by Tom Utescher
None of the rowers from Germantown Academy, Germantown Friends, Penn Charter and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy had been born when the Gin Blossoms released their first album in the early 1990’s, but their second day of competition at the Philadelphia City Championships could also have been titled “New Miserable Experience.”
The weather was warm and skies mostly clear for Saturday’s qualifying round, but rain persisted throughout Sunday’s finals. The ground turned to mush under the drooping team tents on the riverbank, and it was not the kind of warm May day experienced a little earlier in the week.
GFS demonstrated its depth by hauling home three silver and two bronze medals, with four other boats each finishing fourth in the finals. Two silvers and two bronzes went to PC, SCH picked up two silver medals and one bronze and GA collected one silver and one bronze.
There was some light rain in the area early Saturday morning, but by the time the qualifying heats got underway around midday, the weather was warm and mostly sunny.
The initial heats took the form of head races, where boats chiefly race the clock instead of each another as they’re released one-by-one from the starting line. In most categories, netting one of the six best times moved a crew into Sunday’s finals, but in a few categories the requirements were different.
In a few events with a lot of entries, a semifinal stage was scheduled at the start of Sunday’s racing. For area crews this wound up only affecting the JV boys’ doubles from GA and GFS, twosomes which turned in times among the top 12 and were then slated for one of two six-boat semifinals.
In other categories, there were so few entries that crews didn’t need to qualify at all, but were placed in the finals from the get-go. The boys’ lightweight quad from SCH (Elliott Cunningham, Eliot Rusk, Gyre Jaeger, Ian McLelland) was one crew afforded this shortcut, and two others were GFS’ girls’ novice quad (Lana Lee, Sara Cherubini, Taylor Peterson, Nora Lee) and girls’ varsity pair (Meg Bigelow, Chloe Smith-Frank).
On Saturday afternoon the first-year rowers started things off, and in the freshman quad SCH had its girls (Gaby Leon-Palfrey, Pere Jaeger, Ella Ward, Kaia McTigue) advance with the third best time while the boys (Jack Stephenson, Charlie Miles, A.J. Topping, Sammy Meyer) were second in qualifying.
PC’s Bella Salvi moved ahead with the fourth-best time in the girls’ gig/novice single, and her schoolmates in the girls’ freshman/novice double (Samyyah Muhammad and Tia Yancey) placed third in their head race. On the boy’s side in this category, a fourth-place showing for GA’s Michael Jackaman and Brendan Page let them move on.
The times of the top boats were closely spaced in the boys’ novice quad, where PC (Philip Price, Jakob Lanfranco, Tyler Mangan, Billy Kopf) came in first and a GFS quartet (Nathan Fireman, Teddy Ryan, Aden Solomon, Otis Harrison) was fourth.
One of the first to move ahead in the junior varsity racing was PC’s Aurora Hannikainen, who clocked in third in the girls’ JV single. Qualifying in the same head race were Zoe Thistle of SCH (fifth) and Tajah Williams of GA (sixth).
PC also saw its girls in the JV double advance; Gabby Mancini and Riley McDade qualified third.
In the boys’ JV double, a large field of competitors made it possible for the twosomes that placed in the top 12 to head into a semifinal round. GA’s Andreas Moeller and Alex Walkush were second on time, the GFS “A” boat (Robert May, Jekeun Jung) earned the fifth spot and GFS “B” (Rich Soong, Avi Kulkarni) grabbed the final spot with the 12th time overall.
Among the six crews that advanced in the girls’ JV quad was number five SCH (Ella Webb, Polly Sweeney, Kiley McTamney, Olivia McHugh), while in the boys’ trials in this category, PC (Kees Lynch, Jack Glomb, Taylor Whitehead, James Tanner) placed seventh and missed qualifying by 15 one-hundredths of a second.
Now it was on to the lightweight categories, where a second-place time was turned in by the girls’ double by Amelia Sanchirico and Isabel Mehta of the GFS Tigers. There was only a total of seven entries in the boys’ lightweight double, so only the last place boat failed to move on. Avoiding this fate were number two GFS (Raz Allon, Finn Kassell Osborne) and number five GA (Jamie Werther, Pedro Sobral).
In one of the first varsity time trials, PC’s Julia Veith continued her successful spring by producing the top time in the girls’ single, while Annika Ehrlacher of GFS was fourth. There were also two qualifiers in the boys’ varsity single, Derek Walkush of GA (second) and Alec Sandroni of GFS (fourth).
Qualifying second, just a fraction of a second behind number one Sacred Heart Academy, was the GFS girls’ double powered by sisters Sophia Ortega and Isabel Ortega. In the boys’ varsity double Conestoga High School was fastest by far, but the second spot went to two more GFS scullers, Doulin Appleberry and Owen Keim. Less than a second behind in third were PC’s Cole Frieman and Matt Groshens, and the fifth time belonged to GA’s Charlie Shafer and Dylan Robertson.
A foursome of fellow Patriots (Maylin Lindsey, Elizabeth Berlinger, Lauren Paynton, Lily Richards) qualified fifth in the girls’ varsity quad event.
GFS had two boats that were among the very first to see action on Sunday morning, both of them racing in the first of the boys’ JV double semifinals. Unfortunately for early-rising Tigers fans, neither tandem was able to advance by placing among the top three, as the A boat came in fourth and the B boat was sixth. In the second semifinal, though, GA’s Moeller and Walkush were a close second to Malvern and went through to the medal round.
The first final produced a bronze medal in the novice single for PC’s Salvi, in a race with gaps of open water between most of the finishers. The Quakers in the girls’ freshman/novice double did not fare as well, coming in sixth.
In the boys’ race in this category, the GA Patriots’ entry was one of two finalists that were excluded from the results due to a rules violation.
The girls’ novice quad final was another race with fairly widely-spaced finishers, and the GFS quartet drove past the wire in second position, taking silver behind gold medalist Wyoming Seminary from Wilkes Barre.
Next, the GFS boys’ quad also captured a silver medal, but it was really close at the line in this one, with New Jersey’s Holy Spirit High School taking the gold less than a second ahead of the Tigers as the two boats battled in adjacent lanes. Also in this race, the PC quad placed fifth.
The top two girls’ freshman quads finished close together, while the foursome from SCH was a little farther back but still came away with the bronze medal. In the next race the Blue Devils boys captured silver, three seconds behind victorious Haverford School but more than six seconds ahead of third-place Roman Catholic.
Area schools had three boats to cheer in the girls’ JV single final, but they couldn’t celebrate any medals; PC placed fourth, GA was fifth and SCH was excluded from the results.
Finishing one place higher, Charter’s girls’ JV double won a bronze medal, timed a second ahead of Wyoming Seminary. The GA boys’ double continued to perform well here, returning to the course after their early morning semifinal to earn a silver medal in the afternoon.
The girls in the SCH JV quad finished out of the money, but won a fierce battle for fourth place, besting Baldwin School by four one-hundredths of a second.
In the lightweight double, GFS received bronze medals from both the girls and the boys. The girls were separated by about three seconds from the crew ahead of them and the crew behind them. The boys were just over a second behind the silver medalists from Holy Spirit, while the GA boat in this race placed fifth.
SCH’s successful boys’ lightweight quad succumbed to Inter-Ac League rival Malvern Prep. The Friars won by a bit more than two seconds, while the Blue Devils beat out Roman for the silver medal by 0.66 seconds.
At the start of varsity racing, PC’s Veith claimed silver for the Quakers in the girls’ single, while Ehrlacher of GFS matched her performance in qualifying, coming in fourth. In the boys’ race GA’s Walkush came away with a bronze medal and Sandroni of GFS was one place behind.
The girls’ varsity double final was a heartbreaker for the Tigers, who narrowly missed a spot on the figurative podium when they finished just 0.14 seconds behind bronze medalist Holy Angels, a New Jersey crew from a little north of Newark. Although Conestoga continued to dominate in the boys’ double, PC scooped up the silver medal in this event. The twosome from GFS came in fourth, one second out of third place, while the GA finalists finished fifth.
A lot of water separated the three entries in the girls’ varsity pair race, and GFS wound up with a silver medal as its duo crossed the line in between the A and B boats from Upper Merion High School. In the girls’ varsity quad, there was a lot of water both in front of and behind the GA quartet, which landed in fifth place.
In two weeks, area rowers will see many of the same rivals, as well as a number of new ones, at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta.