year as well.
Boys winner Clark Dean rows in the Sarasota Crew eight, but likes the single so made the trip north to have a go at racing.
"He rows mostly in the eight, but has a passion for the single but doesn't get to race it a lot, so this was a great opportunity for him," Sarasota coach Caitlynn Crouch said.
The Father Judge boys four had not shown Stotes-winning speed all year – they had placed fourth at the City Championship a couple weeks back – but coach Phil Roche (who has been coaching at Judge for 48 years) said a focus on cleaning up technique gave them the boost they needed.
"Until this past week they were making a lot of the typical mistakes, and I thought 'this is silly, I could just be talking to the geese, so we slowed down and just rowed by pairs, then rowed all four maybe 20 strokes at a time to get the feel right, then rowed pairs again, and kept going until they felt they had it."
Roche knew they were getting better, then gave the crew a GPS to get their own feedback, and the crew saw their speed increase. "I told them before the regatta I was pretty sure they could win it, and then they rowed first place in the time trial, and then we said the same in the semifinal, and kept going."
In the girls four, winning crew Merion Mercy started rowing the four only a few weeks ago after the small team experienced a couple injuries that forced them to break up their senior eight into the senior four and lightweight eight (both of which they won).
"They took pretty well to the four," coach Michael Brown said of the group, all of whom were in the senior eight that placed second last year at Stotesbury. "They were fifth in the time trial, and had to push it this morning through the semi, but I knew that the training they did would let them do three races back to back."
The crew took some inspiration from their teammates who had won earlier in the day as well.
"The lightweight eight having won right before we pushed them off the dock really set them up to win," Brown said.
Malvern won the boy's quad rowing with one of the biggest margins of the afternoon, getting out to six seconds on the field; coach Craig Hoffman said that focus on sculling well made the difference for the crew.
"All year, and really the last couple years, the crew has been really motivated to be the best scullers they can be, and have been improving all the way through the season," he said.
Conestoga rowed clear of an otherwise extremely tight race to win the girls quad for the sixth consecutive year, including Laura Alcorn who has been in the crew for the last three years, and also won Stotes in the frosh eight for a perfect career record at Stotesbury.
"We thought we might be rebuilding this year, as we lost our stroke and bow from last year, and they had provided fantastic leadership, but we had two really good racers join the crew," coach John Hayburn said. "We had been practicing starts and had a really good start in the final, and we needed it, because there are a lot of good crews out there, and the field is getting really tight."
Conestoga six-peated in the girls Senior Quad
Shenendehowa won their first-ever Stotesbury trophy of any kind with a 0.26 win over Malvern in the boys double, a goal that has been a year in the making.
"Their effort level has been the best I've seen," coach Sean O'Brien said. "They had their minds set on this since last year, and they kept working all through the summer and fall to be able to do this. The guys work really hard when they're together, as a coach it is really fun to work with them."
Shenendehowa won their first Stotes trophies (and won two of them)
The Ridgewood double took up the mantle of the school's recent successes at Stotesbury, and included Claire Callahan, whose sister Bridget Callahan won the same event two years ago.
"The crew has been rowing four seasons a year for four years, and started preparation in the double in November," coach Boris Roque Alvarez said. "They spent the winter working on fitness and strength, and once we got on the water they have not missed a practice."
EL Crossley made a heap of trips to the trophy stand on the day, including after a 20-second win in the girls lightweight four. The crew brought extra purpose to the racing this year; a member of last year's crew, Emily Bretell, passed away last summer from a cardiac issue.
"There was a bit of extra purpose," coach John Ruscitti said after the race. "I think all of our crews had a little bit of extra motivation for her this weekend."
Crossley also won the boys light four (as well as the girls junior quad,the boys lightweight double, and the boys junior double), making for five golds on the day out of five entries (the entire team gathered on the dock after the light fours race to mark the effort). The squad sets time standards they must meet in order to be able to compete at Stotesbury, which certainly seemed on the mark this year.
"It's a long way away and costs some money, and the idea is that if they hit the standards, they should be able to make the final and have a shot at the medals, including hopefully a chance to win gold," Ruscitti said. All of the team members can scull and sweep, and a lot can sweep both sides, Ruscitti noted.
EL Crossley went five for five on the day
St. Joseph's Prep won the boys lightweight eight with a mixed group of sophomores, juniors, and seniors that coach Sean Clarke said came together really well as a team.
"They're really good friends and have a lot of camaraderie, even though they're from different classes," Clarke said. "They didn't bring the typical Prep power that you usually need, but they really believed in each other."
The crew had to row from behind to win the race, for which Clarke took some of the, uh, credit.
"They went out over-aggressive; they typically go off the line at 42 or 43, and they went off at 46," he said. "I really pumped them up before the race, so it's probably my fault, but once they got maybe a little tired and lengthened out, they started to stride away."
Merion Mercy won the lightweight girls eight with a new crew that came together after the team's senior eight had to break up due to injuries. Coach Michael Brown noted that the crew learned a lot from racing against their local competition every week.
"The Mount lightweight eight could probably medal in the senior eight, and we race them and take our licks, and get humbled every week," he said. "At Cities we were 1.4 seconds behind, and this week we changed our strategy a little bit, and the kids bought into a race plan, and today we were able to put it together."
The EL Crossley boys double came out of the lightweight four that won Stotes in 2016 and 2015, and with today's win each have three consecutive Stotes win together. The duo got in the double in the fall, placing fourth in the junior open double at the Head of the Charles in the fall. As noted above, this was one of five Crossley golds on the day, thanks in part to their emphasis on small boats.
"We use small boats as a development tool, and we develop the athletes starting from small boats up into bigger boats," coach John Ruscitti said. "It develops skill level, but also their physical and mental fitness; 16k in a single or a pair takes a bit longer than in an eight!"
Baldwin won the girls senior double after having placed second in the event last year, and upping their intensity since.
"They've been working together all spring, and really put in a lot of time in the gym this winter," coach Gabby Cutler said. "It takes a lot of strokes to develop a crew, and they put in the work this spring."
The awards dock featured some epic cox tosses here in the midst of #coxtossmonth, and some not so epic:
Drop, toss, whatever – as the caption notes, he was fine; there are a bunch more slo-mo cox tosses on the row2k Instagram; check them out.
Another great year of racing, another great Stotesbury Regatta; congrats to all the crews who put in their best efforts, see you next year.