by Tom Utescher

Out of Mount St. Joseph Academy’s eight entries at the 2011 Scholastic Rowing Association of America Regatta last weekend, all five MSJ eights made it past the qualifying round and three reached the finals.

On the Cooper River Park course in Camden, NJ, the Mount’s varsity eight (Maggie Rush (cox), Dana Lerro (stroke), Meredith Bracken, Katie O’Connell, Darian DiCianno, Rose Ehrlich, Julie McGlynn, Katie Casebeer, Emily Carbone) finished fourth, as did the lightweight eight (Erin McElroy (cox), Molly Tenzinger (stroke), Kait Loftus, Paige Flynn, Leah McGlynn, Meg Bresnahan, Katie McCormick, Kate Mirabella, Colette McNeela). The freshman eight for the Magic (Madi Kist (cox), Natalie Simms (stroke), Elizabeth McKernan, Michela Karrash, Lauren Matchett, Maddie Lawn, Jocelyn Ziemniak, Sarah Curcio, Leah Ramos) was fifth in its final race.

The Mount’s senior four, JV four and lightweight four participated in the initial heats on Friday, but were unable to pass through to the semi-finals.

In each heat of the senior four event (containing five or six boats), the boats placing first and second went to the semifinals, and third and fourth took part in the repechage, an extra round of races that was added to the categories with the largest number of entrants and which served as an additional feed-in stage for the semi-finals. The MSJ crew (Annie Tenzinger (cox), Hannah Keller (stroke), Kaitlin Kiernan, Rebecca McCool, Carly Scullin) came in fifth and missed the “reps” by the narrowest of margins. Just one hundredth of a second separated the Magic (6:14.72) from number four First Colonial of Virginia Beach (6:14.71).

No repechage was available to the other two MSJ fours. The JV (Alyssa Pagliaro (cox), Geneva Russell (stroke), Jacqueline James, Michelle Walter, Gwyn Kieffer) and the lights (Beth Weinrich (cox), Abigail Shreero (stroke), Emily McHugh, Bridget Fitzpatrick, Lexi Meister) were each fifth in their respective heat races.

There were more generous terms in the second eight class, where the top four boats in each heat went straight to the semi’s. Here the Mounties

(Mary Raggazino (cox), Steph Henrich (stroke), Cathleen Keene, Lauren Hamilton, Maddie Wescott, Sarah Krmpotich, Anna DelRicci, Katelyn Keane,  Bobbie Sutton) advanced by snapping up that last available spot in their heat. Only three crews from each semifinal could continue, though, and in a race won by eventual bronze medalist T.C. Williams (Alexandria, Va.), Mount St. Joe ended up fourth.

The Magic’s JV eight (Alex Kist (cox), Kiera McCloy (stroke), Meg O’Brien, Rachel Heller, Emma Thompson, Brianna Sylvester, Fiona Kelly, Emily Ruddy, Maureen Flynn) easily became one of the three boats in its initial heat to advance in the regatta. The Mounties were second in their opening race, a dozen seconds ahead of the third-place crew.

Only the top two in each of three semifinals went to the medal race, though, and the Mount jayvee’s came in third in a semi contest won by Montclair (NJ), the gold medalist at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta a week earlier. The overall field was stronger in Camden, and Montclair did not even medal in the SRAA finals.

The level was raised in a number of categories by the presence of Midwest power New Trier High School, from suburban Chicago. The Trevians sent four of their girls eights to the finals, winning gold medals in the varsity and second eight categories, and silver in the freshman class.

The Mount St. Joe freshmen, who hadn’t made it through the semifinal stage at Stotesbury, were happy to reach the finals at Nationals last weekend. In the heats, they were second in their section to Saratoga Springs High School, the eventual bronze medal winner.

In the semifinals they faced the other two medalists, gaining a spot in the finals by coming in third to New Jersey’s Holy Spirit (gold) and New Trier (silver). The Mount was more than a dozen seconds ahead of another Jersey crew, fourth-place Mainland. In the finals the Magic were fifth, between number four Radnor and sixth-place Upper Arlington, from Ohio.

The varsity eight and lightweight eight for Mount St. Joe were both defending SRAA gold medalists, but with significant personnel turnover in each boat, the former frontrunners have come back to the pack this spring.

There were promising results in the preliminary rounds last weekend, though. Both the lightweights and the varsity placed first in their heat races and their semifinals.

However, the times in the semi’s hinted at trouble, and although the figures recorded in different heats aren’t necessarily accurate indicators of different crews’ capabilities, in this case the numbers may have had a tale to tell. Five schools put up faster semifinal times than the Magic in the varsity category (only four reached the finals), and while the lights won their semifinal, all three of the crews that advanced from the other semifinal were quicker.

The MSJ lightweights beat one of those three, New Trier, in the final race, but Winter Park (Fl.), well behind the Magic in their semifinal meeting, jumped up to take the bronze medal ahead of the Mount. Bishop Eustace, which finished behind the Magic at Stotesbury, excelled on its Cooper River home waters to take the SRAA gold medal in 5:16.55, followed by Stotesbury champ Holy Spirit (5:19.08) and Winter Park (5:19.88). The Mount (5:22.07) came in ahead of New Trier (5:23.52) and Merion Mercy Academy (5:29.68).

In the varsity final, New Trier (5:03.95) trumped Philly area favorite Radnor High School (5:04.96), and farther back were bronze medalist Saratoga (5:08.26) and Mount St. Joseph (5:10.60). In fifth and sixth were two Virginia crews, James Madison (5:12.54) and T.C. Williams (5:19.53).

The Mount V-8 is a technically polished crew, but gives away a lot of pounds and inches to physically larger rivals at the top levels of competition. The good news for the Magic is that six of the rowers will be back as seniors in 2012.