After a season of victories, the undefeated Gonzaga boys’ first eight boat might have been forgiven for looking past Saturday’s Foley Cup race against St. Albans on the Potomac River.
The Eagles will race next week in the Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Rowing Association championships and in the Stotesbury Cup Regatta, the top regional event, the week after. Yet Gonzaga senior Phil Bates refused to look past St. Albans.
“We’ve been looking forward to this race for a long time, and at least for me it’s the highlight of my regular season and I’m always eager to race them,” said Bates, who will row at the University of California next season. “I’ve been in the varsity boat, this is my third year and they’ve won the last two years. That’s kind of been, at least for me and for the program as a whole, lighting a fire in our bellies. . . . It’s always a fun race. For a lot of guys, it’s a very personal race.”
Gonzaga’s first eight beat the Bulldogs with open water between the two. The Eagles finished the 1500-meter course with a time of 4 minutes 21 seconds, almost five and a half seconds ahead of St. Albans’s first eight.
In the other top race of the day, the girls’ first eight from National Cathedral successfully maintained possession of the Carr Cup, the trophy awarded annually to the winner of the first eight race between National Cathedral and Georgetown Visitation. The Eagles beat the Cubs in 5:30. Georgetown Visitation’s top eight finished in 5:54.5.
Gonzaga Coach Marc Mandel said he was especially pleased with the middle 500 meters Saturday, a stretch that he said was his team’s “Achilles heel” last season.
And although Mandel said he was happy to see his first eight finish its regular season undefeated, he was quick to add that he expected a very different race from St. Albans in two weeks at the Stotesbury Cup in Philadelphia, where the teams will likely see each other again. The Bulldogs are the defending champion.
“St. Albans is notorious for picking up lengths in the last two weeks of the season,” Mandel said. “So it’s very comforting for today, but at the same time we know it’ll be a complete toss-up. . . . It’s a good way to cap off our regular season.”