When Madison’s crew team held optional workouts this winter, Coach Paul Allbright took it as a good sign that attendance was considerably higher than in years past. It also didn’t hurt that Allbright and his staff had restructured their training program to be one of the most intense in the area.
It hasn’t taken long to see dividends. At Saturday’s Regional Park Regatta on the Occoquan River, Madison’s seven boats soared to five first-place finishes and two second-place finishes, with the boys’ and girls’ first eights both winning easily.
“‘It was probably one of the stronger showings in club history, with so many boats winning by such impressive margins,” Allbright said.
The girls’ first eight finished in 5 minutes 42.10 seconds — about 20 seconds ahead of Oakton and keeping alive a regular-season winning streak that goes back to the beginning of 2011.
Madison’s girls won last year’s Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association championship, but finished third at the prestigious Stotesbury Cup, where senior Laura Preston had to row at less than 100 percent after an ankle injury. This year’s group features five seniors with scholarships to Division I universities. The Warhawks have taken to the water feeling as if they have unfinished business.
“Being so close to winning the championship last year, they definitely are hungry,” Allbright said. “We’ve had one of the most productive offseasons that we’ve ever had. So really, they’re fired up.
“This is a big year for us to sort of go all in and make a run for a national title.”
The Madison boys’ first eight placed fifth at last year’s VSRA championships but now has won both of its regattas this year, after taking Saturday’s final in 5:01.60, about 10 seconds in front of Oakton.
Allbright believes the group is more technically sound and efficient. He also came away impressed at how his rowers responded to racing with a backup boat — the oldest in the team’s fleet — after their primary boat was damaged Friday.
“They were able to change up their rowing situation, and I think sort of roll with the punches,” Allbright said. “That obviously isn’t ideal . . . so they definitely showed they can be adaptable.”