PHILADELPHIA — As the sun began to set over the Schuylkill River on Saturday evening, Gonzaga Coach Marc Mandel watched his varsity eight crew embrace, posing for pictures with glimmering gold hanging from their necks.
He smiled, clutching a bouquet of white and yellow flowers.
For the third time in as many years, the Eagles left the prestigious Stotesbury Cup Regatta as boys’ champions. They won by nearly four seconds, finishing with a final time of 3 minutes 48.91 seconds.
Holy Spirit High School from New Jersey came in second in 3:52.45, and Montclair High, also from New Jersey, captured bronze in 3:55.60.
T.C. Williams finished fifth.
For Mandel, the history surrounding Stotesbury made the victory even sweeter.
“Years worth of hard work goes into it. To get it three years in a row is a bit surreal,” Mandel said. “It’s a real prestigious and historic regatta, so it’s a real honor to be able to win it.”
On the girls’ side, National Cathedral finished second for the third straight year in 4:30.54. Philadelphia’s Mount Saint Joseph Academy won the event in 4:25.30, while T.C. Williams followed up last week’s Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association championship with a fifth-place finish in 4:34.56.
For Gonzaga, experience and preparation proved key. Two weeks of solid practices built up momentum, according to Mandel.
“I had a lot of confidence in our base speed, so we just wanted to row our race,” Mandel said, “which I think we did.”
That momentum, combined with the experience on the boat, made the difference.
“We just thought, ‘Let’s just row our race and go as fast as we can,’ ” said senior Leo Toch, who has won Stotesbury each of the past three years with Gonzaga and will row at Princeton next year. “Whether we win or lose, just have fun rowing with our brothers, and it happened to turn out well. It was really great.”
Gonzaga will race in the Scholastic Rowing Association of America’s national championship in Princeton, N.J., next week with added motivation.
An out-of-character 35th-place finish for St. Albans on Friday left the Bulldogs out of the final heat Saturday, robbing Gonzaga of a chance to avenge its loss in the Foley Cup two weeks ago. Princeton will provide that opportunity.
“We’re hungry to face them after we lost the [Foley] Cup to them,” Toch said, “so we’re just chomping at the bit to get a chance to face them.”