by Tom Utescher
Overall, good things came in two’s for local sculling programs at last weekend’s Stotesbury Cup Regatta, since all three of the boats to reach the final round of this venerable and expansive spectacle happened to be two-person vessels known as doubles.
Last year, Penn Charter had 11th-graders Kevin Kelly and Spencer Grant win the silver medal in the junior double, and their classmates Maria Georgiou and Heidi Zisselman matched the achievement on the girls side. Both pairs moved up to the senior double category this year, and both returned to the Stotesbury finals.
Grant and Kelly came away with silver medallions once more, while the PC ladies finished fourth in their final scholastic appearance on the Schuylkill. Georgiou and Grant will be back on the same stream in college, since both are headed for the University of Pennsylvania, while Zisselman will attend the U.S. Naval Academy and Grant is bound for Lehigh University.
The third double to race in the Saturday afternoon finals this year was the boys junior boat from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. Last year as a sophomore, James Meadows narrowly missed the cut-off to advance out of the opening round in the same category.
With a new partner this year, current 10th-grader Matt Miller, Meadows advanced through both that initial qualifying round and the semifinals. The Blue Devils duo then placed fifth in the “medal race” later on.
Having seized the silver medal at the Philadelphia City Championships two weekends before, Meadows and Miller were fifth-fastest out of the 27 total entries who participated in the opening round at Stotesbury. Ranked according to time, the Blue Devils and 11 other crews moved on into a pair of six-boat semifinal races.
SCH came in second in their section in this round, and ultimately they were fifth in the finals with a time of five minutes, 27.95 seconds. The medals here all went to out-of-state twosomes, with Ontario’s Governor Simcoe Secondary School winning convincingly in 5:08.57.
The racing for the Penn Charter senior doubles followed a similar format, with 19 overall entries on the girls’ side and 26 for the boys, and the fastest dozen in each group advancing out of the qualifying time trials.
The PC girls’ boat qualified fifth, less than a 10th of a second behind Inter-Ac League rival Episcopal Academy. In their semifinal, Zisselman and Georgiou came in second to New Jersey’s Ridgewood High School, which proved to be the fastest boat at every stage of the regatta, including the finals.
The Jersey crew won the gold medal battle against Germantown Academy’s Kate Horvat and Alex Takei (5:38.34 to 5:39.48), and in an even closer finish, third-place Conestoga High edged out PC for the final medal (5:48.78 to 5:49.18). Episcopal wound up fifth (5:52.22), well ahead of New York’s Poughkeepsie High School.
A boys’ double from the same Ridgewood High had separated Charter’s Kelly and Grant from a first-place finish at the City Championships on May 5, and in the end the Garden State twosome would do the same thing at Stotesbury. After ranking second behind the Maroons in qualifying, the PC pair actually posted a fractionally faster time than Ridgewood as each boat won in different semifinal contests.
“That was a real confidence-builder,” Grant explained, “because we had actually shut it down toward the end of our semifinal when we saw we were ahead of Don Bosco [another strong contender]. We thought we might be able to get Ridgewood with our sprint, which is pretty strong.”
The Lehigh-bound senior said that Ridgewood had started out with a strong junior double in 2012 (the same category the PC duo was in last year), but one of the oarsmen came down with mononucleosis.
“So even though they didn’t do as well in the big races last year, we knew this year they would be one of the top schools,” Grant said.
On the other hand, Ontario’s E.L. Crossley Secondary School, the 2012 Stotesbury champ in the junior double, only had one of those two rowers back this spring in its senior double.
In a rain-soaked Saturday afternoon final, the lead crews were pretty much even up to the halfway point, according to Grant.
“We might have even been ahead by a stroke or two,” he said, “but as we came into the island they started their sprint really early and jacked their [strokes-per-minute] rating right up to a 40. They took about two lengths on us almost before we could turn around and see they’d done it. It was kind of a shock to our system.”
Ridgewood won in 4:56.68, but their extended sprint helped draw silver medalist PC away from the rest of the field. Kelly and Grant were timed in 5:00.56, and bronze medalist Don Bosco didn’t cross the line until 5:09.66. Crossley came in fourth, leading Malvern Prep and sixth-place Roman Catholic.
Overall, the Stotesbury Cup regatta offers fewer racing categories than the regular season Manny Flick series or the City Championships, particularly in regard to first-year rowers. In order to give their rookies the experience of participating in this prestigious regatta, area crews entered some of their younger rowers in events where they were up against rivals who were inherently stronger and more experienced.
While a number of these boats produced times that were very good for their true level of competition, this was not enough to let them advance out of the qualifying head races on Friday morning and afternoon. Depending on the overall number of crews that registered in a given category, the fastest 18, 12, or six schools in the qualifying heats moved on to the semifinals.
In the girls junior quad, where half of the two dozen entries advanced, there would be no semifinals for three area crews. Penn Charter [Celina McCall, Hannah Kramer, Rachel Gordon, Isa Djerassi] was ranked 15th, Germantown Friends [Tessa Curry, Sophie Bartholomew, Addie McKenzie, Becca Genyk] was 16th, and Springside Chestnut Hill [Henney Hambrose, Comora Love-Mitchell, Emily Zuckerman, Courtney McElwee] was 17th in the order of finish.
Only the quickest six in a field of 17 moved on in the girls freshman quad, so this was the end of the line for both ninth-place SCH [Alexa Schwartz, Jenna Yorko, Carly Plotkin, Melanie Bender] and number 15 PC [Gina Kim, Jay Dunmore, Jessica Newburg, Jean Gleason].
In the 33-boat boys senior single event, Thomas Andrews of SCH missed the cut-off point by three places, finishing 21st, while PC’s Erich Riedlmeier landed in the 29th spot. The Blue Devils and Quakers both had vessels racing in the boys junior quad class, as well, where a total of 27 schools vied for 12 semifinal positions. Charter [Ethan Ashley, Ethan Grugan, Jimmy Paolini, Conor Foley] posted the 19th time here, and Springside Chestnut Hill [Jimmy Klauder, Ryan Torie, Riley Bakes, Rayan Bousso] was 22nd.
In other large categories where 18 vessels made it to the semifinals, there was no joy for the SCH boys junior four [Andrea Dragani, Will Elliott, Joseph Mulhern, Larry Wargo, Mark Mulhern-cox], which was 33rd out of 61 entries, the SCH girls lightweight four [Lauren McCormack, Lexi Smilow, Allison Day, Ellery Crandall, Cara Stapleton-cox], which ranked 36th of 38, or Penn Charter’s girls senior four [Katie O’Malley, Maddie Perlmutter, Claudia Stedman, Tara Malone, Sophie Eldridge-cox], which unfortunately brought up the rear in a 46-boat field.
In events where a time in the top 12 got you to the next round, it didn’t happen for the SCH girls junior double [Lisa Burckhardt, Karley Kochenour], placing 17th of 28 tandems, or for the Blue Devils’ girls senior double [Devon McAllister, Marguerite Zabriskie], 18th out of 19.
The same fate befell the Springside Chestnut Hill boys’ lightweight double [Will Tasman, Jordan Wang], ranked 18th of 21 duos competing.
A total of 20 boats set out in the girls lightweight double class, but while Penn Charter [Liza Gendler, Sabrina Pogrebivsky] bowed out with a 19th-place time, SCH’s Maddie Canning and Alana Noble went through as the 11th of the 12 twosomes to reach the semifinal round. Unfortunately for Devils’ fans, an improvement from their seeding spot was not in the cards; they were sixth in their semifinal with the 11-best time overall.
The other semifinal qualifier for the Blue Devil girls was the senior quad [Anna Rose Bedrosian, Liz McClafferty, Chelsea Richardson, Mia Gold] timed 10th of 16 overall, and thus becoming one of the 12 boats to advance. This quartet missed a trip to the final by a single place, coming in fourth in their semifinal behind Virginia’s Woodbridge High.
SCH also had a boys’ senior quad in contention, and Penn Charter, too, was part of the initial group of 17 in this event. They finished in order in the head race timing, the Devils [Jaime MacEachern, Graham Ervin, Alec Horter, Seth Bakes] 10th and the Quakers [Sam Jolinger, Ed Point, Stanton Young, Jack Delaney] 11th.
Both were seeded into the same six-boat semifinal, but neither group became one of the three crews advancing from there, as SCH crossed the line fourth, while PC was sixth.
Immediately after that race, Germantown Friends senior Andrew Bair left the starting line in the first of three senior single semifinal races. A solo pioneer for the Tigers when he started to compete as a freshman, Bair qualified seventh of 33 on Friday, easily making the 18-man quota for the semi’s. Only two would rise out of each semifinal race, though, and Bair, in a fast contest won by the eventual gold medalist, came in fifth.
There was also a boys lightweight double racing for Germantown Friends [Ethan Genyk, Greg Goldstein], and in an initial field of 21, they were ranked 11th and became one of a dozen semifinalists. Like Bair, their run ended in this round with a fifth-place finish.
The semifinals were also the last stop for a boys junior double from Penn Charter [Peter Ciarocchi, Chad Coursen], which qualified eighth of 27 crews on Friday, then placed sixth in the first of the two semi’s.