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by Tom Utescher

One of the oldest Fourth of July events in Philadelphia is the Independence Day Regatta, and rowers from a number of area schools were down on the Kelly Drive racecourse last weekend to participate in the 130-year-old tradition.

Almost all of them racing out of the Fairmount Rowing Association boathouse under the guidance of Molly Konopka, a Roxborough resident who has enjoyed great success coaching the scholastic team at Episcopal Academy.

Maria Georgiou, a 2013 Penn Charter graduate, joined forces with Germantown Academy rising senior Kate Horvat to win the bronze medal in the women’s junior double, and they were part of a junior quad crew that emerged with a silver medal. In a Fairmount men’s junior double, Greg Goldstein of Germantown Friends teamed up with Episcopal’s Jack Alden to reach the final race in their class.

In the junior 16’s quad (a younger age category), Becca Genyk and Addie McKenzie of Germantown Friends belonged to a foursome that reached the finals, and they also raced together for Fairmount in a junior 16’s double. Their schoolmate Tessa Curry, who had rowed with them in a GFS novice quad this spring, became another Fairmount finalist last weekend in her novice single.

Also rowing out of Fairmount, John Funchion, who will be a junior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, was racing in the “B” eight, but he and his mates were unable to join the 12 boats that advanced out of the head race stage on Friday. Finishing a few places higher in that same race, but still falling short of qualifying, was an eight containing GFS junior Ethan Genyk.

Genyk, who has raced in a GFS double for the past two high school seasons along with his classmate, Goldstein, was competing last weekend as part of the U.S. Rowing East Coast Sculling team. In addition to performing in the eight, he also rowed in the men’s junior single category.

In addition to Georgiou, Penn Charter was represented by rising junior Rachel Gordon. Unfortunately, in their opening heat race, she and her three colleagues in another Fairmount junior quad wound up one place short of qualifying for the finals.

Germantown Friends’ Genyk and McKenzie also missed qualifying in their double, but had more success in the 16’s quad, where they were joined by two Conestoga High School rowers, Amy Connell and Emily Hompe. In the second of two initial heat races on Friday, they finished third to gain a berth in the finals on Saturday afternoon.

The four Fairmounters completed the 2000-meter final in eight minutes, 40.74 seconds to place fourth. The winning time of 8:05.05 was put up by a crew from Bachelors Barge Club, which is the home base for the GFS rowers during the school season.

The qualifying round for the men’s junior double included no fewer than 40 participants, but Goldstein and Alden sailed through with the second fastest time overall. They also were second in their semifinal race, and that allowed them to advance to the finals, where they finished fifth in 7:40.74, four seconds behind the fourth-place boat from Tampa, Fla.

The first round for the GFS solo rower, Curry, consisted of three heat races, and a second-place showing within her group got her through to the finals. She ended up sixth in this last race, a 1000-meter sprint where she logged a time of 5:12.35.

For Georgiou and Horvat, qualifying was a little different for each boat; three heat races for the quad, and a 27-boat timed head race for the double. In each one they finished second to advance to the second day of the regatta, the quad moving straight into the finals, while the double went into an additional semifinal stage.

On Saturday morning, they participated in the doubles semifinal, and as the runner-up in the second of the three sections, they earned a spot in the final race.

Early in the afternoon, they switched back over the Fairmount quad for the finals in that event. Here, their boatmates were Sarah Klippel of Merion Mercy Academy, and Episcopal’s Kelly McGowan.

Essex Rowing Club of Massachusetts took the gold medal in 7:32.86, and the Fairmount quad won a finishing sprint to claim the silver. Clocking in at 7:45.33, they nudged out New Jersey’s Cooper Training Center, which came in third in 7:46.79.

Late in the day, Georgiou and Horvat were again battling for place at the end of the junior double final. Their semifinal time had only been fifth fastest out of the six boats that advanced, but in the final they stepped up to capture the bronze medal in 8:25.19, while a boat from Steel City Rowing Club near Pittsburgh came in fourth in 8:25.33.

Another Steel City entry won the race in 8:11.22, and Baltimore Rowing Club took the silver medal in 8:22.70.

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