The rowers at yesterday's Darrell Winslow Regatta on the Occoquan River all pointed to one nemesis that rendered arms weary at the conclusion of the 1,500 meter course: the wind.
Stiff headwinds slowed times throughout the event. But Gonzaga's varsity eight found enough push in its finish-line sprint to hold off West Springfield and capture the final by seven-tenths of a second. The Eagles finished in 5 minutes 32.4 seconds.
"I think we showed a lot of poise in what we were doing in the last 30 or 40 strokes of the race," Gonzaga Coach Dave Foley said. "It's hard when you see a crew that's coming up and trying to beat you, and you're trying to stay ahead. . . . There's a real tendency for guys to get a little nervous and [start] freaking out, almost."
But the Eagles remained calm, much as they did two weeks ago when posting a victory over reigning National Capital Area champion St. Albans. Woodbridge took the lead at the start despite the absence of injured All-Met Chris Richbourg, but fell off the pace. Gonzaga, West Springfield and W.T. Woodson formed the lead pack, and in the final 200 meters, the Eagles maintained their advantage even as Spartans coxswain Scott Pistochini tried to close a 3/4-boat length gap.
"Every time they made a power ten, I matched it," Pistochini said, referring to a set of 10 strokes by the rowers. "I said 'Give me the Gonzaga!' because I didn't want to see them go away. We had a really good sprint in the last 200 meters."
This was the second consecutive time on this river that West Springfield's varsity eight lost by seven-tenths of a second. W.T. Woodson placed third in 5:38, followed by Yorktown, Robinson, and Woodbridge.
In the girls' varsity eight final, Robinson took an early lead, then held off a furious surge from West Springfield and Yorktown -- which pulled within a boat-length near the finish -- to claim its second victory on the Occoquan River in as many weeks. The Rams finished the course in 6:47.
An example of the wind's affect was the Rams' winning time, which was 1:26 slower than their win at the Smokey Jacobs Regatta on April 5.
"[The race] lasts so much longer and you have to push so hard. . . . It doesn't feel like you're going anywhere, because the wind is pushing so hard backwards," Robinson senior Carolyn Glidden said.
Matthews and Gloucester, schools from north of the Tidewater area, finished 1-2 in the boys' varsity four, with Matthews winning in 6:16.4. West Potomac, rowing without injured senior Will Aramony, finished third in 6:24.24, one week after winning the event at the Smokey Jacobs.
"It really gives us something to work for when you get third," West Potomac junior Paul Burgess said. "It really gives us fire in our bellies to go in there next time and fight for first."
W.T. Woodson was the highest area finisher among the girls' varsity four, placing third in 7:27.92, 1:06 behind Matthews's winning boat.