PENNSAUKEN TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Championship boats at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta are normally celebrated immediately after crossing the finish line, with rowers awarded medals and instructed to pose for photos from the dock.
The members of the National Cathedral girls’ first varsity eight experienced all the spoils of victory Saturday, having rowed to a winning time of 5 minutes 19.25 seconds, but not before having a moment together.
The regatta, billed as the world’s oldest and largest scholastic rowing event, was moved from the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia to Cooper River in New Jersey’s Pennsauken Township earlier in the week to accommodate rainy conditions. Away from rows of screaming fans and camera flashes, the Eagles first celebrated by themselves.
“It was just us,” senior coxswain Sophie Dunn said. “The love was more all-encompassing.”
National Cathedral fended off a late push from Mount St. Joseph (5:21.98) for the victory. Whitman (5:23.50), New Jersey’s Moorestown (5:25.29), T.C. Williams (5:25.83) and Pennsylvania’s Merion Mercy (5:28.60) also were in the championship heat.
It marked the third straight Stotesbury victory for the Eagles’ first and second varsity eight boats. And several seniors, including Dunn, won their fourth Stotesbury gold medal, dating from their success in National Cathedral’s freshman boat.
Saturday’s win was even more impressive considering the Eagles placed fourth at the Washington Metro Interscholastic Rowing Association championships a couple of weeks ago. Coach Greg King said some lineup adjustments helped, but he mostly attributed the turnaround to his team’s attitude.
“Some people might say it was a wakeup call,” he said. “They were already awake. They wanted to win.”
Dunn noted that during Saturday’s race she took a peek at senior Amelia Parizek, who was smiling, so Dunn started beaming, too. The Eagles knew they were on the cusp of accomplishing something special.
The mood was decidedly less cheery for Gonzaga, which took third in the boys’ first varsity eight in 4:37.03. New Jersey’s Montclair prevailed in 4:30.69.
Gonzaga experienced tremendous turnover this season, including Andy Bacas replacing longtime coach Marc Mandel. Gonzaga also graduated six seniors from last year’s first varsity eight boat.
Nevertheless, Bacas left the regatta proud of a group that he characterized as “modest,” in regards to both stature and ergometer scores.
And Gonzaga held off a spirited run from fourth-place St. Joseph’s Prep (4:37.35) of Philadelphia down the stretch.
“We’re all pretty proud of each other,” senior John Roberts said. “We left nothing out on the water.”
In the boys’ second varsity eight, Gonzaga took first in 4:43.24; St. Albans (4:51.86) and Bethesda-Chevy Chase (4:54.70) were fourth and fifth. T.C. Williams was second in the girls’ lightweight final, finishing in 5:42.89.