PHILADELPHIA — Soon after last season ended, the returning members of Madison’s girls’ first eight huddled together and made a commitment. They were not going to allow a repeat of their disappointing third-place finish at the Stotesbury Cup, one of the country’s largest and most prestigious high school regattas.
“We were like, ‘We have to go out 100 percent together, or we’re going to lose alone again,’ ” senior Georgia
Radcliffe Ratcliff said. “So all year we just thought about making that family we lacked. We were just teammates, and we needed to be more than that.”
That trust and camaraderie built throughout the season, and on Saturday afternoon it culminated in the Warhawks’ first title at the event, which began in 1927. Madison’s girls used a late-race surge to blow away the competition by more than seven seconds, finishing ahead of fellow D.C.-area schools National Cathedral and Whitman.
For the Eagles, the challenge wasn’t to find a new level of performance. Instead, they had to replace four rowers and a coxswain from last year’s lineup, and it wasn’t necessarily an easy transition.
“Last year we got in our lineup and it kind of clicked, and just built off of that,” senior Thomas Garvis said. “This year we had a lot more depth on our team and we had to do a lot more fumbling around on who should be where, so that didn’t give us that much time to practice with our eight guys.”
But the lineup that Gonzaga settled on eventually is one Garvis believes excels at racing, able to sprint and find the final burst when it’s needed. That was the case on Saturday, with the Eagles pushing hard over the last 500 meters to finish in 4 minutes 14.14 seconds. St. Albans crossed next in 4:15.57.
The Eagles, who also got a victory from their boys’ second eight, seem to be establishing their dominance on Stotesbury’s big stage.
“I don’t know what we’re building, but I know it’s fun, and I know we have great kids and good coaches,” Gonzaga Coach Marc Mandel said. “It’s just incredible to see the depth.”
Madison’s girls also had to turn it on late in the race.
It wasn’t until about 600 meters remained in the 1,500-meter course that the Warhawks pulled ahead. They never stopped, finishing with an abundance of open water behind them and a time of 4:52.44. National Cathedral was second in 4:59.78, and Whitman was third in 5:00.45.
“Right when we got maybe a foot ahead of the other crew, our coxswain Sarah [Voigt], who’s just fantastic, was like, ‘Congratulations, ladies. You are in the lead,’ ”
Radcliffe Ratcliff said. “And from then on, we were almost angry with excitement that we could do it, and anger with the disappointment from years past was going into our blades. I can’t even describe it. It was so fantastic.”