More than 1,400 rowers from 27 Virginia high schools gathered at Sandy Run Regional Park for Saturday’s Darrell Winslow Regatta.
But the red and white oars of the Madison girls’ first eight stood out from the masses on a pristine spring day on the Occoquan.
The boat, which is in only its fourth season of competition, won its race in 5 minutes 31.9 seconds, beating Jefferson by 14 seconds
Washington-Lee by 16 seconds to maintain its course for a third consecutive undefeated regular season and state title.
The Madison boys’ first eight matched the girls’ feat, topping Washington-Lee with a time of 4 minutes 57.3 seconds.
“We work hard as a family, and it shows up on the water,” said Madison senior Georgia Ratcliff, who will row for Virginia in the fall. “To have five Division-I bound seniors in one boat pushing each other, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Ratcliff is joined by her younger sister and fellow All-Met, Carolina, on Madison’s top boat. Her older sister, Virginia, rows at George Mason.
“I’ve always been able to look up to her and I’m motivated by all the hard work she puts in,” said Carolina, a junior who sits behind Georgia in races. “We can always rely on her to really push our team, and I don’t think I would be rowing if it weren’t for her.”
The sisters rowed for the United States at last summer’s Junior World Championships in Bulgaria, where Georgia picked up a silver medal. Last year, Madison’s girls were third at the prestigious Stotesbury Cup Regatta and fourth at the Scholastic Rowing Association of America Nationals. Both times they were beaten by local rivals National Cathedral School.
Last week, at the Walter Mess Regatta, the Warhawks earned a small measure of revenge, blowing past NCS by nearly nine seconds.
“I have a hard time believing that there are teams out there that work together and enjoy working together more than we do,” Georgia Ratcliff said. “There is no other group of eight girls I would want to sit in a boat and compete with.”
“We have a philosophy that any time, any place, and at any rate we want to race the fastest crews,” said Madison girls’ Coach Paul Allbright, a Fairfax graduate who started coaching Madison six years ago when he was a sophomore at George Mason. “We embrace the opportunity to see how our best eight girls match up with everybody else’s.”
Christ Church’s Walter Banfield crushed the field in the boys’ single race, finishing a full 33 seconds ahead of the second-place boat in a time of 6:11.
South County’s boys’ first four edged Langley by two seconds. The Saxons girls bounced back by winning their first four race in 6:29, 12 seconds ahead of second-place Episcopal.