by Tom Utescher

Penn Charter senior Maria Georgiou, a Hill resident, poses with the medal she won at the 2012 Kings Head Regatta.

The most important races for scholastic rowers occur in the spring, but in the autumn there is a second season on the water. The headliner is the famous Head of the Charles Regatta, and locally there are number of events to challenge high school crews, who return to the sport with everyone a grade older due to the change in the academic cycle.

In contrast to the spring season, where most events feature a series of heats and have competitors racing side-by-side over a 1500 or 2000-meter course, most of the fall action follows a “head race” format, where the course is significantly longer and boats leave the starting line one-by-one at set intervals, primarily racing against the clock.

As a junior at Penn Charter last spring, Chestnut Hill resident Maria Georgiou teamed with Erdenheim classmate Heidi Zisselman in a junior double, winning the Philadelphia City Championships and the Scholastic Nationals, and taking the silver medal in the Stotesbury Cup Regatta. Zisselman runs cross country in the fall, so Georgiou, now a senior who aspires to row in college, raced a single in a number of events.

At the end of September Georgiou placed second in the Kings Head Regatta, held on the Schuylkill in Bridgeport, Pa., opposite Norristown. With a time of 21 minutes, 44.24 seconds on the three-mile course, she was not far behind the winner from northern New Jersey’s Nereid Boat Club (21:33.05), and half-a-minute ahead of the third-place rower from Whitemarsh Boat Club.

The PC senior then competed in the Navy Day Regatta on October 13 and the Head of the Schuylkill on October 27, both of which are held on a two-and-a-half-mile course along Kelly Drive in Philadelphia.

The singles event at Navy Day was won by a junior from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Alana Noble, who clocked in at 20:27.91 while Georgiou was the runner-up in 20:43.06. Another SCH 11th-grader, Maddy Canning, came in fourth in 21:39.96. At the Head of the Schuylkill, Georgiou was fourth overall and the first Pennsylvania finisher. Her time was 18:43.86, and the winning figure of 17:08.76 belonged to an entry from Connecticut’s Saugatuck Rowing Club.

Two of Georgiou’s Quakers classmates, Spencer Grant and Kevin Kelly, also competed during the fall. Winners at Scholastic Nationals together last May, they split up for summer training, but then came back together when school reopened, this time in a senior double.

Their first race was a biggie, the Head of the Charles on October 21. Their time of 20:09.66 put them 30th in a field of 43. Their Inter-Ac rivals from Malvern Prep made one of the best showings of the Philly-area crews, 10th in 18:54.96, but the Charter tandem was able to finish ahead of a third league contender, Haverford, which was 31st in 20:10.67.

After coming in fourth at the Head of the Schuylkill the following weekend, Kelly and Grant enjoyed their greatest success at the very end of the fall schedule. The Turn-and-Burn Regatta on the Schuylkill had crews doubling up in a 1500-meter race and then a much shorter sprint, and the PC duo won both contests, which were held just 15 minutes apart.

Mount St. Joseph Academy’s varsity eight was hugely successful both last fall and in the 2012 spring season, but seven out of the eight oarswomen in that boat graduated last June. Returning senior Kiera McCloy closed out the 2012 campaign in the V-8, and juniors Maddie Lawn and Lauren Matchett also spent time in the Magic’s flagship during the 2011-12 academic year, so the Mount has back at least a handful of rowers with first-string experience.

“All things considered, I was actually pretty pleased with how we did this fall,” remarked MSJ varsity coach Mike McKenna. “We weren’t even able to get our crews set for about three weeks, because we had some people who were injured at the start of school and we were like the walking wounded for a while.”

This fall, McCloy, Lawn, and Matchett were joined by senior Kate Mirabella, junior Natalie Simms, and sophomore Steph Eble in the varsity line-up. Senior Kait Loftus was normally in bow, although sophomore Jenny DiPietro performed as a stand-in, and in the three seat there were some swaps involving seniors Maddie Wescott and Emily Ruddy.

MSJ’s designated “B” boat for the fall season was largely made up of candidates for the lightweight eight, a traditionally strong boat for the Mount. The regulars here were seniors Jacqueline James, Lexi Meister, and Maura O’Donnell, juniors Michaela Karrash and Leah Ramos, and sophomores Tina Hendel and Brynn McGillin. Ruddy and DiPietro also made appearances in the boat.

Senior coxswains Mary Raggazino and Annie Tenzinger alternated in the two main Magic vessels most of the time, with junior Madi Kist popping into the B boat at the end of the season.

Reversing the progression of the PC boys double, the Magic produced their highest finish at the start of the fall campaign, winning the Kings Head in 16:36.33 to overshadow Catholic Academies rival Merion Mercy, the runner-up in 16:42.33.

The lightweights, aka Mount “B,” placed fifth, and they claimed the same spot at the Navy Day Regatta. Here Merion won overall, nipping the second-place Mount V-8, 15:43.18 to 15:43.99.

At the 2011 Head of the Charles, Mount St. Joe finished third to two California club crews and could rightly boast of being the best true high school boat in Boston. This year, the Mounties weren’t as powerful to begin with, and in addition they were penalized one minute for what was officially classified as a “severe collision.”

One of their rivals in bygone days, Saratoga (N.Y.) Rowing Association, won the contest in 17:45.96, while the Magic, thanks in part to their time-fine, were ranked 48th among the 85 finishers, with an official figure of 19:54.98. That moved them behind Merion, 13th in 18:59.78. The Mounties had been charged with impeding the progress of Saratoga, but obviously the contact wasn’t severe enough to prevent the New Yorkers from winning.

With no judgments against them the next weekend at the Head of the Schuylkill, the Mount V-8 was fourth, close behind third-place Merion, while the lightweights came in 17th.

The November 10 Frostbite Regatta featured four separate 2000-meter races and no true “final,” and here the Mount’s time was the best overall, at 7:15.03. Instead of launching off of Kelly Drive the following day for the Turn-and-Burn, the Magic opted to attend the Braxton Memorial Regatta, a 1500-meter race on Camden’s Cooper River. Merion, who’d been absent from the Frostbite, turned up to take fourth place in 5:20.26, and Mount St. Joe finished up for the fall with a fifth-place performance, timed in 5:21.44.

At the Braxton, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy Matt Miller (a sophomore) and James Meadows (a junior) won the first of two races for the high school double.

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