Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the second-place finisher in the boys’ first eight final as Ridley of Folsom (Pa.). This version has been corrected.
PHILADELPHIA — For one Washington area team, Saturday’s Stotesbury Cup Regatta was the culmination of an undefeated and pressure-packed season. For another, it was a bittersweet end to an impressive run.
The former, Gonzaga’s still-undefeated boys’ first eight, won its final Saturday in the biggest regional regatta with a time of 4 minutes 6.69 seconds. The latter, the Madison girls’ first eight, suffered a fluke injury and finished third in the final.
Gonzaga fought off a hard last-second sprint from Ridley College (Ont.), which closed the Eagles’ margin of victory to just over six-tenths of a second in the race’s final meters. St. Albans, which won the boy’s first eight at Virginia Scholastic Rowing Championships a week ago, finished fourth with a time of 4 minutes 12.03 seconds.
“In many ways, this is just almost a relief,” Gonzaga Coach Marc Mandel said. “There’s not a weak link in our crew. I had trust, just complete trust. . . . There’s been a lot of pressure on these guys all year long, because we know we had a good crew all year long. They lived up to their potential, and that’s what’s so fulfilling about today.”
For the previously undefeated Madison girls’ first eight, Saturday’s final presented an unexpected difficulty when senior Laura Preston tripped on the way to watch her teammates in the second eight race and injured her ankle. Regatta medics helped the senior ice her ankle and elevate it, but Preston said that despite the attention, she rowed Saturday afternoon’s final at less than 100 percent.
“It swelled up real big and I couldn’t walk,” Preston said. “When you’re racing, you’re kind of just full of so much adrenaline that you can’t really feel anything. I can tell you that right after the race it was throbbing so bad, but during the race all I could think about was just beating the boats.”
Competing with an injured rower, Madison still managed to finish third in the girls’ first eight final, behind Philadelphia’s Mount St. Joseph’s (4 minutes 48.34 seconds) and National Cathedral (4 minutes 50.32 seconds), which finished behind Madison a week ago at VSRC.
Madison edged onto the medal stand ahead of Orlando’s Winter Park by five hundredths of a second, a margin so narrow that the Warhawks first eight assumed it had lost and had gone to put their boat away instead of lining up to receive its medals. Preston said that when she and her teammates heard how they had placed, they were in shock.
“It was absolutely crazy, everyone was just like, ‘This can’t be true, we can’t have done it,’ ” she said. “Everyone was just crazy. It was like the tears of ‘Oh, we just got fourth, we were so close’ turn into the tears of ‘Oh, we just got third.’ It changed the chemistry of the boat completely.”