The Mount St. Joseph Academy lightweight eight, pictured at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

After the majority of scholastic rowers in the area had bundled away their oars for the season, three boatloads of locals were down in Oak Ridge, Tenn. last weekend for the “big show,” the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships.

While a girls’ lightweight double from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and the varsity eight from Mount St. Joseph found the competition daunting indeed, the Mount lightweight eight was able to end its season on an upnote, winning the “C” final in its class.

The Youth Nationals not only feature elite single-school crews such as the ones which competed in the Scholastic Rowing Association of America national regatta on Memorial Day weekend, but also club crews made up of athletes from more than one high school. In addition, there are also strong single-school boats from New England, crews which never appear at the SRAA’s because a separate New England championship is held on the same weekend each year.

The U.S. Rowing races are 2000-meter contests, whereas high school crews such as the Mount and SCH compete regularly on a 1500-meter course. They had some opportunities to race and train at the longer distance, but a number of their rivals in Tennessee row full 2K’s day in and day out.

Springside Chestnut Hill juniors Maddy Canning and Alana Noble were racing in the lightweight double last weekend in Tennessee, having qualified for the Youth Nationals at the Philadelphia City Championships back on May 5.

The following weekend, the U.S. Rowing Mid-Atlantic Junior Championships were held at Lake Mercer in New Jersey, and this was the regatta that Mount St. Joseph chose as its qualifier for U.S. Rowing’s big dance.

Both the varsity eight (Mary Raggazino [cox], Steph Eble [stroke], Leah Ramos, Maddie Lawn, Kierra McCloy, Lauren Matchett, Kait Loftus, Michela Karrash, Natalie Simms) and the lightweight eight (Annie Tenzinger [cox], Emily McHugh [stroke], Liz McKernan, Maura O’Donnell, Bridget Fitzpatrick, Kate Mirabella, Josie Marrocco, Lexi Meister, Abby Shreero) finished second in the finals, making the cut for Tennessee with one place to spare.

Down in Oak Ridge, the SCH Blue Devils’ double was the first of the area boats to race, starting off Friday morning with a fifth-place finish in the first of four heats. While the four heat winners went directly into the semifinal bracket, everyone else was assigned to the repechage round.

Here again there were four races (with fewer boats in each one), and the crews that took the top two places in each section would round out the semifinal field of 12 boats. In each semifinal, the top three finishers would advance to the “A” final (formerly known as the grand final), and the next three would be slotted in Sunday’s “B” final, which, in essence, determined places seven through 12 overall.

The four boats that placed third in the four repechage heats would go into the “C” final, along with the two fourth-place boats that posted the fastest times. These crews would make up the third six-boat race in each category on Sunday.

Unfortunately for the Springside Chestnut Hill duo, they missed inclusion in the “C” final by one spot. The Devils came in fourth in their “rep” with a time of seven minutes, 51.01 seconds, and the last berth in the “C” final was taken by Greater Dayton Rowing Association (7:49.04).

The weekend at Youth Nationals also ended a little early for Mount St. Joe’s varsity eight. Sixth in the third of the four opening-round heats in their class, the Magic joined most of the other competitors in the repechage.

Early on Saturday afternoon, the Mount V-8 came in fourth in the first of the reps. That in itself didn’t prevent the Mounties from moving on, but their time did. Clocking in at 7:29.97, Mount St. Joe came down the course more quickly than three rival crews in the overall field, but the Magic were slightly slower than California’s Los Gatos Rowing Club (7:24.07), Washington state’s Bainbridge Island Rowing Club (7:27.37), and the Orlando Area Rowing Society (7:28.68).

Only the top two in this group, Los Gatos and Bainbridge Island, would be able to race in the “C” final the following day.

The MSJ lightweight eight, on the other hand, did survive until Sunday, having started out with a fourth-place showing in Friday’s heat racing. In their repechage contest, the Magic lights came in third to gain a berth in the “C” final. Their time in the reps, 7:29.00, was actually a little faster than one boat from another section that was able to make the semifinals with a second-place finish.

The third race was a charm for the Magic, who left the starting line a little after noon on Sunday, and finished first in the “C” final with a time of 7:10.88. They won their own race by four seconds over runner-up Cincinnati Junior Rowing Club, and they covered the 2000 meters more quickly than four of the crews in the “B” final.

The lightweight eight from New Jersey’s Holy Spirit High School, which won both the Stotesbury Cup Regatta and the SRAA nationals last month, finished fifth in the “A” final in Tennesse. Virginia’s James Madison High, the 2013 Stotesbury and SRAA gold medalists in the varsity eight, placed fourth in the “B” final at Youth Nationals.