The Madison girls’ first eight punctuated a dominant postseason run with a national title at Saturday’s Scholastic Rowing Association of America championship regatta on New Jersey’s Cooper River.
The Warhawks crossed the finish line in 4 minutes 50.48 seconds, nearly a second faster than second-place Saratoga Springs (N.Y.). Last year’s champion, National Cathedral, finished just out of the medals in fourth place (5:01.71) and Whitman took sixth (5:09.82).
The victory was the second in as many weeks for the Warhawks, who also won the top girls’ race at last week’s Stotesbury Regatta in Philadelphia.
“When people ask me what was my greatest high school rowing achievement, I’ll probably say a national championship,” Madison senior Georgia Ratcliff said. “At the end of the day, if you tell a random person that you’re a national champion, that’s going to mean a whole lot more to them than Stotesbury.”
The win also capped an impressive run for Ratcliff and the rest of the Warhawks. Madison’s top girls’ boat will send five rowers to Division I programs next season on scholarships, including Ratcliff, who will row at Virginia. Lexy Shannon will head to Alabama, while the trio of Caroline Williams, Karen Munyan and Hannah Brown will row at UCLA, Stanford and Gonzaga, respectively.
“Now that it’s over, it’s like the fire can die now,” Ratcliff said. “We’ve proven that we can be faster than those top-notch, powerhouse schools.”
The Eagles’ first eight caught a crab late in the boys’ final, dashing their championship hopes.
With 250 meters to go, Gonzaga stood in third behind Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic and Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s Prep. The Eagles were making a final push for first when the oar for the boat’s second seat caught a crab, rowing vernacular for getting stuck in the water. Instead of returning to its rower for another stroke, the oar flew out of control, over its owner’s head, nearly knocking him out of the boat and dropping Gonzaga from third to last place in the six-boat final.
“It’s just one of those things that happens,” Eagles Coach Marc Mandel said. “In order for us to have the run we’ve had, we’ve had to have some luck along the way, and we ran into some bad luck today.”
The incident forced Gonzaga to finish the race with a time of 4:31.79 seconds, just over 17 seconds slower than its championship time a week ago at the historic Stotesbury Regatta in Philadelphia. The only other local team in the boys’ first eight final, St. Albans, finished in fourth place with a time of 4:22.89 seconds.
“It was definitely really hard coming off the water. It was really emotional,” Gonzaga’s Trey Cruser said. “There were definitely tears shed, but then we all came together. I can smile looking back at my four years, and also the great season we had my senior year. Right now, I’m happy. I’m smiling.”