by Tom Utescher
After the major high school regattas in May, a few select area boats kept racing on into June, attending the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships in Sarasota, Fla. on June 10-13. While the individual crews in the May races are each made up of athletes from a single school, the top boats at USR Youth Nationals are usually from rowing clubs around the country, and contain accomplishes rowers from different schools in their area.
In addition, these club rowers are used to 2000-meter races (as at the youth nationals), while most of the true high school regattas are held on 1500-meter courses.
In addition to sending its regular varsity eight, Mount St. Joseph Academy entered a second boat in the women’s eight category, one powered almost entirely by members of the Magic’s successful JV eight this spring.
For the first time since 2010, the Mount varsity eight reached the main final (the “A” Final) at the YNC’s, finishing fifth. The next-best result for a single-school crew was produced by Moorestown (N.J.) High School. The Quakers placed fourth in the C Final, equivalent to 16th place overall.
Germantown Friends School also had a boat at the event, a women’s double staffed by seniors Amelia Sanchirico (stroke seat) and Sophia Ortega. The Tigers’ tandem earned a spot in the C Final and came in seventh, ranking 19th among the 40 original entries.
All of the boats entered at the championships engaged in time trials on Thursday. Those with the top 12 times moved into the semifinal round, the seven boats placing 13-19th were sent directly into the C Final, and numbers 20-26 moved into the D Final.
It was a one-and-done regatta for the boats that emerged from the trials with a lower ranking than 26th. That included the Mount’s second boat, which missed the D Final by one spot with a 27th-place showing.
This crew (Annmarie Wallis – cox, Grace McDonough – stroke, Caitlyn O’Reilly, Margaret Horgan, Leah Manzo-McCottry, Kari Prosperi, Kate Kelly, Francesca Fede, Kathryn Sponseller) was made up mostly of juniors and sophomores, with one freshman mixed in. The Florida trip was a valuable experience for these oarswomen, some of whom will be moving into the varsity eight next year.
At the Sarasota venue for the championships, the proceedings have been disrupted by thunderstorms in past years, but this time there was nothing but an isolated rain shower, according to Mount varsity coach Mike McKenna.
“If I was surprised by anything, it was the quality of the competition,” he noted. “It was very strong.”
The Germantown Friends School crew had taken home a gold medal from this event just three years earlier. In 2018 the men’s single category was won by James Wright, who has been involved in the national team program and who has just finished his junior season at Stanford University.
The Sanchirico/Ortega double was among the most successful GFS boats this spring, winning the gold medal at the Philadelphia City Championships and bronze at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta.
In the time trials at youth nationals on Thursday, June 10, the Tigers found that every stroke counted. They made it into Saturday’s C Final by edging out a Florida duo by 27-hundredths of a second.
GFS found itself in the C Final with another Philly area school, Lower Merion High School. However, this was not the same LM senior double the Tigers had raced against at Stotesbury. For the Florida regatta, the Aces entered their lightweight double, a silver medalist at Stotes.
At youth nationals Lower Merion took sixth in the C’s in 8:05.667, while GFS was seventh in 8:09.522. A duo from Utah won that race, and the following day the boat from Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Rowing Association captured the gold medal for the class in 7:41.635.
Germantown Friends’ Ortega and Sanchirico will be going on to the University of Wisconsin and Princeton University, respectively.
After the COVID cancelations of 2020, the eagerness of all of these student athletes to compete this spring cannot be overstated. McKenna recalled winter workouts at the Mount boathouse, where heaters warmed the air to a degree, but the athletes wore gloves to handle the frigid weights during their strength training.
“They were very aware of what they’d gone through, and they wanted to race,” he said.
Dominating the regular-season races on the Schuylkill this spring, the Magic V-8 then won gold medals at the City Championships and Stotesbury.
Five seniors made up the backbone of the crew, and most of them will be continuing their careers in college. Maggie Newell, the V-8 stroke seat rower since her sophomore year, has signed with Notre Dame. Both coxswain Ella Valencia and six-seat Hannah Lemanowicz will join the program at the University of Pennsylvania, and Cate Van Stone (five seat) will row for Harvard. Bow seat Sydney McKernan, also a swimming standout for the Mount, will attend Penn State but has no plans to row at this time.
The two juniors in the boat were Julia Geib and Sarah Powell, and the sophomores were Kelly Cleary and Alexa Konowal. Having missed out on a rowing season in 2020, the 10th-graders were essentially advanced novices.
Asked if there was a defining characteristic of this crew, McKenna replied “Consistency; they were very steady. They went out and had a good race every time, and it got incrementally better as the season went on. For a fairly young boat, that was kind of a surprise to me.”
At youth nationals the Magic were fourth in the time trials, roughly six seconds behind the dominant boat of the regatta, Greenwich Crew from Cos Cob, Conn. In the first of the two semifinals on Friday, Mount St. Joe placed second behind Greenwich, although on the whole, the other semifinal was a bit faster. Just behind the Magic in semifinal A was Oregon’s Rose City Rowing Club, grabbling the last spot in the finals just ahead of Connecticut’s Saugatuck R.C. This was notable because Saugatuck had won the women’s eight category from 2015 to 2019.
The Mount’s McKenna related that at the 1000-meter mark in the finals on Sunday, the Magic were about a second behind the eventual fourth-place finisher, CRI (Community Rowing Inc., from Boston). The Mounties lost a little ground in the second half of the race, coming in fifth in 6:43.221 while CRI was timed in 6:39.989 and Rose City was sixth in 6:45.670.
Greenwich won in 6:33.844, ahead of RowAmerica Rye (N.Y.) in 6:36.032 and bronze medalist Chicago Rowing Foundation in 6:38.765.
Moorestown High’s time in the C Final had been 6:53.677. The only other high school crew out of the 26 boats in the four finals, suburban Chicago’s New Trier, finished two places behind Moorestown in the C Final.