In Mount St. Joseph’s freshman four, three seat Mia Fitzpatrick (second from left) yells to a rival crew to stop rowing after officials halted their race due to lane violations. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

As the end of the “regular season” Manny Flick regatta series approaches, the Mount St. Joseph Academy crew appears to be rounding into shape for the major medal races in May. Last Sunday, in the fourth of the five Flick races, the Magic put on a strong performance pretty much across the board.

In the early phase of the competition, the school’s promising crop of freshmen continued to excel under the guidance of new freshman/novice coach Jen Fasy, an MSJ alum (’03) who has been an assistant coach with the program since 2009. Between them, the four boatloads of ninth-graders produced three first-place finishes and one second.

The freshman four (Olivia Kylander-cox, Grace Little-stroke, Mia Fitzpatrick, Ella Perry, Audrey Ezzo) kicked off the action in a race that took an unusual turn. Several of the entries quickly got so far out of alignment that officials stopped the race a few hundred meters down the course, evened the boats out in the river, and restarted the contest from there.

Of course, this resulted in unusually low times, with the Magic winning in four minutes, 33.83 seconds, well ahead of the runner-up, Montclair (N.J.) High School (4:44.56), and third-place Lower Merion (5:12.89).

The novice eights then raced in the first two of four flights in their category. In the “A” boat, coxswain Emily Woodrow urged Demi Simms (stroke), Rachel Sandquist, Dana Mischler, Shannon Hughes, Cait Hagan, Lauren Scheffey, Alex Uzzo, and Erin McGreevey on to victory in the first flight, and their time of 5:26.92 held up as the fastest mark overall out of the 20 crews in their class.

MSJ novice “B” was the runner-up in the second flight with a time of 5:46.01 and a line-up consisting of Kathleen Brooks (cox), Taylor Czerpak (stroke), Anna Gallagher, Liz DeGroat, Maddy Mulligan, Julia Bushold, Katie Zimmerman, Brianna McBride, and Victoria Summerville.

The designated freshman eight turned in the top overall time out of two flights, winning in 5:16 flat ahead of the runner-up boat from Holy Spirit High School (Absecon, N.J.), which was not particularly close at 5:27.21. The Magic contingent here was Lindsey Maiale (cox), Olivia Tice-Carroll (stroke), Christina Knox, Julianna Hunt, Maddie Lauinger, Brooke McMahon, Maddie Carlton, Katelin Cordero, and Zoe Ramos.

Mount St. Joe’s JV four competed in the second of three flights, and that group also occupied the middle ground in terms of the overall time scale. Third out of their section, in 6:03.63, were Bridget Walsh (cox), Emma Tenzinger (stroke), Hanna Leonard, Nina Lawlor, and Katie Gresko.

Their colleagues in the Magic’s JV eight placed fourth in what was decidedly the faster of two flights in that classification. Here, a time of 5:15.52 was turned in by oarswomen Jocelyn Ziemniak (stroke), Ariene Merkel, Christina Vosbikian, Jenny DiPietro, Quinn Devore, Alaina Hunt, Kate Stromberg, and Alana Cianciulli under the direction of cox Megan Mirabella.

Holy Spirit’s lightweight eight was the scholastic national champion in 2012 and a high number of returning rowers has made them the cream of the class so far this spring, but the Magic have been getting closer. The gap between the two was more than 15 seconds in the third Manny Flick, and last Sunday the Mounties got it down to six seconds, clocking in second at 5:18.58 to Spirit’s winning time of 5:12.63.
Mount varsity crews coach Mike McKenna said in their two most recent outings, the MSJ lights began well in the earlier race, and then on Sunday recovered well from a so-so start.

“The idea now is to put the best parts of those races together,” he said. “They’re having fun, and they’re starting to believe in themselves.”

This easy-on-the-scales ensemble for the Mount is made up of Emily McHugh (stroke), Bridget Fitzpatrick, Michela Karrash, Maura O’Donnell, Kate Mirabella, Liz McKernan, Lexi Meister, and Abby Shreero, with Annie Tenzinger tethered to the cox box.

The day before the fourth Manny Flick, Mount St. Joe trailered their boats down to Delaware to participate in one of St. Andrew’s School’s Noxontown regattas, and the Mounties lost to Holy Spirit not only in the lightweight eight event, but also in the varsity eight race.

Washington’s National Cathedral School won the V-8 race in 5:12.2, while Spirit was second in 5:14.3 and the Magic were third in 5:16.3.

Overall, the MSJ flagship has done remarkably well in light of the fact that eight of the nine members of last year’s impressive V-8 graduated.

“Right from the beginning of the fall,” McKenna related, “we discussed with them the fact that they may not have the horsepower to compete with the top crews, so they’d better be efficient. That can be a double-edged sword, because if you’re focused intently on the technical aspects of the stroke, you’re not necessarily going all-out all the time. That’s part of the fine-tuning that we’re doing now.”

In Sunday’s Flick race, the Mount varsity was slotted in lane three in the middle of the river, and was leading a relatively tight race two-thirds of the way through. However, with a few hundred meters to go, Spirit made a push on the inside in lane one and appeared to be making headway. Onlookers could see the point where the Mount sensed the threat and countered, and the Magic prevailed in 5:01.11 while their New Jersey rivals were second in 5:04.53. Spirit had to fight off another Garden State group from Bishop Eustace, which was a close third in 5:04.80.

In this race, the Magic’s V-8 line-up (which has undergone a few changes this spring) featured seniors Kait Loftus (seven seat), Kiera McCloy (five), Mary Raggazino (cox), and Emily Ruddy (three), juniors Maddie Lawn (stroke), Lauren Matchett (four), and Leah Ramos (bow), and sophomores Steph Eble (six) and Brynn McGillin (two). A regular member of the crew, junior Natalie Simms, was resting up to recover from some minor wear and tear.

Instead of racing in their own category, the Mount’s second eight has been competing in the varsity eight events in all the Flicks so far, and on Sunday they came in fourth in the second flight, in 5:13.90. Here, Alyssa Pagliaro presides as coxswain, setting the tone for Caroline Carbone (stroke), Maddie Wescott, Gwynn Kieffer, Fiona Kelly, Marissa Mulligan, Jacqueline James, Danielle Kosman, and Rachel Heller.

Speaking once more of the somewhat unanticipated success of the varsity eight, McKenna admitted, “To a degree, they’re overachieving. It’s a very fun crew to work with – no question about it – and we’ll see where their ceiling is. I think the ceiling is going to be higher than I thought it was.”