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Days after mother’s death, rower helps Jackson-Reed win Stotesbury Cup

The Jackson-Reed boys won the Stotesbury Cup on Saturday in Philadelphia. (Marc Narducci)
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PHILADELPHIA — Jackson-Reed senior Grant Gwadz dedicated the moment to his mother, Lisa Woods. On Wednesday, she died of stomach cancer.

Coach Joe McMullin told Gwadz he didn’t have to compete in this weekend’s Stotesbury Cup Regatta. Yet Gwadz, a Boston University commit, chose to participate, and his teammates followed his lead.

“He said: ‘Coach, I am going to come to the race. We’re going to do this for my mom and my family,’ ” McMullin said. “And then the guys went out there and did it.”

What they did was upset the home team. In an inspiring performance, Jackson-Reed (formerly known as Wilson) won the boys’ senior eight final, edging national power St. Joseph’s Prep of Philadelphia, 4:18.22 to 4:18.66.

“The past five years of my life [dealing with the illness] day in and day out and to have had such a recent loss, I mean, I really came out here and told myself that I would do this for her,” Gwadz said afterward. “It was pretty emotional.”

When the Jackson-Reed boat crossed the finish line, Gwadz didn’t know how to react, because he didn’t know who had won.

“Once we got to the dock and the reality set it, that is when I got flooded by the emotions of it,” Gwadz said. “It was almost surreal, the whole experience. To take this program to this level was an amazing experience.”

The team named its boat after his mother, calling it the Lisa Joy.

The Tigers, who celebrated the win by throwing coxswain Bronwen Holmes into the water, knew they were underdogs. Asked whether he was surprised by the win, Milo Epstein admitted, “a little bit.”

“I was a little nervous because we didn’t know how this was going to go,” Epstein said. “I think the last 500 we just started making ground on Prep, and I said, ‘Wow, we can win the gold,’ and we just went for it.”

Jackson Reed’s girls placed second in their senior eight final. This time the home team won. Philadelphia’s Mount Saint Joseph finished in a time of 4:50.10, less than a second ahead of the Tigers (4:50.84).

“We’re building a rivalry with Mount Saint Joseph,” Jackson-Reed Coach Chris Rickard said. “They may not have thought it was a rivalry with us because they have been a big deal for a long time and it’s kind of our first year being this good, and now I hope it continues.”

D.C. area teams were well represented in the senior eight finals.

The other boys’ finalists were third-place Walt Whitman (4:20.69), fourth-place Gonzaga (4:20.72) and fifth-place Bethesda Chevy Chase (4:24.79).

Other girls’ teams in the final were fourth-place Walt Whitman (4:58.49), fifth-place Bethesda-Chevy Chase (5:07.03) and sixth-place National Cathedral (5:07.20).