PHILADELPHIA — Rowing alone along the glistening Schuylkill River, with no competing boats at their side and gold medals hanging around their necks, the National Cathedral girls’ first varsity eight boat’s post-race conversation centered around a four-peat.
Such is reality for the now two-time defending Stotesbury Cup champions, who also took gold in the freshmen category two years ago. After winning the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association championship last week, the Eagles earned further distinction Saturday, capturing first place at the prestigious regatta in a time of 4 minutes 55.78 seconds.
Whitman came in second (4:58.97), while Bethesda-Chevy Chase (5:09.13) and Madison (5:10.39) took fifth and sixth place, respectively, in the final.
“Every year you feel a little bit more pressure just because you understand the importance,” National Cathedral junior Beata Corcoran said.
The Eagles’ journey to gold began indoors this past winter, where they would spend as long as two hours pumping out reps on individual rowing machines. One of the team’s favorite workouts is called ‘Husky Power,’ which calls for rowers to grind out 20 consecutive strokes as hard as they can.
Junior coxswain Sophie Dunn doesn’t participate in the arm-sculpting workouts, but as her teammates would grind away she’d shout, “We do this for Stotesbury!”
“Every single stroke, every single breath, every piece is basically for this moment,” Dunn said. “Obviously it paid off.”
It paid off in the form of a comfortable win, hardly a surprising result given the team’s track record.
What transpired in the boys’ first varsity eight bucked a trend.
No boat in the division had ever won six consecutive Stotesbury Cups, but Gonzaga had a chance at the feat. It proved more difficult, however, after a lackluster time in the semifinal relegated the Eagles to the sixth (and least desirable) lane.
The Eagles made an impressive effort but couldn’t overcome their starting spot, finishing second in the final (4:17.03). St. Albans, which edged Gonzaga in the semifinal, was third (4:18.77), as both were beaten by Montclair (N.J.), which stopped the clock in 4:14.44. B-CC (4:26.22) earned sixth place.
“It’s obviously not what we hoped for, but it’s definitely not something to put our heads down on,” senior John Schoenewolf said. “We have a lot to look forward to in the future.”
The Eagles still have Youth Nationals and the Henley Royal Regatta in England on their schedule. But coming up short on a river the team has had so much success on was disappointing.
In other races, Gonzaga’s second varsity eight took first in its final with a 4:26.42. National Cathedral’s second varsity eight also earned first place in 5:04.90.