by Tom Utescher

mount crew

In a race on the Schuylkill back in May, Mount St. Joseph junior Steph Eble (left) labors away in the stroke seat of the varsity eight as senior coxswain Megan Mirabella consults the onboard computer. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

In an effort to accommodate the excellent scholastic rowing programs on the West Coast, U.S. Rowing decided to hold its annual Youth National Championships in California this year. This limited attendance on the part of East Coast crews used to having the event held in Ohio or Tennessee, but five boatloads of area rowers did make the trip out to Lake Natoma near Sacramento last weekend.

The ladies in the lightweight eight from Mount St. Joseph Academy ended their season with a victory, winning the “B” final that included the seventh through 12th-place boats overall in the category. Two other area crews finished up in the “C” final (places 13-18), where the Mount’s varsity eight and a men’s varsity double from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy each placed fourth.
Two MSJ fours also made the trip, an open-weight varsity boat and a lightweight crew, but neither reached the third day of racing, on Sunday, June 15.

Several other events dubbed “national” regattas were held in May (one of them a new event this year), but this month’s U.S. Rowing championships feature the toughest competition. The other gatherings are restricted to boats in which every member attends the same high school, while at the Youth Nationals, club crews are thrown into the mix.

The club vessels regularly contain rowers from several different schools, broadening the talent pool they can draw from. Compared to the institutions back East, very few high schools on the West Coast have their own rowing programs.

After a regular season that didn’t go quite as well as they’d hoped, the Mount St. Joe lightweights (cox: Madi Kist, Rachel Sandquist – bow, Katelin Cordero, Bridget Fitzpatrick, Erin McGreevey, Alex Uzzo, Abby Shreero, Liz McKernan, Michela Karrash – stroke) produced one of their best results right at the end of the high school season, winning a silver medal at the Scholastic Rowing Association of America (SRAA) championships.

In one of Friday’s three opening heats in their category, the Mounties finished third to earn a trip to the semifinal round on Saturday. Here, they needed another third-place (or higher) finish to make Sunday’s “A” final (traditionally referred to as the grand final), but they missed the cut by one place, winding up fourth in the first of the two semi’s. This slotted them into the B” final that would be held just before the medal race the following day.

Still, the MSJ lights were able to go out with a win, placing first in their last race as they crossed the line two seconds ahead of the runner-up from Washington State, Sammamish Rowing Association. The Magic completed the 2000-meter course in seven minutes, 34.955 seconds, a better time than that of the sixth-place boat in the “A” final. Overall, the Oakland (Calif.) Strokes won in 7:13.605, with Connecticut’s Saugatuck Rowing Club the runner-up in 7:16.727.

SCH seniors Thomas Andrews and Jaime MacEachern knew they’d be facing some top shelf competition in Sacramento, but fortunately they already had a nice little collection of prizes at home. They’d earned the bronze medal at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta, and won silver medals at the Philadelphia City Championships, the SRAA’s, and the inaugural National Schools Championship Regatta.

At Youth Nationals, they started out with a fifth-place showing in their heat, which put them in a section of the draw called the repechage (“reps” for short), a feed-in stage that gives crews a second chance to reach the semifinal round. Another fifth-place result left Andrews and MacEachern out of the running for the semis, but they still were able to race on Sunday, as part of the field for the “C” final.

In their last race, the Blue Devils came in fourth with a time of 7:36.975, just hundredths of a second behind number three New Canaan (Conn.), whose time was 7:36.837. The cream of the crop proved to be Saugatuck, which won the “A” final in 7:13.520.

Like the SCH lads, the members of the Mount varsity eight (cox: Megan Mirabella, Leah Ramos
 – bow, Lauren Matchett, Maddie Carlton, Alaina Hunt, Maddie Lauinger, Maddie Lawn, Christina 
Knox, Steph Eble – stroke) enjoyed considerable success on the scholastic scene. Although a relatively young crew, the Magic captured the gold medal at Stotesbury and snagged the silver at the SRAA regatta on Memorial Day Weekend.

In the third of four initial heats last Friday, the Mounties came in fourth in 7:11.581. Connecticut Boat Club won that section in 6:51 and change, and elsewhere in the heat racing even faster times were put up by the Oakland Strokes and Boston’s Community Rowing Incorporated (CRI).

Third in their repechage race the next day, the Magic were 10 seconds ahead of the fourth-place boat, but only the top two moved back into the main bracket for the semifinals, so Mount St. Joe went into the “C” final. The Mounties finished fourth on Sunday in 7:28.007, about three seconds behind Seattle’s Pocock Rowing Center, and eight seconds ahead of number five Atlanta Junior Rowing Association.

Among an elite field in the “A” final, Oakland turned in an impressive gold medal effort, winning by six-and-a-half seconds over Connecticut Boat Club in a time of 7:03.897.

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