It took some prodding -- three years, actually -- but the rowers at St. Albans finally got varsity basketball player Jugo Kapetanovic to join the team.
Kapetanovic, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior, knew only jump shots and rebounds, not strokes and ergometer times, but he learned fast and earned a spot on the Bulldogs' highly regarded varsity eight, which won local and regional championships a year ago.
"Honestly, these past two months have probably been the happiest of my high school career," the Belgrade native said. That joy continued at yesterday's William Fritz Regatta on the Potomac River, as Kapetanovic, rowing in the section of the boat known as the "engine room," helped propel St. Albans to a five-second victory over Washington-Lee in the boys' varsity eight final. St. Albans completed the 1,500-meter course in 4 minutes 55.4 seconds.
Washington-Lee gave a valiant sprint at the finish but could not overtake the Bulldogs. Whitman (5:04) placed third, followed by Yorktown (5:16.6).
"We really took it to the next level in this race," said Kapetanovic, who moved to the United States at age 3. "We said we'd take a power ten [a set of 10 powerful strokes] when we hit the bridge, and we just kept going after that."
St. Albans was rowing without 6-8 senior Stephen Sharp (back injury) and likely will be without him when it goes for a sixth consecutive National Capital Championship on Saturday.
The closest final of the day was the boys' varsity four, in which McLean, St. Albans and Wilson excelled. Two-thirds of the way through the course, the boats were even. Wilson faded at the 1,200-meter mark, but McLean and St. Albans kept apace in the final 100 meters. McLean's boat of Trevor Wesolowski, Zach Stimart, brothers Chris and Brendan McCook and coxswain Garrett Hanley sprinted ahead in one final push to prevail in 4:39.6, two seconds ahead of St. Albans. It was Highlanders' first varsity four victory this season. Wilson (4:46) finished third.
"It was very exciting," Hanley said.
Added Wesolowski: "There was a possibility that they [St. Albans] could take it, but I wasn't going to let that happen."
National Cathedral's girls' varsity eight took the lead at the start of the final and won in 5:27.8, holding off Bethesda-Chevy Chase (5:30.7), Georgetown Visitation (5:33.2) and Whitman (5:34.3) for their first victory of the season.
"We had a lot of heart in that race," National Cathedral junior Alex Evans said. "These kinds of races remind us of why we row."
In the girls' varsity four final, Bethesda-Chevy Chase made up ground in the final 200 meters but could not catch a strong Holton-Arms crew, which led from the start and won in 5:50.8. Georgetown Day took third.