Saturday’s Scholastic Rowing Association of America championship was a chance at redemption for Gonzaga’s first-eight boat. A year earlier, the team caught a crab late in the race , derailing its title hopes. Just three weeks ago at the Foley Cup, the Eagles finished behind St. Albans’s first eight, a stinging loss that added another chapter to the one of the area’s best rowing rivalries.
It wasn’t the most ideal week to complete a turnaround, either. The team had just three days to prepare on the Anacostia River, and the practice sessions coincided with final exams.
But the team’s focus never wavered during Saturday’s race, as Gonzaga’s top boat turned in a memorable performance to win the Scholastic Rowing Association of America Championship on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J.
The Eagles finished with a time of 4 minutes 24.928 seconds, which was more than two seconds faster than second place finisher St. Joseph’s Prep (Pa.). St. Albans finished fourth in 4:34.028.
“We train all year round, six days a week, putting in the work on the water and inside on the rowing machines,” Gonzaga first-eight member Devin Flynn said. “We look forward to these races all year. Since last August, this is the one we’ve been thinking about.”
Madison’s girls’ first eight, which won the championship last year, finished third with a time of 5:12.016, while National Cathedral finished fourth in 5:12.876.
The Gonzaga boys’ first eight won its third consecutive Stotesbury Cup in Philadelphia last week, but Saturday’s win took on new meaning. The team held a narrow lead through the first half of the 1,500-meter race, but didn’t pull away until the final third of the race.
“We knew we had to get off the line fast, because we anticipated that all the crews would get off fast,” Gonzaga Coach Marc Mandel said. “We rowed a great race.”
Other notable finishes among local teams Saturday included a second-place finish by Gonzaga’s boys’ varsity second eight, and a second-place finish by the Langley girls’ first-four boat. Bethesda-Chevy Chase’s boys’ first eight placed third in the second final and Madison’s girls’ second eight took third.
Gonzaga will continue its season in two weeks at the National Scholastic Rowing Association championship in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
“Losing to St. Albans earlier this season really motivated us,” Flynn said. “Our goal for this meet was sort of to prove that not only we can win this race, but that we were the best in D.C. And that rivalry really kind of pushed us to the finish. It was just like an outpouring of emotion, being able to win this.”