Despite appearances in this photo, the Mount varsity eight (background) is actually in the lead, but Merion Mercy (foreground) made a threatening sprint before finishing second. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Despite appearances in this photo, the Mount varsity eight (background) is actually in the lead, but Merion Mercy (foreground) made a threatening sprint before finishing second. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

When crew medals are up for grabs, Mount St. Joseph Academy rowers always seem to be in the vicinity. After continuing their annual custom of winning the overall sweep rowing trophy for the annual Manny Flick/Horvat series of “regular season” races in March and April, the Magic sent nine boats into the finals of the Philadelphia City Championships last Sunday and saw all of them finish in the top three.

In addition to winning the girls’ marquee race, the varsity eight, Mount St. Joe garnered gold medals in the lightweight eight, lightweight four, second eight, JV eight, freshman eight, and novice eight. A second novice eight raced by the Magic won a bronze medal, and the same prize went to a Mount JV four.

Because of a dearth of lightweight eights entered in the regatta, the Mount’s group of picky eaters travelled straight through to the final round automatically, but the other MSJ vessels each had to earn their passage in the preliminary head races. In each class, the boats with the six fastest times moved on to the “medal” race.

Starting out, the Magic had their two novice eights qualify first and third. The top time belonged to the “A” boat [Izzy Mina (cox), MaryKate Ciolko (stroke), Caroline Timoney, Harriett Blatney, Aydin McPhilemy, Gia Hunt, Riley Gorman, McKenna Matthews, Nora Hogan], and third was MSJ “B” [Sofia Bernal (cox), Maureen McGreevey (stroke), Laurel Chung, Aine Playdon, Emily Lubinski, Eva Timoney, Jess Webb, Maddy Kerr, Hailey Goodyear].

Mount St. Joe’s freshman eight [Katie Greed (cox), Julia Woodrow (stroke), Katie Edling, Maddie Niekelski, Eileen McKenna, Claire Broderick, Lauren Kiefner, Shayne McKernan, Bryn McLaughlin] advanced easily, topping the number two crew in the starting field of 15 by nearly two full seconds.

Out of 32 boats that started out in the JV four category, the Mount’s “A” entry [Maddie Walsh (cox), Karsen Healy (stroke), Olivia Snakard, Kerry Faust, Christie Faust] was fourth on time, but the “B” boat [Angela LaCorte (cox), Julia Flynn (stroke), Aileen Mansfield, Jen DeGroat, Rebecca Patti] narrowly missed qualifying, winding up seventh and trailing number six by half-a-second.

The Mounties in the JV eight [Abby Schwenger (cox), Brayslin Gallagher (stroke), Celene Mina, Sam Cordero, Sam Altomare, Cathryn Antonacio, Michelle Lipovski, Gabi Natale, Emma Veon] continued their strong spring by putting up a time four seconds faster than the runner-up boat. The lightweight four head racing revealed the Magic [Olivia Kylander (cox), Paige Comtois (stroke), Maddy Sandquist, Maddie Curran, Emma French] to be about three seconds faster than the second-place crew.

Qualifying even more convincingly was the second eight [Emily Woodrow (cox), Grace Little, Julianna Hunt, Brooke McMahon, Demi Simms, Olivia Tice-Carroll, Mia Fitzpatrick, Dana Mischler, Zoe Ramos], which won its head race by an eight-second margin.

Unfortunately for MSJ supporters, the varsity four [Kathleen Brooks (cox), Brianna McBride (stroke), Grace Sowa, Liz DeGroat, Anna Gallagher] just missed its chance to advance, coming in seventh out of 18 contestants.

Mount St. Joe’s varsity eight [Lindsey Maiale (cox), Erin McGreevey, Christina Knox, Cait Hagan, Maddie Lauinger, Alex Natale, Maddie Carlton, Grace Comerford, Alex Uzzo] qualified second in 5:04.46, in between Merion Mercy (5:01.14) and Montclair (N.J.) High School 5:08.29).

First up in the finals were the three boatloads of MSJ ninth-graders. The Mount rookies usually don’t begin official competition as early as their counterparts at many other schools, but the excellent instruction they receive allows them to catch up to and often surpass rival crews by the time the “medal races” roll around in May.

As Sunday’s finals began, the Magic novice “A” boat smoked the field to win by 13 seconds in 5:21.14, and the “B” eight scooped up the bronze medal in 5:37.56, about three seconds behind runner-up Philadelphia City Rowing (PCR). The Mount freshmen had a closer race, but eclipsed Merion Mercy to claim the gold medal, 5:16.66 to 5:18.68.

The Mounties acquired their second bronze medallion in the JV four, coming in at 5:50.89 behind Lower Merion High School and Merion Mercy.

The JV eight, earning a position in lane three in the middle of the course thanks to their head-racing performance, received a serious challenge from two lanes over (number five) in the finals. The Magic noticed Holy Spirit High School making a run and held off the Jersey shore crew, taking the gold in 5:13.01. Another Garden State group, Montclair High, made it a three-way sprint, picking up the bronze medal just behind runner-up Spirit (5:14.08 to 5:14.32).

With a deep roster of lightweight rowers this spring, Mount St. Joe’s was able to bag both the fours and the eights gold medals on Sunday.

The two Mount novice eights seen here won a gold and a bronze medal in Sunday’s City Championships. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

The two Mount novice eights seen here won a gold and a bronze medal in Sunday’s City Championships. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

The four, which had to qualify in the morning, crossed the line in 5:42.90, five-and-a-half seconds ahead of silver medalist Absegami High School.

There was no head racing needed for the light eights. It seems the Mount [Shannon LoStracco (cox), Julia Comerford (stroke), Vicki Matsinger, Shannon Hughes, Erica Arnold, Molly Whalen, Brooke Gimaro, Katelin Cordero, Rachel Sandquist] scared away everybody except two other schools, and the results of finals showed why. The Magic triumphed in 5:01.32 ahead of two New Jersey high schools, Ocean City (5:20.98) and Moorestown (5:42.44). There should be more of a challenge for the MSJ boat at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta, though.

The experienced, open-weight rowers in the Magic’s second eight cruised to the gold medal in 5:10.37, almost eight seconds ahead of silver medal winner Radnor High School.

In the varsity eight, Mount St. Joe had finished behind Merion Mercy in the last of the “Flick” races. After making a seat swap, the Magic were still second to the Golden Bears in time trials last Sunday morning. With just a few hundred meters to go in the finals, it looked as though the Mounties (in lane four) were going to redeem themselves.

One lane inside of them, Merion made a very serious finishing sprint, but ultimately fell short. The Mount earned the gold medal in 4:54.32, with the Golden Bears second in 4:55.08 and bronze medalist Holy Spirit farther back in 5:01.37. After another five seconds, Montclair came across in fourth place.

Mount St. Joseph had not only proven its prowess in the present day, but had showcased a group of freshmen who show all the signs of being able to continue the program’s impressive tradition.

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