When senior Catherine Donahue sat inside the Yorktown High gym and tilted her head up at the ceiling, she saw plenty of banners. But as her eyes waded through depictions of the state titles, she couldn’t find one commemorating girls’ rowing. Before the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Championship Regatta in Fairfax Station, the Patriots set out to change that.
On Saturday, the Yorktown girls followed through on those plans, capturing the program’s first state championship in a varsity event since 1991. The victory came with a combination of experience and youth, as Donahue and senior Kate Chadwick rowed alongside sophomores and Olympic Development Camp invitees Izzy Barnes and Genevieve Gordon.
While Barnes and Gordon look toward the promising years ahead of them, the duo took the time to relish the moment of their first championship. As the boat crossed the finish line, Barnes was the first of the girls to burst into tears. Within seconds, the rest of the team followed.
“I just felt so much more confident because they’re really sweet girls,” Barnes said. “I felt really honored because they’re the seniors and they thought I could help them win.”
The girls’ 1v 4+ boat, which holds four rowers and a coxswain who steers, finished in 6:12.4 in the finals, a commanding six-second advantage over Langley, which had ended the Yorktown boat’s undefeated season two weeks earlier.
Moments before the first race began Saturday, one of the seniors gave Barnes the stroke seat, a more valuable spot in the boat, believing it gave the program the best chance to win. The Patriots credited their success to that sort of selflessness.
And despite the fact the Patriots liked to have fun at practice, sometimes even rowing with dogs in the boat, they attributed their success to a serious approach.
“Crew used to be a little more casual,” Donahue said. “But we started doing cuts, and that creates a level where you have to rise up. I cared about my teammates, and we cared about the sport. So we wanted to win.
“The underclassmen have just a level of maturity that I found a lot of other sophomores don't have,” she added.
The girls’ Novice 8 boat — the lower-level, non-varsity boat that holds eight members — also finished first at the regatta.
With a deep, young roster, Yorktown has its eyes set on more titles — and more banners in the gymnasium ceiling.