by Tom Utescher
As usual on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, Mount St. Joseph Academy rowing alumni reunited back at the school’s Conshohocken boathouse to catch up with old classmates and learn of the achievements of current Magic oarswomen during the fall season.
For 2018, the annual “Class Day” also served as an opportunity to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the highly successful crew program at the Mount. Visitors could explore new locker room facilities in a recent addition to the boathouse, and there was a ceremony to christen three eight-oared shells.
The three eights were named “Franklin,” “Legacy” and “Spes Messis” (from the Mount St. Joseph motto, Spes Messis In Semine – The Hope Of The Harvest Is In The Seed).
One of the newly-christened vessels, Franklin, was named in memory of Franklin Burke, who helped found the financial firm of Burke, Lawton & Co. (now BLB&B Advisors) in Chestnut Hill in 1964. Burke passed away in February of this year, and helping dedicate the new Mount eight was Dean Karrash, a principal in the firm and the father of former Magic oarswoman Michela Karrash (’14), who went on to row at Boston College.
College plans are already in place for a number of this year’s Mount St. Joe seniors. Coxswains Katie Greed and Sofia Bernal are bound for Notre Dame and the University of Iowa, respectively.
Aydin McPhilemy, a Norwood Fontbonne Academy alum, will row for Drexel along with Gia Hunt, and two other seniors who are staying local are Claire Broderick (Villanova) and Riley Gorman (Temple). Heading down to Washington D.C. to row are Katie Edling (Georgetown) and Eileen McKenna (George Washington) while Lauren Kiefner will travel much farther south, to Clemson University.
Greed and Bernal both commanded the Magic’s varsity eight at various times during the fall regatta season, and much of the time their rowers were Edling, Hunt, McPhilemy, senior Caroline Timoney (another NFA grad), juniors Mae Sweeney and Lauren Vesey and sophomores Hannah Lemanowicz and Cate Van Stone. Sophomore Ena Alter also made an appearance in the V-8, and varsity crews coach Mike McKenna said that there’s at least one other sophomore who could be a candidate for the MSJ flagship in the spring season.
In most major fall regattas, Mount St. Joseph entered at least one other eight (usually listed as Mount St. Joseph “B”) in the varsity events. Broderick, Gorman and McKenna were regular performers here, along with seniors Harriett Blatney (a Norwood product), Shayne McKernan and Julia Woodrow, junior Julia Ianieri and sophomore Maggie Newell.
In late September, the Magic began fall competition in the Kings Head Regatta, held upriver from their Conshohocken quarters on the Schuylkill.
This was a two-and-a-half mile head race in which boats are released one-by-one from the starting line and then ranked on time at the end.
The Mount varsity eight won in 15 minutes and 20 seconds, and was followed by league rival Merion Mercy Academy (15:23) and Mount “B” (15:40).
A flurry of activity beginning in mid-October got underway with the Navy Day Regatta on the lower Schuylkill, in which Mount “A” and “B” captured the top two places in 14:01.36 and 14:10.21, while Merion was third in 14:17.08.
Next it was off to Boston for the varsity eight, which took part in the expansive Head of the Charles races on Oct. 21. Here the field of 85 girls’ scholastic eights included club crews with athletes from a number of different schools rowing together. Connecticut’s Saugatuck Rowing Club won the category for the fourth year in a row with a time of 17:34.690. Mount St. Joseph has often recorded the highest finish of any single-school crew, and that was the case again this year, as the Mounties clocked in at 18:27.252.
Unfortunately for everybody else, Saugatuck also usually comes down to Philly to race in the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta on the last weekend of October. The Connecticut crew won comfortably in 13:45.724, and in a close battle for second the Mount V-8 (14:05.694) was edged by Row America Rye (14:04.348), a club crew from Rye, N.Y. Once again, Mount St. Joseph was the best of the true high school crews.
To wrap up the fall campaign, the Mounties hopped the Delaware on Nov. 11 to race on Camden’s Cooper River, where they won the Theresa Braxton Trophy at the annual Bill Braxton Memorial Regatta. This was a 2000-meter multi-lane race, and Coach McKenna was impressed by the time of 6:51.18 turned in by the varsity against strong out-of-town competition.
Walt Whitman High School from Bethesda, Md. was second in 6:54.59, Dallas (Tex.) United was third in 7:00.95, and two more Mount eights claimed fourth and fifth place.