Junior Four helps E. L. Crossley go five for five
Plenty of great racing preceded the senior events, of course: the Stotesbury medal final parade starts at 1 pm and sees a constant stream of athletes having one of the best days of their young lives. The Grandstand sees just as much turnover as the dock, with a new set of happy parents jostling in for a good picture of their very own Stotesbury medal winner after each race. Keeping a row or two open so that each of the presenters can actually get to the dock might be the regatta’s toughest job, but space was found for these sons, daughters and even great-grand-daughters of the namesakes for each trophy. We often write here about the special touches at Stotes, but making sure that each trophy is awarded by someone who has a personal connection to the award they hand out has to be one of the best and most unique bits of this event.
Girls Ltwt Eight – Holy Spirit
This race promised another rematch, with Holy Spirit taking semi 1 in the best time, and Mt St Josephs, who edged Holy Spirit in last year’s final, winning semi 2. Both semis were tight, though, with Winter Park, Eustace, Mainland, and Merion Mercy all within about length or less of the winner. Sure enough, the final came right down to a photo finish, with Holy Spirit taking gold by 0.08 in what coach Rory Roberts called an “amazing race.” It was a fierce sprint from Winter Park in lane one that made it so close, and the WP coxswain was actually slapping the water as she urged her crew on in front of the grandstand. They took the silver from Mt. St. Josephs by just a bowball, so the unorthodox calls seemed to do the trick (or perhaps she was just trying to add a little paddling help with her hands?)
The Holy Spirit crew had changed quite a bit from last year’s silver crew, with five graduated seniors replaced by five sophomores, but according to Roberts, “they really stepped up to the challenge” as a crew.
Boys Ltwt Eight – St. Joe's Prep
All St Joes Prep in this one, as the Prep lightweights got out in front early and took command over Upper Canada and McLean. This was the third Prep eight to take the gold: with St Joes having won every boy’s eight race to that point, head coach Jim Glavin called the day, “Terrific so far.” He talked briefly about the whole St Joes program: “We have great kids: they work hard, want to row well, enjoy the sport and have great community spirit as well.” The St Joes Athletic Director was on hand to congratulate the boys, and it was as clear as ever that rowing is a big deal at SJP. Glavin took time to reflect on the Stotesbury as whole, too, adding that he was thrilled that “all of Philadelphia is doing well” here this year.
Boys Ltwt Four – E. L. Crossley
E. L. Crossley’s march through Stotes continued here and while the finish was not tight, the racing was clearly exciting for the boys out in front. Christian Brothers posted the second best times all weekend, and defended that spot for silver over Manhasset, who took third just half a length down on CBA. Crossley coach John Ruscitti said, simply, “They are kids that race with passion, and you can’t ask for more than that.”
Girls Ltwt Four – E. L. Crossley
That Crossley passion was on display in the girls light four as well, as E. L. Crossley pulled off the first girls-boys double ever in the light fours. Crossley won it by a length, over Montclair, the only crew with enough juice to take a real stab at the Canadians in the last 250. Lourdes prevailed in lane two for third, just half a length behind Montclair. Joining Crossley in another trip to the medals dock? Stalwart crew mom and Crossley hardware collector, Karen Ionson, who signed out enough hardware here today to fill just about any trophy case, then had to carry it all back to the Crossley trailer.
Girls Ltwt Double – Baldwin
A new duo, but the same result here for Baldwin, winning the Larry Kiefer trophy for the third year in a row. Tess Candell and Jackie Andrews, both seniors, defended Baldwin’s title and kept what certainly qualifies as a streak now alive with three impressive rows on the weekend. The gap in the final, at just under seven seconds, was the “closest” anyone came to Baldwin all weekend. Friends Academy took the silver by a similarly wide margin, but Conestoga had to use every gear to out-sprint Strath Haven, snatching bronze by just 0.17 seconds.
Boys Ltwt Double – Malvern Prep
The boys light double was a similar story--new rowers, same result--for Malvern Prep, but the racing was much tighter. Riverhead and Conestoga each got within three-hundredths of Malvern in the Friday time-trial, and they went after Malvern when they finally had the chance to race side-by-side Saturday. Tight all the way, the race went to the line, with all three medalists overlapping. Malvern Prep rowed with some real poise here for coach Art Post, working their bow out in front for good with 500 to go, and outlasting a solid sprint from Riverhead, who took second, and Conestoga in third.
Boys Second Eight – Gonzaga
No St Joes Prep in this one—the one eights final they missed—but Gonzaga kept a Jesuit school streak going in the eights, complete with a fine fist-raised rendering of the Gonzaga fight song on the awards dock (Gonzaga, Hail!). According to coach Marc Mandel, Gonzaga has never won Stotes gold, and seven of these eight had never even “touched a final here before.” The Bulldogs won it with a strong piece in front of DC rival St Albans and the lone Chaminade boat to make the podium. “I wanted them to get off well but then really open it up n the second half,” Mandel said, noting that “the middle move is where we really put the distance in.” With so many rowers in the eight new to finals racing, Mandel admitted to “wondering how they were going to handle it” but said lots of intersquad competition had made them ready to perform here today. The trophy in this race is a bit unique, a hammer rather than a cup, but wholly fitting for a crew than put the competition away so decisively mid-race.
Girls Second Eight – TC Williams
Another heartbreaker-set-right here, as TC Williams won the race that eluded them but just a tenth of a second one year ago. Four of these eight rowed in that race, which might explain the full length TC Williams made sure to put between themselves and the tight field fighting for silver. “They came charging this year,” coach Jaime Rubini said, who admitted that he had never seen them “race like that.” “They over passed whatever I have seen them do,” he said, “These girls are pretty awesome.” James Madison and Winter Park came out of the field for silver and bronze, just edging Radnor’s second eight in the sprint.
Boys Junior Quad – Montclair
Montclair’s junior boys were another unscathed champion here, winning every time in 2011 by open water. Conestoga was in the medals again, with some open water of their own over Roman Catholic. All three finished up on traditional powerhouse Haverford, so fair to say that sculling is indeed getting deeper, and faster, here at the Stotes—good stuff.
Girls Junior Quad – Sacred Heart Country Day
Sacred Heart led the charge here with an “incredible’ race, according to coach Emily Schmieg, winning gold over Main Line rivals Baldwin and Conestoga. Baldwin was in it right to the end, but Sacred Heart weathered the late charge. “They put in a lot of hard work,” Shmieg explained, “They’ve been fighting with Baldwin and Conestoga all season and it’s great that they pulled it out.” For all of the states, and provinces, represented here, it is incredible how many Stotesbury finals come down just like this: three or four local Philly crews battling it out like it was just another Manny Flick Sunday on the river.
Boys Junior Eight – St. Joes Prep
St Joes Prep took the gold by the better part of half a length after a “rough two days,” in the words of coach Bill Gennaro, that included a broken foot stretcher and a boatstopper that dropped them to seventh in the time trial. Prep recovered from all that and got right back to being out in front, but it was a dogfight early. “That LaSalle boat: they just keep coming,” noted Gennaro. “They keep getting closer and closer, so they’re doing a great job getting faster.” LaSalle needed that improvement just to keep silver, as they edged St. Augustines by just a bowball, with Chaminade just a few seats back and in the hunt right until the final sprint. The Prep eight, Gennaro added, was all second year rowers, “so you can’t say enough about what they’re doing.”
Girls Junior Eight – Montclair
A little back-story for this race: in 2010, the Junior Eight was part of a big day for Mt St Josephs, who won four of the five eights races—and in the Junior eight, they did by just 1.2 seconds over a devastated Montclair. The two set themselves up for a rematch with wins in the semis, but from there it was all Montclair. “We’ve waited a very long time for this race,” said coach Lorna Rundle, noting that the crew has been together for three years and “basically worked for three years to win this race.” Along the way, they have been the top junior eight in New Jersey, but Stotes was the one they wanted. “It was obviously going to be a really, really close race,” Rundle noted, “so I told them, whether they were half a length up or half a length down, to have speed from the first stroke to the last, and it was going to be down to the last stroke.” The margin on that last stroke? An identical 1.2 seconds, but to the good this time for Montclair. Touched out here in 2011 was Lake Brantley, with Mt St Josephs settling for third a length back. Lake Brantley even set the best time in the semis, but silver would have to do on a day when Montclair just seemed destined to break through in this event.
Boys Junior Four – Moorestown
It was all Jersey in the medals of this race, with Moorestown holding the lead at the line over Montclair and Don Bosco. Moorestown had to avenge a loss in the semi to Don Bosco to get the gold here, but coach Rich Henderson has a strong crew who rowed together all last year as freshmen, and a stroke headed to Junior team selection. “It’s not shocking that they won,” Henderson said, “but it is always nice when they pull out that perfect piece when they need it.” And need it they did, with both Montclair and Don Bosco holding them to a closed water win. The Don Bosco four was actually the top boat from young Ironmen squad, and coach Felix DeCarvalho seemed please to have found a “a good group of four” to medal with here despite what he called a “rusty” start to the season.
Girls Junior Four – E.L. Crossley
Another great fours battle in this one, with E.L. Crossley taking it from Manhasset in the sprint. Coach Ruscitti said this Crossley win was probably the biggest surprise of the regatta for him: “coming in we knew they had a few things to work on, and they just kept getting better with each race.” Indeed: after coming “only” third in the time trial, Crossley won their semi after a tight battle with Germantown Academy, and had their speed well in hand for the final. Montclair grabbed the bronze in this race, giving them two medals in the Junior fours.
Girls Junior Double – Grimsby
Grimsby backed up their times on the weekend, taking the cup easily well ahead of the field. Eleven seconds back, Upper Dublin made good on the long trip out from Columbus with a silver medal row, half a length up on Conestoga.
Boys Junior Double – E.L. Crossley
Only a touch closer for the Canadians in the Boy’s 2x, but still more than comfortable for E.L. Crossley’s duo. For second, Malvern took second with a nearly equal margin to spare, but there was still some hot racing for bronze: Christchurch nipped Shipley for the last podium spot, with Roman Catholic just behind.
Boys Freshman Eight – St Joe’s Prep
St. Joe’s Prep cruised, and crushed, here, suggesting that any absence of the Prep in the senior events will be short-lived with these rookies around. A tight semi had actually pushed St. Augustines and Oakcrest to faster qualifying times, but the final was all Prep, taking the win with enough open water that they were already celebrating under the bridge when St Albans crossed the line for silver, just ahead of LaSalle. The win returns the Robert W. Suter Trophy to the Prep boathouse for an impressive 12th time.
Girls Freshman Eight – Holy Spirit
The freshmen girls put on a much more exciting race, with Holy Spirit pushing the pace in a hometown dual with Radnor before breaking away to win by a quarter length. Spirit coach Gary Baca said afterward, “I thought it would be a four boat race, tight, and it was pretty much all six boats really tight.” Saratoga, hoping to win here again for a second time, found themselves just a touch off the pace in third by the end. When asked what winning the Stotes was like, Baca said, “Mecca!” with a laugh, and he may have been even more thrilled than his rowers. John McCann, who coaches with Baca, added that the Spirit girls have been “moving well all season long, so we knew we were going to be close. We knew they had to row their best. They did and we thought if they did they’d be right there.”
Boys Freshman Quad - Saratoga
Semis predicted a four way race, and that is exactly what went down: Saratoga taking the win over a beep-beep-beep-beep finish for second through fourth. Conestoga got the silver by just a nose ahead of Malvern, who spent the whole regatta just a few tenths short in this event but raced hard throughout. Saratoga’s frosh coach, Chris Chase, reflected on the tight racing afterwards and what his guys had learned: “The boys had come out in the semifinal really hard and Malvern just charged them, so I said today ‘Guys if you get the lead, and you worked so hard: don’t give it back for anything.’”
Girls Freshman 4x – Conestoga
Conestoga, having already run away with its semi, put on a clinic here in the girls quad. This would be the one gold amongst the nine medals the prolific Conestoga scullers seized on the day, but success here with the freshmen, on this scale, suggest that Conestoga is well on its way to taking a place amongst the elite Philly sculling programs. Mathews came in for silver, while Saratoga’s bronze brought Chris Chase back to the medals dock, where he echoed the sentiments of many coaches making the podium here: “It’s been a good year.”
In the 30 events at the 2011 Stotesbury, fully 53 schools went home with hardware and 19 won a championship. Conestoga ran away with the medal count at nine, four more than any other program. Five schools doubled-down on gold (Denis Morris, Holy Spirit, Malvern Prep, Montclair, and Radnor) while St Joes Prep won three events, but no one was as efficient as E. L. Crossley: five entries, five finals, five victories. “Best day ever,” indeed.