The Whitman girls’ first eight arrived at the Anacostia River on Saturday morning unsure of where it stood. After a month of up and down results and poor practice conditions, the Vikings lined up at the Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Rowing Association championship looking to figure out exactly who they were.
The Vikings had reason to be confused. Three weeks earlier, they had defeated rival Bethesda-Chevy Chase by more than two seconds. A week later, Whitman found itself six seconds behind the Barons’ first eight at the Maryland State Championship Regatta. With the prestigious Stotesbury Cup in Philadelphia looming next weekend, Whitman won its grudge match against Bethesda-Chevy Chase, besting the Barons by nearly a boat length.
“That’s been half the battle, getting them to figure out how do we be confident in ourselves,” Whitman Coach Kirk Shipley said. “We know that we’re talented, we know that we’ve rowed well, we know that we’ve won some races, but then we turn around and we lose races. So I’m trying to get them out of that vicissitude and changing non-stop. . . . They’ve gotten the B-CC monkey off their back.”
The Vikings’ winning time of 5 minutes 30.19 seconds was more than five seconds faster than the second-place Barons. Walter Johnson finished third, just less than seven seconds behind Whitman.
Further complicating issues for Whitman was the school’s prom, held Friday night in Bethesda. The late night and lack of sleep ahead of the race was a concern for the Vikings’ coaches but turned out to be a non-issue for both the girls’ first eight and second eight, which also won its final Saturday.
“Our coaches were kind of nervous about the whole prom thing, coming in with a couple hours of sleep,” said Whitman senior Caroline Crawford, who was running on five hours of sleep. “I don’t know, maybe we’re still on the adrenaline high from last night.”
In the boys’ first eight final, Gonzaga continued its dominant season by beating second-place Bethesda-Chevy Chase by nearly 4 1 / 2 seconds. Bishop Ireton, which beat the Barons in their heat earlier in the day, finished 16 seconds behind the Eagles in third place.
The WMIRA regatta was the final tune-up for Gonzaga ahead of Stotesbury next weekend and the Scholastic Rowing Association of America national championships the weekend after. For Gonzaga, which is riding a two-year winning streak that includes a Stotesbury Cup title and a national championship from last season, Saturday’s race is the beginning of a pressure-laden home stretch.
“That’s the biggest challenge of this year: How do you meet those expectations?” Gonzaga Coach Marc Mandel said. “Not only are you racing the other boats, but indirectly or subconsciously you’re trying to do what you did last year.”