Maggie Newell (left) and Katie Greed went to grade school together, and they’ve spent this spring face-to-face in the Mount St. Joseph Academy varsity eight. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Last weekend, eight crews competed for the final time in the 2019 spring season, as Mount St. Joseph Academy and Germantown Friends School each sent four boats to the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships in Sarasota, Florida.

The best results were produced by the Mount varsity eight, which placed second in the regatta’s Final B race (seventh-through-12th place) to lay claim to eighth place overall.

The Youth Nationals are usually the most challenging of the major late-season regatta, since the field includes not only boats staffed by students from a single school, but also those from club organizations that may contain the top rowers from several different schools grouped together. In addition, the race course is 2,000 meters long, as opposed to the 1,500-meter venues that area rowers have seen through most of the spring season.

In most events, only the fastest eight or nine boats advanced directly to the semifinals from the initial time trials on Thursday, June 6. The other boats, including the four GFS entries, had another chance to make the semi’s when they raced in the feed-in rounds known as the repechage.

For all of the categories involving the Tigers’ tandems, there were three repechage races with five boats in each of the first two sections and four in the third. Only the winner of each race would make the main semifinal round; while the next two fed into the “C” Final and the others went into the “D” Final.

In the women’s lightweight double, Germantown’s Amelia Sanchirico and Isabel Mehta made it into Final C, placing third among the five boats in their repechage race.

Doulin Appleberry and Owen Keim of the Tigers came in fifth in the second of the repechage contests in the men’s double, and filtered into Final D.

Also finishing fifth in the “reps” and heading to Final D were Meg Bigelow and Chloe Smith-Frank in the women’s pair, and Sophia Ortega and Amory Park in the women’s double.

Three of the four Mount entries also joined the repechage following the time trials. The lightweight eight (Sofia Bernal – cox, Claire Broderick – stroke, Kaylee Dougherty, Caroline Kyle, Shayne McKernan, Harriett Blatney, MaryKate Ciolko, Nicole Uzzo and Caitlyn Lawson) faced a tough field in the second repechage in its category.

Starting to fall significantly behind the leaders about two-thirds of the way through the race, the Magic finished sixth out of the seven boats in the contest. However, since there were only 20 crews overall entered in this event, that result earned the Mount a spot in Final C on Saturday.

The two fours that the Mount sent to Florida, the lightweights (Caroline Donahue – cox, Grace Morrow – stroke, Izzy McCafferty, Maggie Horgan and Ainsley Morasco) and the open weights (Lauren Walsh – cox, Julia Ianieri – stroke, Molly McKenna, Ena Altier and Sydney McKernan) each went from the time trials to the repechage. There, the regular four finished fourth out of five boats in its race and the lights were sixth out of seven. In both instances, a trip to Final D was the next step.

Meanwhile, the Mount varsity eight (Katie Greed – cox, Maggie Newell – stroke, Katie Edling, Hannah Lemanowicz, Cate Van Stone, Mae Sweeney, Caroline Timoney, Riley Gorman and Gia Hunt) ranked seventh among 25 initial entries in the time trials, and thus were among the nine boats that went directly into the semifinal round. The Mounties were seven seconds off the pace of the top qualifier, the club crew from Princeton National Rowing Association/Mercer.

Out of the total of eight boats sent south by GFS and the Mount, five ended their weekend’s racing on Friday afternoon in the D finals. In most categories, these athletes were vying for the 19th through 24th places overall.

In spring competition on the Schuylkill, sculling doubles (two oars per person) are much more common than sweep rowing pairs (one oar each), so GFS’ Bigelow and Smith-Frank didn’t encounter more than a handful of rivals. With much stiffer competition at Youth Nationals, they emerged with a fifth-place finish in Final D.

The Ortega/Park women’s double placed third, coming in ahead of New Jersey’s Haddon Township. In the men’s double Appleberry and Keim were leading along with Wisconsin’s Mendota Rowing Club at the 1,500-meter mark, then Mendota outdueled the Tigers in a finishing sprint and the GFS twosome took second ahead of the entry from the Atlanta Junior Rowing Club.

A Texas crew won Final D in the women’s four, while MSJ finished as runner-up over another boat from Wisconsin, Camp Randall. The top finishers were widely spaced in the lightweight four, and the Mount placed second here as well, behind a crew based on Ohio’s Great Miami River and a boat from Port Washington, New York.

Due to the threat of inclement weather on Saturday afternoon, the start of the racing on that day was moved up to 7:00 AM for the various main-draw semifinalists and the “C” finalists.

In the second of two semifinal races in the varsity eight, the Mount missed the finals by one place, finishing fourth. Just ahead of them was one of the only other single-school crews in the entire field, Holy Names Academy of Seattle. This race, which went off a little after 11:00 A.M., was the last of the semifinal contests, and then the C Finals got underway.

Sanchirico and Mehta of GFS were sitting fifth right beside a twosome from ACRA (Advanced Community Rowing Association) with 500 meters to go, but the club rowers from Nyack, New York were able to open up a gap at the end of the race. Coming in sixth, the Tigers were 18th overall in this elite national field.

A light rain was just beginning to fall when the Mount lightweight eight started out in its Final C race. The boats were even across the course for a few hundred meters, then the Magic were fifth at the halfway mark. The Mounties would finish up in the same position, crossing the line ahead of Bainbridge Island, Washington and behind four other club crews.

On Sunday, the medal races – the Final A contests – were held before the Final B races, so the Mount varsity eight found itself in the last race of the entire regatta. Earlier in Final A, Connecticut’s Saugatuck and Greenwich club crews won the gold and silver medals, with Holy Names edging out PNRA/Mercer for the bronze.

In Final B the Mounties were among the three early leaders along with the two boats flanking them in the middle of the course, the Cincinnati Juniors and Marin (California) Rowing Association. Cincinnati was slightly ahead at the 500-meter mark while the other two were dead even, and Cinci gradually increased its lead down the course.

The Ohio crew won in six minutes, 27.191 seconds while the Mount was fighting ahead of Marin and on the outside Capital Crew (from outside of Sacramento, California) was sprinting hard to the line. The Magic held on for second in 6:31.734, ahead of Capital (6:31.762) and Marin (6:32.752), while farther back in fifth and sixth were Oregon’s Rose City Rowing Club and Maryland’s Walt Whitman High School.