by Tom Utescher
Last weekend at the expansive and historic Stotesbury Cup Regatta, area schools with sculling programs entered a total of 32 boats between them, and saw half that number advance out of the Friday morning time trials. Out of those 16 survivors, Germantown Academy, Penn Charter, and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy had at least one crew reach the finals, but the only medal that was won went to the youngest crew program of the bunch, the one from Germantown Friends.
For several years, a small but growing band of GFS scullers operated under club status from Bachelor’s Barge Club on Boathouse Row. This year the Tigers moved a few doors upriver to Vespers and, more importantly, their sport was accorded official interscholastic team status.
Under Aaron Preetam, a middle school teacher who had formerly taught and coached crew at the Baldwin School, GFS got three boats into the semifinals and one to the finals at “Stotes” last weekend, and the girls freshman quad came away with the bronze medal in their event.
Ranged from stroke seat to bow seat were Rei Marshall, Lily Zukin, Sydney Slavitt, Alice Daeschler, who were the only one of three entries from area schools to advance from the time trials. Since only 14 schools signed up in this event overall, the six qualifiers, including number five GFS, were moved straight into a Sunday afternoon final, skipping the semifinal stage.
Episcopal School of Dallas, Texas captured the gold medal in a time of five minutes, 48.48 seconds, while Philly-area sculling power Conestoga High School came next in 6:04.30. The Germantown Friends quartet won the bronze medal in 6:09.70, which gave them a five-second cushion over number four Ridgewood High School, which hails from northern New Jersey. Rounding out the final field were four other denizens of Dallas, representing Ursuline Academy, and a more local foursome from Agnes Irwin School.
In most categories at Stotesbury, the fastest 12 or 18 boats (depending on the total number of entries) advanced past the initial time trials on Friday morning. They continued to the semifinal stage, which consisted of either two or three six-boat races. Depending on the number of semifinal contests, either the top two or top three in each section would secure a berth in the Saturday afternoon “medal race.”
The other GFS rowers who made the finals were among the original group of girls to try out the sport for the Tigers. Addie McKenzie and Sophie Bartholomew raced a senior double last weekend, ranking sixth among the 12 qualifiers (in a field of 22) and continuing their run by placing third in the second of two semi’s. They would finish sixth in the finals on Saturday.
The third GFS qualifier was Andrea Berghella in the senior single, who started out among a pack of 36 individuals and earned 10th place out of the 18 qualifiers. Only the top two in each of three semi’s made the finals in this category, and Berghella was fourth in the third section.
Two other singles rowers who fared very well this spring are Germantown Academy seniors Zach Burkhart and Jess Zettlemoyer, both gold medalists at the Philadelphia City Championships on May 3. They are headed for the two big Boston schools, Burkhart to the “University,” and Zettlemoyer to the “College.”
As in many categories, the large number of out-of-town entries attracted to the Stotesbury gathering makes for tough competition. In Canada, for example, singles rowing is a prestigious pursuit.
Burkhart still made it through to the final race, sixth among the qualifiers and six seconds behind the top performer in the time trials, Nick Tavares of Ontario’s E.L. Crossley Secondary School. The GA senior grabbed second place in the first of three semifinals, and went on to finish fifth in the finals in 5:57.83.
Tavares had competed for Canada in a double at the 2014 World Rowing Junior Championships, but on Saturday the Crossley sculler settled for a silver medal behind a member of the U.S. junior program, Rye (N.Y.) High School’s Jim Palmer (5:42.86). The bronze went to an athlete from Denis Morris in Ontario.
GA’s Zettlemoyer was not up-to-snuff healthwise last weekend, but still earned fourth billing among a dozen qualifiers. She closed out her weekend one spot away from the finals, coming in fourth in the second of two semifinal bouts.
The Patriots who actually came closest to claiming a medal were Emma Rapp, Katie Aemisegger, Genna Fierson, and Nina Tang, who propelled the girls junior quad. Second among 12 qualifiers, and also runner-up in one of the two semifinals, the GA foursome cruised through to the medal race.
Here, the gold went to Notre Dame College School, an Ontario outfit (5:46.75), and the silver to New Jersey’s Ridgewood (5:49.47). Two other schools were right behind Ridgewood, and in a battle with the New Yorkers from Ballston Spa, the Patriots lost out on the bronze medal by a fraction of a second, 5:49.53 to 5:49.98. The next finisher was another six full seconds behind.
In GA’s boys lightweight double, Decker Wentz and Carter Seggev made it through trials by grabbing the final qualifying spot (12th), and they left the regatta with a sixth-place semifinal finish. The fifth GA qualifier, the girls senior quad (Bri Owen, Ingrid Lillis, Hannah Mills, Kathryn Nunes), was 11th out of 12 qualifiers in a field of 20. Next time out, they were fifth in their semifinal, and only three could move on.
The girls senior quad from Springside Chestnut Hill (Amanda Miller, Emma Lutz, Grace Youngren, Lisa Burckhardt) proved to be the lone finalist for the Blue Devils. Sixth in qualifying, this quartet captured the third spot in its semifinal race.
In the finals, the SCH boat finished sixth (6:10.56) out of lane six, a notoriously “slow” lane subject to current irregularities caused by its proximity to Peter’s Island on the lower end of the course. Conestoga, the only other Pennsylvania crew in the big race, collected the gold medal with a time of 5:39.84.
SCH put two doubles into the semifinal round, a boys’ senior with Matt Miller and Callum Brazier, and a girls’ junior containing Gabby Sciarotta and Karly Kochenour. The boys qualified 12th (of 30 total entries) but then landed sixth in their semifinal, while the girls were 11th in the time trials (12 of 27 made it), and also saw a sixth-place finish in the semifinal round.
Penn Charter’s girls junior double raced well this spring, but last weekend Kelsey White and Sally Stanley missed the finals by one spot. The sixth qualifier, they needed to finish third or higher in the second of two semifinals, but crossed the line fourth.
A boys senior double staffed by veterans Jeremy McDavid and Ethan Ashley would represent the Quakers in the finals. Like the junior girls, they ranked sixth among the 12 qualifiers in their class, and then they became the second of the three tandems in their semifinal section to survive until Saturday afternoon.
They ended up fifth in 5:43.64, way ahead of the six-place duo from Charlottesville, Va. Friends Select struck gold in 5:26.30.
A girls junior quad floated by Charter (Emma Grugan, Sharon Zea-Rincon, Hunter Smith, Pamela Gonzalez) took the 10th of 12 qualifying spots, then came up two places short of a finals appearance with a fifth-place showing among their semifinal group.
The other two PC boats that advanced out of Friday’s opening round were the senior singles of Jean Gleason and Ethan Grugan. A dozen boats were allowed to qualify in the girls division, where Gleason earned the eighth spot, while the top 18 boys moved on, including number 16 Grugan. Each of the solo Quakers netted sixth place in their respective semifinal races.
It should be noted that a number of young rowers from all of the local schools started out with a disadvantage last weekend. Due to the sheer size and scope of Stotesbury, it offers no “novice” races and a limited number of freshman events. That means that in order to compete at all, some rookies were shifted into categories where they went up against more experienced rivals. Additionally, certain lightweight rowers had to enter events where they faced open-weight rivals.
They still were proud to be part of the venerable regatta, knowing that some of their out-of-town counterparts travelled hundreds of miles just to race alongside Kelly Drive in the middle of May. For the most part, the weather was warm and sunny during the weekend, and the showers forecast for Saturday didn’t arrive until several hours after “Stotes” had shut down for another year.