by Tom Utescher
A chilly rain persisted through much of the 2016 Philadelphia City Championships on the Schuylkill last Sunday, but area oar athletes proved persistent, as well, and were rewarded for it.
Germantown Friends, which just made rowing an official sport last year, won gold medals in the girls’ novice single, boys’ novice quad, and girls’ JV single, and silver medals in the girls’ lightweight quad, girls’ varsity single, and boys’ varsity double.
The GFS girls acquired bronze medals in the novice quad and freshman quad, and the Tigers also had two fourth-place and two sixth-place finishes. During the Manny Flick racing series back in March and April, the girls of GFS placed third in the point trophy standings for all sculling programs.
Last Sunday Springside Chestnut Hill Academy bagged silver medals in the boys’ novice single and lightweight double and the girls’ varsity quad, and brought home bronze in the boys novice single and double. There were also two fourth-place outcomes for the Blue Devils, along with one fifth-place and one sixth-place showing.
The Germantown Academy girls secured a gold medal in the varsity single and a bronze medallion in the lightweight double, and other vessels for the Patriots came in fourth in one event and fifth in two others. Silver medals were won by the boys’ JV single and girls’ varsity double for Penn Charter, while two Quaker crews finished fourth overall, and one came in sixth in its class.
In categories with very few entries, rowers went straight through to a six-boat (or fewer) final race, but in most classifications, athletes engaged in head races during the morning in order to earn a spot in the finals. Here, the boats were released from the starting line one by one, then ranked by time. In every head race category, the six fastest boats moved on to the finals. The odds of advancing varied widely, since some categories only listed seven or eight entries to begin with, and a few featured more than 30.
The schedule followed the usual progression, with the least experienced rowers starting out. At the outset, the boys’ novice gig/single head race results had Elliott Cunningham of SCH turning in the second-fastest time, and fellow Blue Devil Nelson Crane qualifying third. A late entry, Penn Charter’s Will Tanner, was ranked fourth, so he advanced, as well.
SCH also raced a novice double, and Theo Gregson and Dane Hoffman attained the finals with the number five time in qualifying.
The only sweep-rowing boat (one oar per person) entered by any of the local Inter-Ac or Friends League Schools was Germantown Academy’s novice eight. In an initial field of 14, the Patriots [Lily Richards (cox), Laura Brown (stroke), Ava Hook, Margaret Horvat, Liv Malen, Brynne DiDonato, Emily Morrissey, Addy Campbell, Sophie Worrell] earned the number four ranking, and continued on in the regatta.
Germantown Friends’ novice quad [Bix Komita-Moussa (stroke), Wiley Corlett, Henry Ziegler, Seve Reitano] qualified second in its head race, and a GA quartet [Derek Walkush (stroke), Andy Huang, Max Donches, Pedro Sobral] also advanced by securing the sixth spot. A Penn Charter freshman quad came close in its separate category, but missed the cut by 0.22 seconds.
The Quakers’ Stephen Flemming breezed through to the JV single finals with his second-place time in the head races, and Germantown Friends sent both of its girls’ JV doubles through to the afternoon. Tigers Sam Pancoe and Laila Okeson qualified third, while their schoolmates Sydney Slavitt and Lily Zukin snapped up the last berth in the finals with the number six time.
In the boys’ division of this event, GA’s Nick Moeller and Isaac Wilkins produced the third-best time to reach the final round.
In the girls’ JV quad, times were very close between SCH [Sofia Djerassi (stroke), Mia Humphreys, Paige Aloise, and Grace Tasman at 5:51.04], Penn Charter [Madeline Whitehead (stroke), Julie Webb, Maria Perry, and Emma Grugan in 5:51.60], and GA [Elizabeth Wescott (stroke), Rachel Kliger, Katie Hallahan, and Emma Rapp in 5:51.97].
It first appeared that only SCH earned a place in the finals, but an official review of the race resulted in the Blue Devils finishing fifth and PC getting to move on with a sixth-place showing. The boys’ JV quad from GFS qualified sixth thanks to Graham Arms (stroke), Preston Choe, Tunde Sogo, and Luke Cartrite.
In the lightweight doubles, GA’s Nina Tang and Lindsay Naber were timed third, while on the boys’ side two boats went through to the finals, number five SCH (Hudson Smith, Damian Betancourt) and number six GFS (Ethan Shen, Gabe Sher).
In the girls’ varsity single, Katie Aemisegger of GA and Addie McKenzie of GFS had been turning in one-two finishes (respectively) over the last few weeks of the regular season. The two seniors continued that pattern in the City Championships head racing, assuring that they’d meet yet again in the finals.
Penn Charter’s Kelsey White and Sally Stanley had been chasing a Conestoga High School duo back in the April “Flick” races, and the PC twosome was timed second to the Pioneer pair in the qualifying for the varsity double last Sunday. Ranking fourth, Springside Chestnut Hill’s Hope Lee and Grace Youngren also made the finals in this event.
Only one of four area entries in the boys’ senior double advanced; Germantown Friends’ James Wright and Andrea Berghella turned in another powerful performance to win the time trial.
The varsity quad head races wrapped up the qualifying for the area sculling programs, and here SCH sent both its boys and girls to the finals. Emma Lutz (stroke), Amanda Miller, Gabbi Sciarrotta, Lisa Burckhardt were ranked second on time, and Riley Bakes, Will Newbold, Michael Wrede, and Callum Brazier were sixth in their class.
In the girls’ novice single, Germantown Friends’ Claire Weiss did not have to undergo a head race, and when the only other athlete entered in this event dropped out, she rowed the very first of the final-round races all by herself. The Tigers’ second gold medal came in the novice quad, and the scenario here couldn’t have been more different. The GFS lads had to battle right down to the wire to edge out Conestoga by a hundredth of a second, 5:18.18 to 5:18.19. No one else was close to the top two; GA’s boat placed fifth in 5:46.83.
Haverford School won the boys’ novice single in 6:24.33, and next came the three area finalists all in a row. Silver medalist Crane (6:38.25) and bronze medalist Cunningham (6:47.90) of SCH were followed by PC’s Tanner in fourth place (7:31.79). The Blue Devils in the boys’ novice double were battling for the bronze with Haverford’s “B” boat when the Fords caught a crab near the end and the way was clear for SCH to medal in 5:14.77.
GFS girls would earn two bronze medals in the freshman and novice divisions. In the novice quad, the Tigers (Ellie Cheung, Isabela Viswanath, Chloe Smith-Frank, Sofia Newberg) came in ahead of fourth-place Penn Charter (Bella Hondros (stroke), Sydney Nixon, Zoe Tierno, Lucy Alter) 6:10.29 to 6:29.49. In the freshman quad GFS (Isabel Ortega, Andy Regli, Ayla Malefakis, Sophie Henisz) outdueled Country Day School of the Sacred Heart for the last medal, 5:51.57 to 5:51.74.
Germantown Academy’s novice eight duplicated its placing in the head race, coming in fourth in the finals in 5:43.32.
The JV races began with a third gold medal for GFS. There was no head racing in the girls’ single here, and the Tigers’ Rei Marshall defeated her two fellow finalists, winning by four seconds in 7:15.45. In the boys’ race, PC’s Flemming (5:49.77) collected the silver medal in a regular six-boat final.
Medals eluded other area finalists in the rest of the JV events. In the girls’ double, GFS “A” (Pancoe) was fourth and GFS “B” (Slavitt) was sixth, and in the boys’ double GA placed fifth. In the quads, the girls of SCH and Penn Charter finished fifth and sixth, respectively, and the GFS boys were sixth.
The GA Patriots picked up their first medal of the day in the girls’ lightweight double, where Friends Select won comfortably and the next three boats battled fiercely. GA (6:11.33) would end up with the bronze medal, arriving in between New Jersey’s Egg Harbor Township (6:10.48) and Agnes Irwin (6:11.38).
In the boys’ edition of this event, SCH struck silver in 5:31.31 (less than two seconds behind victorious Malvern Prep) while GFS was just out of the money in fourth (5:34.11). These two schools reversed roles in the girls’ lightweight quad. In this straight-to-finals category, the Tigers [Maya Esberg (stroke), Katie Maguire, Tessa Curry, Becca Genyk] took the silver medal in 5:32.88 behind Baldwin School, while Springside Chestnut Hill [Olivia Clark, Bridget Hennessy, Larissa Noble, Megan Karoly] was fourth in 5:48.53.
The varsity finals got underway with the girls’ single, with Aemisegger of GA and McKenzie of GFS duplicating their recent one-two finishes. The Patriot got the gold in 6:12.68 and the Tiger took the silver in 6:17.66. Aemisegger slumped over her oars after the win; she hadn’t been able to avoid having a late night on Saturday, when she was maid of honor at the wedding of her older sister Alicia (GA ’06).
The two doubles races netted silver medals for local scullers, with the Penn Charter girls (5:52.63) and GFS boys (5:18.05) each finishing as runner-up by roughly five seconds. In the girls’ race, the tandem from Springside Chestnut Hill placed fourth in 6:06.37.
The last two finals for area schools featured SCH quads. The Blue Devil girls out-sprinted the Episcopal Academy quad next to them to capture the silver medal (5:21.49 to 5:22.05), while the boys were sixth in their race (5:02.59).