"You should video this whole thing: it is going to be some show." That is what we heard one Stotesbury fan joke as the winning Senior Eights started to pull into the medal platform to start a medal ceremony that would end with every single kid from Mount St Joe's and St. Joe's Prep in the river, and she wasn't wrong.
As soon as each Senior eight had their medals and had tossed their coxswains--and themselves--in the river as a boat, at the invitation of the Stotesbury regatta directors the dock filled with every athlete and coach from both teams: the Mount and the Prep had collected not just the coveted senior eight golds and the Engman and Stotesbury Cups, but had capped a full sweep by each school of the eights events on the day.
It was a first for the women of the Mount, and the third time for the men from the Prep, and the double sweep was notable enough that the medal ceremony pivoted on the fly: the silver and bronze medal crews from both Senior finals can to the dock first, so that the gold medals could be awarded in tandem--and the day could end with both Mount and the Prep on the dock together.
As cool as the double sweep was, and we will hear from both head coaches in this report, the more historic first for this 96 year-old regatta was likely the straight up tie for silver in the Lightweight Men's Four between LaSalle and St Joe's Prep. When not even Clete Graham can remember a tie ever happening at the Stotes, it is a good bet that it never has, and we covered that bit of history in our small boats report here.
For the eights, though, it was a good day to have St. Joseph as a patron saint, and to be from Philadelphia because, for all the hard racing in the semis, and behind them in the finals for the other medals, it was the Mount and the Prep leading the way all day.
This year's Stotesbury felt like a return to normal, in many ways, to include seeing these two frequent Senior Eights winners on the dock. That return is a nice feeling at any regatta, of course, but is especially welcome at one that takes its long traditions and history so seriously--to include, very often, family members bestowing trophies named after their fathers and mothers, or even grandparents and great-grand parents.
After dealing with storms that cancelled many semifinals last year, and COVID's impacts in 2020 and 2021, this year the regatta ran as close to clockwork as any outdoor event could hope to manage, apart from a prolonged Friday evening thanks to an errant stakeboat. That normalcy was something that Bonnie Mueller, who oversees the event as the Commodore of the Schuylkill Navy organization, was grateful for.
"It was amazing to finally feel like we were back in a regular Stotesbury," said Mueller. "Even though we've raced the past two years, somehow this was the year where it felt like the toughness of the past three years was behind us, and we were ready to begin again. That is really exciting, given that we're now just four years away from the 100th anniversary of the Schuylkill Navy's Stotesbury Cup Regatta."
"This year was the first year for our new director of racing, Joe Kieffer, who raced in the Stotesbury Cup himself, as did his children," noted Mueller, who pointed out that "one of the most amazing things about this regatta is that flanking him on either side were the past three racing directors as well: Erika McCormick, Mark Valenti, and Clete Graham. People never leave Stotesbury, they only pass the torch to the next generation."
Mt. St. Joe's Women
The Mount is no stranger to winning the Senior Eight, with seven victories in the last decade, or even to taking gold across the board in the varsity eights, but they still notched a program first when their wins started with their Freshmen eight this year.
"It's the first time we've ever swept the eights," said Head Coach Megan Kennedy. "We had swept the Varsity Eights, but this is the first time winning with the Freshmen as well, and it's an amazing feeling. It's been an amazing year."
In the Senior Eight Final, Holy Spirit and Jackson-Reed battled to silver and bronze in a sprint that just edged St. Andrews off the podium.
The Mount win in the Freshmen race, over Niskayuna, meant that the Mount had done their 2022 sweep one better, and Kennedy marveled at her squad's ability, as she put it, "to be able to sweep all the way down to the freshman."
"The girls are great," she added. "This is this doesn't happen without their dedication and Mount girls are the easiest girls to coach. They all want to work hard and do well, and they do."
In an only-at-Stotes moment, Kennedy also noticed how winning this race also gives her team a chance to meet the Engman family and, before his passing in 2018, Robert Engman himself, the artist who created the Senior Eight trophy. "This regatta creates special moments like that," she said.
St. Joe's Prep Men
On the Men's side, the great-granddaughter of Edward T. Stotesbury himself, Edith Eglin, again presented the cup. At 87 years young, she has been turning up at the regatta for twenty-plus years, after calling Clete Graham out of the blue one day to announce herself as a living descendent of the man who first presented the cup in 1927.
"The Stotesbury Cup is just a special Regatta," said Head Prep Coach John Fife, after a celebratory swim with his team. "It's our home course. It's the largest high school regatta in the world. For us, it's always been a big deal and always will be a big deal. You saw that out on the dock, for these kids, it's everything."
Prep's varsity took the win over WMIRA Champ Gonzaga, and LaSalle won the fight for bronze over Lawrenceville. Winning may be the expectation at The Prep, but a full sweep is still rare and special for Fife and his team:
"We've done it three times now in 1997, 2008, and 2023. In '97, I stroked the Varsity Eight and, in 2008, I coached the freshmen eight, and so it's awesome to be part of all three sweeps.
"It's a lot different this year because we didn't race in the scholastic circuit really at all. Today was the first time we've seen Gonzaga, St. Alban's, so we didn't really know what to expect, though we knew they'd be good. Our primary focus has been on Youth Nationals, so we had to get ready for this race quickly, and [racing] 1500 is a different animal for us now, we are only used to 2ks.
"We tried to do a hybrid approach the last two year years, where we were doing match races with the Youth Nationals competitors on Saturdays and then racing back down to do the Flicks and the Cities. I felt that kind of burned us out; it was just too much. I think the way we did it this year, so far, has worked well: we've had great races with Greenwich, and great races up and down the Eastern Seaboard. I think you saw in all of our races today, that we were really at our best in the second half of the race, because we are used to racing that longer race."
Staying Home on the Schuylkill
There has been some back in forth in the local press the past two weeks about the suitability of the Schuylkill as a race course that this massive and successful Stotesbury Regatta would seem to have put to rest. At issue has been the planned, and much needed, dredging of the river this year and whether that process would interfere with running regattas.
Between Stotesbury, and the full suite of Manny Flicks and the City Championship Regatta run by the PSRA, the river has been very much open for business all year as it happens. The Schuylkill Navy's Mueller says the Independence Day Regatta and Philly Youth Regatta are still on as well, even as the dredging moves up onto the race course section later this summer.
"There was never a moment at any point when the Schuylkill Navy did not intend to have the Stotesbury Cup Regatta on the Schuylkill River this year," said Mueller. "The challenges associated with running regattas on the Schuylkill are real and evergreen, given the fact that we are on a fast flowing river and not a contained lake. But those challenges are present, regardless of whether or not there is a need for a dredge.
"The depth of the National Race Course on the Schuylkill River is something that has needed to be addressed for over 50 years. Finally, and only as a result of the incredible partnership that the Schuylkill Navy and the city of Philadelphia have forged for really the past decade, we do have the chance to address that five decades old challenge, but the need for the dredging which will begin on the race course in July was in no way ever going to impact the ability to run a regatta the size and magnitude of the Stotesbury Cup Regatta, which is the largest sprint race on the Schuylkill."
"We were never not going to not have the Stotesbury Cup Regatta here. Only weather would have forced us to move a different place," she said.
Mueller pointed out that the expertise and experience of the Schuylkill Navy as an organization allowed that certainty, despite the unknowns of the dredging project:
"Outside of USRowing, I'm not certain that there is any group in the United States which runs more regattas on an annual basis than the Schuylkill Navy, especially when combined with our very close partners from the Philadelphia scholastic Rowing Association. Together the volume of races that we run creates a situation whereby the people who run them understand innately how to manage the different challenges that might come up. Many of our people have been volunteering for these regattas for over 30 year, so it's the combination of experience, know-how, expertise, and almost preposterous commitment to getting the job done that creates a situation whereby we're able to do what others might find intimidating or impossible here on the Schuylkill."
Notes From the Course
"Mom! I made it" - that's what the four seat of the Canisius Junior Eight yelled to the stands as his crew pulled in to collect their silvers. When mom is waiting in the stand for a photo, you sure don't want to let her down.
The Stotesbury Smile - the four seat of the South County Junior Eight was already fully overjoyed about medalling ten strokes before the line--we'll link up a photo if we got a good one. "We're a small team," said the South County coach after giving his crew the bronze medals they earned behind Mount St Joes and Montclair.
Medal-winning Mental Fog - Getting a medal can be so exciting that you kinda lose track of what is happening: one guy undid his oar lock on auto pilot as soon as they pulled into the medal dock, only to sheepishly put it back in once he remembered there was more rowing to do to get home.
Drafted for Trophy Duty - when Bob Sheppard got "caught" taking a photo of the Boy's Junior Eight named for his high coach, Charley Butt, he was promptly asked to come back and help present it to this year's winner, and to tell them a bit about Butt's legacy as the longtime coach at Washington-Liberty High School from 1949 to 1992. Sheppard, class of '73, obliged and brought current W-L coach Derek Parsons (Class of '87) back with him to present the cup to St. Joe's Prep.
|Log in to comment|
There are no Comments yet