Rising Penn Charter senior Kevin Kelly outside of his summer home, the storied Penn AC Rowing Association on Boathouse Row. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

In the midst of last weekend’s heat wave, rowers from Germantown Friends, Mount St. Joseph, Penn Charter, and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy were making waves of their own on the Kelly Drive race course. Most were competing for club crews operating out of Boathouse Row as they participated in the Independence Day Regatta, held June 29 – July 1.

Second-place finishes were achieved by recent SCH grad Jen Sager, rowing a junior single for Vesper Boat Club, and by Penn Charter rising senior Kevin Kelly in a junior eight entered by Penn A.C. Rowing Association. Kelly’s PC classmate Maria Georgiou, working out of the Fairmount Rowing Association boathouse, was part of a third-place junior quad.

All of the high school competitors were entered in either junior or “junior 16” (an age limitation) categories, since the regatta also included collegiate and post-collegiate rowers, as well as a masters class that featured racers up to 75 years old. The event encompassed over 2100 rowers from 21 states and four foreign countries.

Falling in between the extremes was 2004 Chestnut Hill Academy grad Pete Seymour, who went on to row for the University of Delaware. While most events were held on a 2000-meter course, there were special “dash” races that extended for just a quarter-mile (402 meters). Seymour was second in his heat in the men’s dash, and was also second in the finals on Sunday, finishing in the middle of a three-way sprint. His time of one minute, 1:16.19 seconds put him in between rowers from Vesper (1:15.26) and Boston’s Riverside Boat Club (1:16.56).

A year ago, Seymour’s alma mater became part of the merger that produced Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, and in mid-June Sager was a member of the combo school’s first graduating class. Racing a senior single this spring, she capped off her senior year by winning the gold medal at the scholastic national championships.

Last weekend she had the fastest qualifying time, then reached the finals by coming in second in the first of two semifinal races. The top semifinalist was Louisa Freeman of Connecticut’s Saugatuck Rowing Club, and Freeman went on to win the final in 8:38.71, while Sager was second in 8:42.14. The SCH grad was 10 seconds ahead of another Saugatuck sculler, and she also bested an entry from the U.S. Junior Women’s National Team Sculling Camp.

Penn Charter students had excelled at the 2012 scholastic nationals, as well, with gold-medal performances in the two junior double finals from Kelly and Spencer Grant, and from Georgiou and Heidi Zisselman. Grant was also racing at the IDR, on behalf of the Philadelphia Sculling Club.

Georgiou’s Fairmount quad sped through the opening round to win the third of four heat races. They were second in the faster of the semifinal races, clocking the second-best time overall. The final was won by a Peruvian crew from Club de Regatas Lima, which traces its origins back to the 1800’s.

After Club Lima (7:25.71) came the “A” boat from the U.S. Sculling Camp (7:37.28), and Georgiou and her Fairmount friends were third in 7:38.52. Among the boats behind them was a second U.S. Sculling Camp quad.

Another rising senior at Penn Charter, Tara Malone, rowed for Fairmount last weekend in a junior four. She and her boatmates came in second their heat to move on to the semifinals, where they ended their run.

PC’s Kelly began his weekend in a time-trial round in the junior double category, as did his erstwhile boatmate, Grant. At the IDR, the field for the junior double also included GFS senior Andrew Bair, who rowed a single with much success during the school season.

In this heavily populated category, 18 boats advanced out of the time trials, and Bair, competing for Bachelor’s Barge Club, made it through in the 17th position. Grant qualified more easily as he and his PSC partner placed 11th, but Kelly finished just out of the running, in the 19th spot. Grouped in the same semifinal on Saturday morning, Bair came in fifth and Grant sixth, but only the top two advanced to the finals.

The other Germantown Friends participant in the IDR, rising junior Ethan Genyk, raced in two junior 16’s categories for Penn AC. In the fours event, his boat was the runner–up in the second of four heats. Going directly into the finals from there, they finished fourth. In a Penn A.C. double, Genyk participated in one of six heat races, winning his flight to advance to the semifinals. A second-place showing in that round got him to the finals, where he and his partner placed sixth.

Kelly’s junior eight was also a heat winner, putting up the second-best time overall. With fewer entries than in the doubles, the Penn A.C. boat went straight through to the finals. Here, a Saugatuck crew won in 6:11.77, with Kelly’s craft second in 6:14.38, and another Penn A.C. crew coming in third about five seconds later.

Some Mount St. Joseph oarswomen, racing together as a single-school crew, made it to the finals in the junior four, starting out with a second-place finish in one of six heat races. Stroking the boat was Drexel-bound 2012 graduate Rose Ehrlich, who was part of the Mount varsity eight that had been the runner-up at the Henley Women’s Regatta two weekends before.

In the bow of the IDR four was another member of the Mount’s Henley eight, rising senior Kiera McCloy. The line-up also featured senior Kait Loftus, and Michela Karrash and Madi Kist (cox), who will be juniors. The Mounties made the finals by coming in third in their semifinal race, and finished up in fourth in their last outing.

There was a third day of IDR competition for PC’s Kelly and Grant, who each squared off against older opponents in events in the “intermediate” category. Kelly’s boat was essentially the same crew as his Penn A.C. junior eight, and they held their own against the big boys, placing second in their opening contest and winding up fourth in the finals.

Grant was in an intermediate quad for Philly Sculling, a boat which was runner-up in its heat, and sixth in the final round.

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