Seven of the nine members of Washington-Lee’s boys’ first eight boat that surprisingly took second place as the fifth seed in last season’s Virginia Scholastic Rowing championships graduated last spring. This year, the Generals have reloaded.

Led by five sophomores, Washington-Lee took first place in Saturday’s Smokey Jacobs Regatta on the Occoquan. Their time of 5 minutes, 14.5 seconds was good enough to beat second-place Robinson by over six seconds. On the girls’ side, Lake Braddock’s first eight won in 5:59.6.

“With five sophomores, as we progress through the year we will only get better,” said the star of Washington-Lee’s young core, 6-foot-6 Grayson Steigler, in a phone interview. “We lack varsity-level experience as a whole boat, but hopefully we can continue to mature and get more results like today’s.”

Steigler was the sole freshman in last year’s first eight where he rowed alongside senior captain Andrew Heinzman, a freshman rower at Virginia, and first team All-Met Chris Lent, who now rows for the Naval Academy. This season, Andrew’s younger brother Nathan, who is set to row alongside his brother in Charlottesville next fall, captains Washington-Lee’s first eight.

“It’s interesting having somebody that is two or three years younger than me and still able to push me every day,” said Heinzman of his boat’s sophomore standout. “I would look up to my brother and the older guys in the past, but now it’s the younger guy who is outpacing me.”

Coach Derek Parsons has the difficulty of handling a team that is two-thirds freshman and sophomores, but after Saturday’s win, Washington-Lee appears to be on the right course for the end of this season and beyond.

“You have to be patient and experiment with different groups to see what works, but above all they’re really a fun group to work with,” Parsons said. “I’m excited, but at the same time they’re young. If we don’t accomplish our goals this season, we still have our eyes set on the future.”

The Lake Braddock girls’ first eight’s victory was especially rewarding as it came by just three seconds over Oakton. Heading into Saturday, the Bruins had finished behind Oakton at all three of their regattas this season.

“The girls were pretty stoked, probably even a little nervous, before the final,” said Lake Braddock Coach Tracy Shakespeare. “They’ve been building on their success each week, and they had a goal in mind to go out and beat Oakton. This win gives us some serious confidence heading into the last few weeks of our season.”

The South County first fours nearly swept the competition in their respective events. The boys’ first four took home first in 5:54.3, which was five seconds faster than second-place Woodson, and the girls’ finished second by less than four seconds to Langley 96:41.8).