When Tommy Kiernan was a sophomore at St. Albans two years ago, he watched and learned as the boys’ first eight won its second straight title at the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association championships.
“We want to live up to what they’ve done before us,” said Kiernan, now a senior in his second year with the first eight.
Saturday on the Occoquan Reservoir, Kiernan and the rest of his boat powered their way to a decisive victory in the first eight final, snagging the championship trophy for a fourth consecutive year.
“We’re only as good now as the rowers who have come before us,” Kiernan said.
Upholding the status quo was a theme of the day. St. Albans’ second eight also won for the fourth straight year, while the Madison girls’ first and second eights cruised to victories in their finals, capturing their third consecutive titles.
“We were really inspired to make it a three-peat and do it again,” Warhawks senior coxswain Sarah Voigt said. “That’s always in the back of our heads. It is pressure, because it’s three in a row, but it’s also a lot more motivation.”
For St. Albans, continuing a streak wasn’t the only source of motivation. Last Saturday the Bulldogs fell to rival Gonzaga in the Foley Cup, and Coach Ted Haley said the team’s goal was to reclaim its “mojo.”
Consider that mission accomplished. With the prestigious Stotesbury Cup looming next weekend in Philadelphia, the Bulldogs got out to a quick start and finished in 4 minutes 34.7 seconds. Madison was second in 4:39.6 and Washington-Lee was third in 4:42.53
“We definitely did not have our best race last weekend,” Kiernan said. “We came out today with a conviction to row as good as we could row, so it definitely fueled us.”
For Madison, the focus was on sticking to its strengths, rather than falling into the trap of overstroking.
Coach Paul Allbright also told his first eight to go out and try to jump to as big a lead as possible, something they don’t always do early in the season, not wanting to “show all our cards.”
“We’ve been pretty diligent staying on our style of racing, so I was very excited to see them do that,” Allbright said. “I kind of took off the reins there in this race and allowed them to just get after it.”
Madison crossed the finish line in 5:16.0, 7.1 seconds ahead of National Cathedral, which fell to the Warhawks at last year’s championship but beat them at Stotesbury. Oakton was third in 5:30.6
Despite any pressure in going for that three-peat, Voigt said her boat was able to relax and go forward with a productive mind-set.
“We have a lot of really talented people and we push each other so much, individually,” she said. “That’s the best way to do it because we’re pushing each other so much that we always want to do our best and we’re doing it all for each other.”
In the day’s other big finals, Langley won the girls’ first four, and South County took the boys’ first four.