McLean captain Mason Duncan said the varsity eight race began with teams six across keeping pace before the Highlanders coxswain called for a maneuver to gain separation.
“It feels good to win, but a lot of it is coaching,” Duncan said. “Shows how hard we were working this season to compete at states like that.”
McLean is one of five teams in the league to capture the varsity eight trophy at states more than once.
For McLean Coach Nathan McClafferty, the Highlanders’ success represents a culmination of years of work.
A former rower at VASRA rival T.C. Williams, McClafferty has played a pivotal role in McLean’s recent rise to prominence since joining the program in 2016.
“In a lot of ways, it makes me want to cry,” McClafferty said. “I rowed in the league growing up and my team was never able to even capture a medal in the varsity eight, so I’m absolutely thrilled to see my guys do that.”
McClafferty was keen to follow up on the success of last season’s team, putting the Highlanders through a rigorous winter training and spring racing schedule to prepare.
“We came into this season really with the objective to do better than we did last year and build on that foundation,” McClafferty said. “At the beginning of the season, we set to that; we wanted to be faster top to bottom.”
The top-down mentality paid off for the Highlanders: The team also captured the second and third varsity eight trophies at the regatta. The freshman eight and novice four boats won silver for the Highlanders.
In the girls’ first varsity eight, Washington-Lee’s boat was first across the line in 5:22. The Generals bested McLean (5:24.4), which had been the top-ranked boat in the VASRA throughout the season. Colgan (5:26.3), Oakton (5:27.9), Yorktown (5:28.8) and T.C. Williams (5:37.4) completed the top six.
Forest Park captured gold in the boys’ first four in 5:20.9, and West Springfield took the title in the girls’ first four (5:56.0). Norfolk Academy won the boys’ lightweight varsity four (5:32.2), and Langley was victorious in the girls’ race in 6:36.3.