The Senior finals at this year’s Stotesbury saw a slew of new champions, not always the case at a regatta loaded with powerhouse programs that make this race the focus of a year’s worth of work. Still 2011 was the year for some fresh faces to ascend the winner’s podium, and more than one had used the alchemy of redemption to turn a 2010 silver into gold. As it happened, only one 2010 Champ defended successful on Saturday, but Malvern Prep making it five straight in the Boy’s Senior Quad goes way past “repeating:” it is the longest streak in any senior event by a good margin. Full coverage below of the senior races, with coverage of the lightweights, juniors and frosh on the way in our second finals feature.
Boy’s Senior Eight – St. Albans
The Stotesbury Cup itself was won in shocking fashion by St Alban’s: defeated just weeks ago by both of the pre-race favorites, St. Andrews and St Joes Prep, St. Albans went third in the time trial and just hinted at their speed with the best time in the final semi of the morning. This final was supposed to be either a redemptive defense of the 2010 title for St Joes Prep after an early season stumble, or the chance for St. Andrews to end a 20 year drought and announce themselves, on the Prep’s home course, as the top crew stateside before heading to Henley. It was not supposed to be the two favored crews trailing the whole way, battling only for silver, but St. Alban’s threw that exact wrench into the works and they did it early. In the end, this was St Albans day for redemption –they took silver to Prep last year—and to make a big statement. St Albans led from gun with a good start that bought them three quarters of a length, and never let anyone back into the race, leaving St Andrews only the consolation of still having the Prep’s number in 2011.
This was the first Stotesbury win for St. Albans, capping a season that started a bit rough, according to coach Ted Haley: “Last year we were second, with a lot of the same guys. We thought we were going to better this year, and [it] wasn’t happening early in the season.” At St Andrews in April, “the combination wasn’t right” he conceded, but credited this very athletic group of rowers—many of whom letter in other sports as well—with making the changes needed. “We just ripped it in the final,” he added with a (relieved) grin, “It was a cranking race.”
Girls Senior Eight - Radnor
Radnor flat out dominated this event, leading the field by a full length in front of the crowd, then breaking to open water with a mature and well-executed sprint. The Radnor boys’ four was still on the medals dock cheering them along and the whole eight was in full hands-up celebration mode as soon as they hit the line. Defending champ Mt St Josephs took silver by outlasting Winter Park, but in an event that came down to mere seats in 2010 and saw six finalists within 2-3 seconds of each other in the semis, Radnor’s win was an impressive statement.
Coach Megan Biging said she knew this group could win his event “on paper” but saw the crew come into their own here over the weekend. Starting with a win in the time trial, the crew just kept putting bigger up bigger margins, becoming not just the first Radnor girls eight to win, but the first program in six years not named Mt St Joseph’s or Bishop Eustace to take this trophy.
Ken Piree, the Rowing Director at Radnor, watched the girls eight walk away with the race while holding the trophy the Boys Senior Four had just won: “The program is only nine years old but look at what Radnor is doing today: the whole program, both the guys and the girls, is really coming along. We’re making waves out here and people are taking notice of us.”
There is a special tradition for the winners of the Girls Senior eight at the Stotes: necklaces with a small replica of the trophy. It began as a well-kept secret, but with so many repeat winners over the years, the surprise factor has gone missing of late. The Radnor girls still seemed genuinely excited to join the necklace club, surprise or no, making for a nice bit of Stotesbury magic in the knot of excited athletes and gracious presenters that Clete Graham creates amid the din after every race.
Boys Senior Four - Radnor
Radnor’s “waves” started with the Boys Senior Four, with Ken Piree’s charges getting half length on a tight field to grab a gold that was “a long time coming” according to Piree. Hard-charging Iona Prep took second, over Egg Harbor. In fine Stotesbury fours fashion, the field here featured fully five crews that rowed 4:40 in the tightest of semis. The first semi saw Hun make the final by 0.67 over Winter Park; semi three was even tighter: 0.04 between Radnor and Egg Harbor for lane 4, with just 0.7 back to Fordham Prep in the third and not-moving-on spot. The semi results made it clear to Iona Prep coach Brad Maxwell that the final would be a “dogfight out there,” making him glad they had “messed with the sprint a little bit” after taking a few lumps at NY States last week. As predicted, the field stayed packed in the final, but Radnor made the race their own with some good hard work in the middle, while Egg Harbor had to throw in an epic sprint just to make the podium here—this in an event they won last year—and afterwards one crew was so gassed that they plum forgot to row in to get their medals. They were fetched before they got out of the boat, and showed up a bit later to pick up their medals--their coach admitted that he should have reminded them to come in if they medaled, but did not want to jinx things!
Girls Senior Four – E. L. Crossley
The Girls four, in contrast, was not close at all: the semi winners made this a three boat race early, and then E.L. Crossley made it a parade, if not a coronation. Clearly on a roll by the time this race rolled around in the late afternoon, Crossley snapped up their fifth trophy comfortably over time trial winner Merion Mercy. Peddie made a strong bid for the silver, but could not make up the final few seats they need to overtake Merion Mercy.
The E. L. Crossley coach, John Ruscitti, had so many crews racing that he never made it to the awards dock; instead, one very dedicated Crossley Crew mom showed up to sign out and collect each of the five trophies won on the day. When row2k finally caught up with him down by the Angels, Ruscitti noted that it had been the “best day ever” for a Crossley program full of “kids that race with passion.” “The kids,” he said, “were low maintenance and uber-prepared. The philosophy was just ‘everything we do every day, we’re just going to do it better today.’” The crews he added, were gearing up for Canadian schoolboys in two weeks time week, and “weighing out” whether to return for the US Scholastics first.
Girls Senior Single – Erin Snelgrove (Denis Morris)
Singles champion Erin Snelgrove called her race “nerve-wracking and very, very fast” because “everybody in that race is very good,” but last year’s silver medalist made it look easy as she traded up to gold well in front of Taylor Burdge of Tampa and (now) two-time bronze medalist Marissa Kump from Eden HS. Snelgrove, who went on from a silver here to stroke the 2010 Canada JW4x with Kump aboard, said last year’s race gave her “a good reason to come back and prove myself.” Snelgrove won in a shell named for her late cross-country coach, who was killed in a car accident. “I feel like he makes me fly down the course,” the gracious and grateful champion added.
Boys Senior Single - James Myers (Blessed Trinity)
Blessed Trinity’s James Myers made good on his time trial win over the 2010 champ, and Canadian Junior National teamer, Sashie Malowny, and walked away with the final as well. Myers, a lightweight who will row both weight classes at the upcoming Canadian Schoolboys, clearly found the flat water and tail-current very much to his liking, putting over four seconds into the silver medalist, Oliver Ingram from Friends Select; Malowny had to settle for bronze, though consecutive medals in an event with 35 entries is no mean feat. The humble champ declined to be interviewed, but his coach, Ian Wilson, sang his praises for him, noting that Myers has been “working strong” this spring and had a good row here today.
Boys Senior Quad – Malvern Prep
Make it five in row for the Malvern quad squad, the only senior crew to successfully repeat in 2011. Some of the wins have been close, and even complicated, over the years, but ending the weekend on the awards float is not getting old for these seniors or coach Craig Hoffman. “Stotesbury is such an amazing regatta,” said Hoffman, “and to be able to win here is a testament to the will of the kids.” Malvern won here by inches last year, but this fifth gold came by a full length and a bit over Conestoga, with Saint Francis of Canada in third. “Conestoga is a very fine crew,” Hoffman noted, tipping his hat to a Conestoga program that came away with fully nine medals on the day. “We feel very fortunate that we were able to stay a little bit ahead of them today.”
Girls Senior Quad – Springside
In the Girls quad, Springside used a composed to keep the senior quads a local affair or the third year in a row, ending Episcopal’s recent dominance in the Bride’s Plate. Episcopal had run the table in the time trial and the semi again this year, but in the final, Springside took the advantage away. Ridley’s relatively young crew out sprinted Episcopal for the silver, and the defending champs had to content themselves with bronze.
Girls Senior Double - Shaker
Shaker got clear and walked away with this one, and after crushing their semi by nearly ten seconds, the Shaker girls were on a whole different level. Not a bad way to make a statement in the school’s first ever win in sculling at the Stotes. Race fans were treated to a real fight for silver, though, just as the tight semis behind Shaker promised: Great Bridge came through semi winner Montclair to snatch second, barely, and then Ridgewood punched through Montclair as well for the bronze in the final strokes. It was the only trip to the medals dock for all three schools, but no doubt made the trip to Philly well worth it.
Boys Senior Double - Denis Morris
Looked to be a tight final from the semis, but Denis Morris, with a gear or two to spare apparently, took all the drama out of the final by powering down the course, well clear of the field. The two Canadians, from one of the smaller high school programs in St Catherines, put on quite a show, and are preparing to cap off an undefeated season with Canadian junior team selection, according to their coach, Zach Plug.
Haverford got the better of 2010 champ Shipley for silver, which finally brought Coach Jim Barker down to the medals float during this, his 50th Stotesbury. The young Haverford squad did not have the kind of day we’ve seen from this squad in the past, but with plenty of crews in finals here today, Coach Barker should be making a few more trips to the front of the Grand Stand during his 51st Stotes next year.
More to come as we look at the Lightweight, Junior, and Freshmen races, including a few photo finishes and a more than a few schools joining the parade of new champions for 2011.