Holy Spirit of Abescon, N.J., shocked T.C. Williams' girls lightweight eight by defeating last week's Stotesbury Cup champion by almost two lengths with a time of 6:11.9 in the 49th annual National Scholastic Rowing Association Championship qualifying heat yesterday at Lake Occoquan.

It was Williams' first defeat of the season, but the Titans still qualified for today's final by finishing second (6:17.4).

There will be 25 championship races, beginning at 9 a.m.

The presence of the nation's 40 best high school crews was the motivation for a key strategic change by Washington-Lee Coach Charlie Butt, who used the second half of his boys varsity eight shell to make a surprise winner in yesterday's coxed fours qualifying heat in 5:43.6.

"We didn't place last week at the Stotesburys, so (Butt) decided to try our stern four in this race," said second-seat Jon Girard, who rode in the sixth seat of the varsity eight boat. "I would have liked to have competed as an eight, but as long as you do well, that's what counts.

"It's a lot longer race, as least it seems that way without the first four," said Girard, a third-year oarsman. "But you've got to trust his strategy. We'll see how well we do tomorrow."

Despite its relative inexperience in this race, W-L nipped La Salle Prep of Philadelphia by two seats. Its time was the best of yesterday's six qualifiers.

In the boys varsity eights heats, T.C. Williams finished first in its qualifying heat with a time of 5:01, but it was three seconds behind Holy Spirit, which finished in 4:58.

Other local qualifiers included Yorktown's girls junior fours (7:15.2), W-L boys varsity fours (7:06.3), and T.C. Williams (6:15.6) and Fort Hunt (6:15.8) in the boys junior fours.