The hundreds of spectators who walked the hilly, half-mile path through the woods to the finish line of the new Occoquan Water Sports Facility were treated to several close competitions, a few surprises and a referee's controversial decision in the Northern Virginia Scholastic Rowing Championships yesterday.
Undefeated T.C. Williams shook off pesky Washington-Lee in the stretch to take the boys' varsity eights crown and the W-L girls survived late difficulties to dethrone Williams for that varsity title.
Washington-Lee jumped out on Williams and held a slight lead for the first 1,000 meters of the varsity boys' race. The Titans, rowing an unusally high 38-39 strokes per minute, caught the Generals with 500 meters left but could not go ahead until W-L caught a starboard crab with about 250 meters to go.
Williams then breezed to a victory of more than a half-boat length, clocking 4:29 for 1,500 meters to 4:31.8 for the Generals. Fort Hunt and Stuart were a distant third and fourth.
"They (his crew) rowed a very silly race; silly is the word for it," said Titan Coach Jon Butler. "They rowed too high (of a rating). They got into a situation where they thought they were going to win by a whole lot. I talked to them last night (Friday) about that, but it's not always that easy to see when you've been winning by a lot.
"There's a false feeling you get if you're rowing a lot of strokes per minute. But they have to be good strokes."
The General jumped off quickly in the girls featured event, gaining a full length lead after 500 meters. Williams started moving with 500 meters left, quickly picking up two seats. Then Generals caught a portside crab with 200 meters to go, but the Titans were still a nose short at the finish.
Washington-Lee was timed in 5:18.9, a half second better than Williams, which had won the area girls' varsity championship all five years it was contested.
In the boys' lightweight eights, previously undefeated Williams made up more than a length on W-L in the final 500 meters, only to be disqualified by the referee for crossing oars with the Generals at the close of the race. Williams claimed to no avail that the offense did not occur until after the finish line.
Otherwise the day belonged to Williams, which took the remaining 10 Northern Virginia titles. The Titans placed first in every event except the varsity and junior fours with coxswain, which were won by St. Andrew's School of Middletown, Del. Second-place Williams was awarded the local crown in both races as the top area finisher.