by Tom Utescher

Mount varsity eight rower Darian DiCianno won the gold medal at the Center City Slam ergometer competition last month. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

While crew season was getting underway in Philadelphia two weekends ago with the first race in the annual Manny Flick series on the Schuylkill, five dozen Mount St. Joseph Academy rowers and coxswains were out in California. The Magic were there to face some top West Coast crews at the Shamrock Invitational, held at Redwood Shores near Stanford University.

Last Sunday the Mount was back home to race in the second “Flick,” and any residual jetlag must not have been very serious, as three of the four MSJ eights won their races.

One of the winners was the JV eight coxed by Annie Tenzinger and propelled by (stroke to bow) Jocelyn Ziemniak, Rachel Heller, Lauren Matchett, Jacqueline James, Gwynedd Kieffer, Fiona Kelly, Emily Ruddy, and Maddie Westcott. They won the second of two races in their category by nine seconds with a time of five minutes, 15.40 seconds, visibly increasing their lead alongside Peter’s Island coming down the stretch.

Their time easily eclipsed the winning figure of 5:27 that was posted in the first flight of the event.

For the MSJ lightweight eight, the options were to finish either first or last, since only two boats were entered in this class at what is still the early stage of the season. The Magic fried Egg Harbor, 5:21.95 to 5:32.92, with cox Mary Raggazino providing inspiration for Michela Karrash, Kait Loftus, Kate Mirabella, Leah McGlynn, Leah Ramos, Meg O’Brien, Lexi Meister, and Maureen Flynn.

At the end of the afternoon the varsity eight rowers gained a secure lead over runner-up Bishop Eustace and then maintained their advantage to win the second flight by seven seconds, in 5:00.72. In the first flight, Radnor High School won with a slightly faster time (4:59.00), but here three boats were in contention for the victory (Absegami and Merion Mercy were the others) until fairly late in the race.

In the Mount boat, cox Erin McElroy called the tune for Dana Lerro, Julie McGlynn, Katie O’Connell, Darian DiCianno, Dana Zielinski, Emily Carbone, Maddie Lawn, and Kiera McCloy. All are seniors except McCloy, a junior, and Lawn, a sophomore.

The two younger rowers earned their seats in the MSJ flagship relatively recently, and were not part of the crew last fall, when the varsity dominated the racing in the Philadelphia area and placed third at the Head of the Charles behind two California club crews. That speaks well to the depth of the Mount St. Joe program, and even the current line-up could be subject to change before the medal races begin in May.

At the second Manny Flick the Mount’s day started with two boats competing in different flights of the JV four. Although the designated “B” boat placed higher, the “A” boat (Caroline Carbone, Sarah Curcio, Christina Vosbikian, Natalie Simms, Megan Mirabella [cox]) was in the faster flight and logged a better time, 6:07.65.

Out of two lightweight fours, it was the “B” boat that proved slightly swifter, with its line-up of Beth Weinrich (cox), Hanna Leonard, Ellie McGlynn, Jill Kindelan, and Nadine Ghantous clocking in at 5:53.74. Both light fours finished third in their respective flights, and each was less than half-a-second out of the runner-up spot.

Among the eights that followed was the Magic’s second varsity eight, which contained Alyssa Pagliaro (cox), Rose Ehrlich, Carly Scullin, Briana Sylvester, Becca McCool, Cathleen Keene, Emma Thompson, birthday girl Kate Jones, and Sarah Krmpotich. They placed third in their race, finishing in 5:22.20.

For varsity eight five-seat DiCianno, a senior from Lafayette Hill, the crew’s recent trip out west was the first of many she’ll be making over the next four years. A V-8 rower since her sophomore season, she accepted a scholarship to the University of Southern California back in November.

“The trip was a lot of fun, and going there was definitely a great learning experience,” she related. “We took away some things that we can use the rest of the season as we keep learning and progressing.”

Several different Mount boats defeated rivals from the only other single-school team at the event, San Francisco’s St. Ignatius Prep. Most crews there were from club programs that draw from a number of different schools, and all races were 2000 meters in length, as opposed to the 1500-meter Flicks.

The MSJ varsity was dealt a 14-second loss by Marin Rowing Association, the defending champions from both the U.S. Youth Nationals and the Head of the Charles. Still, the stiff competition pushed the Magic to the second-best time overall on the final day of the regatta.

“We usually don’t see a crew as good as Marin until the end of the season,” DiCianno pointed out, “but racing them this early let us see what we want to work towards.”

She said that for Sunday’s Flick, “I think we were a little ‘lagged,’ a little fatigued from the traveling and the hard racing we did over the last week. I know I still need to catch up on some sleep. We didn’t go out super-intense today, but we were able to come out on top in our race.”