by Tom Utescher
For area crews, winning a gold medal at last weekend’s Scholastic Rowing Association of America National Championships Regatta proved to be a singular experience. Among the five local schools who sent their athletes out on suburban Camden’s Cooper River in the annual two-day event, there was just one first-place finish, and it was achieved by a solo performer.
Germantown Academy’s Jess Zettlemoyer, a senior bound for Boston College, captured the gold medal in the women’s varsity single. After becoming the Philadelphia City Champion at the beginning of May, an ailing Zettlemoyer just missed making the finals at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta two weekends ago.
Winning one of three preliminary heats last Friday, the Patriots senior advanced to the Saturday afternoon final along with Penn Charter junior Jean Gleason, who placed second in her initial grouping. In the final, Zettlemoyer won in six minutes, 18.969 seconds, just about three seconds ahead of an athlete from Cincinnati Country Day School who had posted the top overall time in the Friday racing. PC’s Gleason was sixth on Saturday, in 6:40.595.
On Friday, the first day of the regatta, there was sunny weather but also strong wind gusts that challenged the athletes on the river and tested the sturdiness of the team tents ashore. Saturday was pleasantly warm, and a lot less breezy.
The best SRAA efforts for Charter and for all-girls Mount St. Joseph Academy netted silver medals, in the women’s junior double for the Quakers, and in the lightweight eight for the Mount. GA garnered a bronze medal in the men’s varsity single, and Mount St. Joe earned an award of identical hue with its JV eight.
Just out of the medals with fourth-place finals finishes were GA’s women’s JV quad, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s women’s varsity quad, and two boats from Germantown Friends, a men’s varsity single, and a women’s lightweight quad. The women’s freshman quad from GFS placed fifth in the finals, as did Penn Charter’s men’s varsity double. Also reaching the final round was the Mount’s second eight, which came in sixth.
The Magic’s varsity eight, the Philadelphia City champion and Stotesbury gold medalist, won its last race on Saturday, but to the chagrin of the MSJ faithful, they were not competing in the primary “grand” final, but in the “petite” final which featured the crews which placed fourth, fifth or sixth in one of the two semifinal sections. These two finals, the grand and petite, are only held for the varsity fours and eights in the regatta.
On Friday, the Mount V-8 won the first of six heats, earning passage to the semifinals. A few rivals had been a few ticks faster in other heats, but the one that stood out was defending gold medalist Saratoga High School, which was five seconds ahead of the second-fastest crew, and more than seven seconds quicker than the Mount. The upstate New York outfit would go on to win the gold, but not without a battle from Long Island’s Manhassett High School and from New Trier, a suburban Chicago power.
Needing to place in the top three in their semifinal to reach the medal race, the Magic were fourth in their Saturday morning semi. They crossed the line a little over four seconds behind third-place Manhasset, the crew they had beaten for the gold medal at Stotesbury. In the petite final, the Magic won by two seconds over Catholic Academies rival Merion Mercy.
The Mount’s lightweight eight (Lindsey Maiale – cox, Erin McGreevey – stroke, Vicki Matsinger, Julia Comerford, Zoe Ramos, Molly Whalen, Shannon Hughes, Rachel Sandquist, Katelin Cordero) and JV eight (Emily Woodrow – cox, Brooke McMahon – stroke, Demi Simms, Cait Hagan, Alex Natale, Julianna Hunt, Mia Fitzpatrick, Michelle Lipovsky, Grace Comerford) were repeat winners of the silver and bronze medals. Each crew qualified second to start out with, and each won its semifinal race.
The lightweights, the 2015 Stotesbury gold medalists, turned in a time of 5:02.171 in the finals. They added to the distance there had been at Stotes between themselves and Philly-area rivals Merion (fourth in 5:09.219) and Holy Spirit (fifth in 5:12.896), but the Floridians from Winter Park High School edged out the Mounties for the gold medal, winning in 5:01.391.
The JV eight, Stotesbury silver medalists, once again came in behind northern New Jersey’s Montclair High (5:04.283 to 5:07.243), but in front of both of them at SRAA’s was the gold medalist from Washington, D.C., National Cathedral Prep (5:02.583).
Third in the preliminary round and winner of its semifinal, the MSJ second eight (Annarose Clark – cox, Sam Altomare – stroke, Alana Cianciulli, Brynn McGillin, Jenny DiPietro, Danielle Kosman, Nina Lawlor, Emma Tenzinger, Maddie Finnegan) had a tough row in the finals, arriving sixth in 5:26.374.
Penn Charter’s Kelsey White and Sally Stanley had taken the gold medal in their JV double at the City Championships, but then missed the finals in a disappointing Stotesbury showing. They were back in form at SRAA’s, winning the faster of two heats to advance directly into the finals.
Virginia’s St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes apparently had plenty of gas left in the tank after a leisurely victory in the other semifinal, as the duo from the Old Dominion sped to a gold medal in 5:54.462. The pair from PC (6:01.593) snagged the silver with a two-second cushion, coming in ahead of one twosome from New Jersey and three from New York.
Going even farther down the numerical scale to the solo vessels, seniors Zach Burkhart and Andrea Berghella represented GA and GFS, respectively, in the men’s senior single final. Burkhart, the 2015 City champ, was first in his heat and second in his semifinal, while Berghella placed third and second, respectively, in those two rounds.
Miami’s Belen Jesuit Prep won the final in 5:30.386, and next three spots were hotly contested between the silver medalist from Friends Select (5:33.846), bronze medalist Burkhart (5:33.986), and number four Berghella (5:34.512), all finishing within a one-second span.
The other fourth-place result for the Tigers was owing to Sam Pancoe, Tessa Curry, Maya Esberg, and Becca Genyk in the lightweight quad, who won their heat race to reach the finals and then missed out on the hardware by one spot, landing fourth in 5:55.559. Conestoga High School (5:36.614) cruised to the gold with a nine-second margin of victory.
The other GFS finalist was the Stotesbury bronze-medalist freshman quad containing Lily Zukin, Rei Marshall, Sydney Slavitt, and Alice Daeschler. They placed second in what turned out to be the slower of two semifinals, and they ended up fifth in the final (5:51.996), where Conestoga picked up another gold medal (5:36.292).
While Zettlemoyer and Burkhart captured medals for Germantown Academy, in the JV quad Emma Rapp, Katie Aemisehher, Genna Fierson, and Nina Tang wound up just one spot short of the awards stand. This pack of Patriots placed second in their initial outing to make the medal race, then crossed the line fourth in the final with a time of 5:38.673. Ahead of them was a group of three out-of-state boats headed by Xavier Prep of Phoenix, Ariz., which won by almost nine seconds in 5:27.189.
SCH only had one boat racing on the Cooper River, but Amanda Miller, Emma Lutz, Grace Youngren, Lisa Burckhardt earned a berth in the finals for the senior quad. They advanced by placing third in their heat race, and then came in fourth on Saturday afternoon. Most of the boats in the final were widely spaced, as Conestoga won comfortably in 5:23.502 and the Blue Devils were timed in 5:42.356.
Penn Charter’s veteran combo of Jeremy McDavid and Ethan Ashley garnered fifth place in the varsity double. They moved through by ranking second in their heat and third in one of two semifinal races. Their time put them fifth out of the six boats that moved up out of the semi’s, and that’s where the Quakers ended up in their last race, this time with a figure of 5:25.137. The Stotesbury gold medalists from Friends Select also won here, in 5:05.622.