by Tom Utescher

The Chestnut Hill Academy and Springside School crews only entered three boats between them at last weekend’s Scholastic Rowing Association of America (SRAA) National Regatta, but all three made good use of the opportunity. On the Cooper River in Camden, N.J., CHA’s JV quad made it to the finals and the senior double won a bronze medal, while Springside seized a silver medal in the senior quad.

In their season-long quad duel with Inter-Ac League rival Episcopal Academy, Springside seniors Verity Walsh (stroke) and Taylor Apostolico (three seat), and juniors Jen Sager and Anna Valciukas broke through to win a gold medal at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta on May 21 while EA came in third for a bronze. Episcopal came back to prevail in their engagement at Nationals, winning by about three seats at five minutes, 21.58 seconds while the Lions were timed in 5:22.87.

Both crews had won their semifinal heats to advance into the medal race, along with the second and third-place semifinalists. A Canadian crew, Ridley College, had been closest to Springside at Stotesbury and had won the silver medal, but in Camden the Ontario boat slipped back to fourth place, almost seven seconds behind the Lions. Conestoga High School earned the bronze medal in 5:25.79, while Woodbridge High from Virginia was fifth and Jersey’s Haddon Township was sixth.

The weather was hot for the two day event, but there were frequent breezes and many clumps and groves of trees at Cooper River Park offered shade for spectators taking in the racing and patronizing the many food and souvenir vendors who turned up. The same benefits were enjoyed by crews rigging out their boats, if they got there early enough to park in a sheltered area.

Like Springside, the two Chestnut Hill boats started out in the semifinals on Friday, with the top three finishers in each section going on to the finals.

The JV quad, staffed by 11th graders (stroke to bow) John Olson, Drew Adubato, Mike Calistri, and Carl Delacato, won its semifinal easily, by more than nine seconds. There were some wide gaps between boats in both semifinal contests, with some fast experienced crews doing just enough to advance to the finals, while some other entries truly found the level of competition difficult.

On Saturday, Montclair (N.J.) won the gold medal in 4:43.91 and Conestoga claimed the silver in 4:46.37, but the next three finishers all crossed the line in a span of less than two seconds. Haddon Township scooped up the last medal in 4:50.35, while Roman Catholic edged out CHA for fourth place, 4:52.04 to 4:52.19. For the Blue Devils, there remained the satisfaction of beating Inter-Ac rival Haverford School, which finished sixth in 5:07.88.

After being paired up in the senior double a few weeks into the 2011 season, Chestnut Hill’s Zach Baron and Laddy St. George had excelled. Baron, the stroke of the boat, is headed for Catholic University next year, and St. George will attend Trinity College.

They captured a bronze medal at the Philadelphia City Championships early in May, but stumbled slightly at the Stotesbury Cup, reaching the finals but finishing sixth.

“Since we put them together in one of the last Flicks [regular-season races], they were in the top three in every race up until Stotesbury,” pointed out first-year CHA coach David Savoie. “Then here they saw a couple of the boats that beat them at Stotes, and they turned around and just walked right through those guys this weekend.”

At the SRAA’s Haverford put up the fastest semifinal time, and CHA came in right behind the ‘Fords in the same heat. The final developed into a four-way affair, with three seconds separating those crews at the finish. Haverford (5:07.05) fought off Malvern Prep (5:08.60) for the gold medal, and the CHA tandem (5:09.96) took the bronze medal just ahead of fourth-place Shipley School (5:10.34). Another Main Line crew, Conestoga, was fifth (5:16.23), while New York’s Poughkeepsie High School lagged in sixth (5:44.99).

Speaking of Baron and St. George, CHA’s Savoie said, “They’ve been some of the most consistent guys on the team. Day-in and day-out they’re working hard in practice. Even when they weren’t feeling their best they’d show up and give it their all.”

In addition to the two crews that made it to the SRAA’s, the Blue Devils qualified three boats for the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships (which includes club crews as well as high schools), which will be held June 10-12 in Oak Ridge, Tenn., near Knoxville. Unfortunately, the event conflicts with graduation activities for this year’s seniors, so the sole CHA representative will be a lightweight double manned by juniors Adubato and Delacato.

Summing up the 2011 season, Savoie said, “I walked in with a lot of challenges, but I couldn’t have asked for more from these guys. They’ve done very well overall, showing that we’re a competitive crew not only in this area, but against some national competition. I’m looking forward to next year.”


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