Springside’s Jen Sager (left) and Mount St. Joe’s Kate Mirabella rowed in different boats for Vesper Boat Club at the Philadelphia Youth Regatta. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The weather was hot but not oppressively humid as high school rowers raced on the Schuylkill last Saturday in the annual Philadelphia Youth Regatta. At the Vesper Boat Club, Springside School rising senior Jen Sager and Mount St. Joseph Academy junior Kate Mirabella both saw action (in different boats), while at Fairmount Rowing Association junior Andrew Bair and sophomore Ethan Genyk of Germantown Friends rowed together in a quad and an eight.

This spring, Sager was a member of the Springside senior quad that won a gold medal at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta and a silver medal at the Scholastic Nationals. Powerful but petite, Sager will most likely row as a lightweight in college, and she’s carefully considering a wide range of choices to determine the collegiate program best suited to her abilities. She may slide into a lightweight boat in a Division I program, or she might be attracted to a smaller school where she would be an open-weight rower.

Mirabella earned a seat in the Mount’s freshman eight in 2010, and this year she joined the Magic’s lightweight eight, which earned a bronze medal at Stotesbury and finished fourth at the extremely competitive U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships. Lightweight programs aren’t plentiful at the college level, but Mirabella will benefit from the strong reputation of the lightweight boats at Mount St. Joe.

Her sister, Megan, is a year younger and is even smaller. Starting at out at the Mount this spring, she immediately signed on as a coxswain. That won’t hurt her college prospects at all; the last six Mount varsity eight coxswains have gone on to Duke, Boston College, Harvard, Stanford, Virginia, and Georgetown.

For Sager, who was racing in two different categories at the Youth Regatta, the long day of competition began with a first-place finish in a heat race in the Junior-18 quad, where Vesper’s time was the fastest overall. Just over an hour later, the Springsider was second in her heat of the Junior-18 double, racing in Vesper’s “A” boat and once again occupying the stroke seat.

The Mount’s Mirabella rowed bow in the Vesper “D” double in the following heat, coming in third and advancing to the early-afternoon semifinals along with Sager. In addition to racing a number of times the same day, the rowers were doing it on a 2000-meter course, longer than the 1500 they’re used to covering in scholastic competition.

The two Vesper tandems were in the same semifinal section, but while Sager’s vessel placed third to lock up a spot in the finals, Mirabella and her partner ended their day with a fifth-place finish.

Shortly before that race, GFS Tigers Bair and Genyk went into action for the first time with a heat race in the Junior-16 quad. With 15 entries overall in this category, there were three initial heats and the top two finishers in each race went directly to the finals.

Bair was the stroke and Genyk was in the three seat, while two Conestoga High School comrades, Jared Ingersoll and Nathan Leibowitz, were in the two seat and the bow, respectively. The Fairmounters were firmly in control of their heat by the time they reached Peter’s Island and won going away, with a 21-second gap over the runner-up. The final would not be a picnic, though, since several other crews put up faster times in the other heat races.

In the finals of the girls’ Junior-18 Quad, Sager’s Vesper boat finished second, in between the “A” and “B” boats from Fairmount. The Springside senior didn’t fare quite as well in her fifth race of the day, coming in fifth in the doubles final.

The boys’ Junior-16 Quad finals evolved into a two-way sprint between Crescent Boat Club and Haverford School, with the former winning by a tenth of a second in 7:43.55. Bair and Genyk’s Fairmount boat was third in 8:01.48, well ahead of number four Saratoga (8:15.45) and the other two finalists.

At the very end of the day, the two GFS oarsmen piled into an eight with other Fairmounters and participated in a special 400-meter “dash” race, finishing third.