There have been three constants throughout the Virginia high school rowing season: the Madison girls’ first eight, the St. Albans boys’ first eight, and dicey weather. While the rain relented on Saturday at the Occoquan, Madison and St. Albans did not. Both capped impressive seasons with comfortable wins in the Virginia state championships.
Madison bounced back from a shaky first heat to take the girls’ first eight final in 4:54.1, with T.C. Williams and Thomas Jefferson finishing in second and third, respectively, a little over three seconds behind.
“We had an amazing start,” said Katie Lawless, Madison’s lone senior. “Starts tend to be something we have had to work on more than other things, and when we had an amazing start, that told us this is going to be a good one for us.”
A team meeting before the final relaxed the admittedly nervous Madison crew. “We had a little huddle just to get our minds set and make sure everyone was on the same page,” Lawless said. “It kind of pulled us all together before the finals because we all had the jitters.”
Madison’s program is only nine years old, and the Warhawks’ coach, 23-year-old Paul Allbright, acknowledged some nerves after the win.
“I guess now that I’ve stopped shaking, its just overwhelming pride,”Allbright said, looking at the first-place trophy. “There’s not a big variety of names on here, so its great to get Madison on there.”
St. Albans successfully defended its state title, beating a suprising Westfield crew by over four seconds, with Yorktown finishing third.
The race was tight until nearly halfway down the course, when St. Albans pulled away to win in 4:27.1.
“After winning two years in a row, you just know what to do,” senior Allister Aaron said. “You know when to go, you never get nervous and you don’t lose faith in yourself or your boat. We had a good rythym. We weren’t cocky, but we were confident.”
Bethesda-Chevy Chase’ boys’ first eight ended Gonzaga’s three-year reign at the WMIRA championships, edging the Eagles by two-tenths of a second on the Anacostia.
The finish was so tight that B-CC Coach Dan Engler needed an official to tell him more than once that his team had won.
“She could have said we lost and I would have went back to our guys and said we didn’t get it,” Engler said.
B-CC immediately fell behind Gonzaga, managed to pull even around the 700-meter mark, fell behind again and then won it behind a last-ditch sprint.
“My guys had a great race,” Engler said. “We were behind, but we really fought through and took the race from a great crew. Their name is the only one on the trophy and we are really excited to put our name on it.”
On the women’s side, Whitman continued its dominant season and cruised to the girls’ first eight title.