On the podium after winning in the finals of the City Championships, the members of the Mount St. Joseph Academy freshman eight receive their gold medals from freshman/novice coach Jen Fasy. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The Mount St. Joseph Academy crew is used to bringing home multiple medals from the annual Philadelphia City Championships, but most of the three golds and two silvers won by the Magic last Sunday didn’t come from the usual sources.

Seven of the 11 vessels entered by the Mount made it to the final round in the afternoon after qualifying in head races (single-lane racing with crews ranked by time) in the morning. The JV eight went on to finish sixth in its final race and the varsity eight was fifth, while silver medals went to the second varsity eight and the lightweight eight.

Where Mount St. Joe struck gold was in a large and talented ninth-grade class under the command of Jen Fasy, a longtime assistant who became to head freshman and novice coach just this year. The Magic’s freshman eight, novice eight, and freshman four all won gold medals, and the novice “B” eight missed qualifying for the finals by a single place.

In all of the categories where crews needed to race in the qualifying round, the boats with the six fastest times moved on into the finals.

In addition to the novice eight “B” boat, three other MSJ entries ended their day in the qualifiers, the JV four, the lightweight four, and the varsity four.

The novice eight “A” boat was a model of consistency, placing first in the morning by just under 10 seconds, and winning the gold medal later by a hair over 10 ticks. Timed in 5:14.56 in the final, the Mounties easily topped runner-up Philadelphia City Rowing (5:24.66), while Germantown Academy (5:28.59) won the bronze medal.

There were 19 boats in the novice eight class at the outset, but only eight in the specific freshman eight category. Here, the Mount qualified first by seven second seconds, then got a little more of a push from Catholic Academies rival Merion Mercy in the final race. MSJ took gold in 5:06.65, and the other medals went to Merion (5:10.86) and Radnor High School (5:14.28).

Mount St. Joe boats were enrolled in two events where the scarcity of competitors made a qualifying round unnecessary, and only a final race was held. The Magic took advantage of this boon by medaling in each contest.

The freshman four smoked the field, winning in 6:04.77 while Moorestown (N.J.) High claimed the silver medal in 6:14.23, outlasting some fellow Jerseyites from Montclair (6:15.71).

The lightweight eight category has been ruled by Absecon, New Jersey’s Holy Spirit High School for two years, but at least the Magic made a good run in the finals at Cities. While Spirit was the clear leader, the Mount was actually back in fourth place a few hundred meters from the finish.

On the inside in lane two, the Magic put on an impressive sprint, quickly going by Montclair and then getting ahead of Merion Mercy near the finish line to snag the silver medal. Spirit still won comfortably, 5:03.19 to 5:08.59, but early in the season the Mount had been timed up to 15 seconds behind the Jersey crew. Merion won the bronze medal in 5:08.82, and Montclair fell to fourth in 5:14.20.

Through much of the season, there has been a fair amount of personnel swapping (even with coxswains) between the light eight and the Mount varsity eight (and the second eight to a lesser extent), and there were actually two lightweight rowers in the varsity boat last weekend. Lacking the pure horsepower pushing many rival boats, the Mount V-8 must row a near-perfect race to succeed in a strong field, and last weekend it just didn’t happen.

Qualifying in the fourth position in the morning, the Magic were assigned to one of the outside lanes, number five, for the finals late in the afternoon. As the boats passed alongside Peter’s Island with a few hundred meters to go, top qualifier Holy Spirit appeared to have the race in hand, and they took the gold in 5:02.83.

On either side of them, the other boats were knotted up in what looked like the crew equivalent of a rugby scrum. In fact, less than a second-and-a-half separated the second and fifth-place finishers. Unfortunately for MSJ fans, their favorites wound up at the back of this bunch, coming in fifth in 5:08.90, ahead of Archbishop Carroll, which was timed in 5:10.83 out in lane six.

Merion Mercy (5:07.52) won the silver medal, the bronze went to suburban Camden’s Bishop Eustace (5:07.56), and in fourth place was Radnor High School (5:08.59). In the bow seat for the Red Raiders was Radnor junior Rachel Hochberger, daughter of the LOCAL’s own Associate Publisher, Larry Hochberger.

Earlier, Holy Spirit had also set the gold standard in the second eight final, fending off a strong challenge from Mount St. Joe as the two crews were timed in 5:14.81 and 5:16.05. This pretty much reflected the results of the qualifying, where Spirit was exactly two seconds faster than number two MSJ. In the final, the bronze medal went to another Jersey crew, Absegami High School, in 5:19.65.

The other MSJ finalist last Sunday was the JV eight, which qualified sixth with under two seconds to spare. This netted the Mounties placement in lane six for the final, closest to the current disruptions caused by Peter’s Island. This aside, they just seemed to lack the “pop” of some of the other crews, coming in sixth in 5:27.09, while Holy Spirit added to its gold medal haul with a time of 5:11.99.

In some ways, Sunday’s results were almost like a flashback to a decade ago, when a three-year old Mount St. Joseph crew program was aspiring to the level of success then enjoyed by a wildly successful Holy Spirit franchise. The MSJ upperclassmen still have a number of big races this year in which they might get back their mojo, and obviously the performance of the current freshman class bodes well beyond 2013.

Mount St. Joseph Boatings

Freshman Four – Olivia Kylander (cox), Grace Little (stroke), Mia Fitzpatrick, Liz DeGroat, Audrey Ezzo

Novice Eight “A” – Emily Woodrow (cox), Dana Mischler (stroke), Rachel Sandquist, Brooke McMahon, Shannon Hughes, Cait Hagan, Lauren Scheffey, Alex Uzzo, Erin McGreevey

Novice Eight “B” – Kathleen Brooks (cox), Ella Perry (stroke), Katie Zimmerman, Taylor Czerpak, Maddy Mulligan, Brianna McBride, Anna Gallagher, Julia Bushold, Vicki Matsinger

Freshman Eight – Lindsey Maiale(cox), Demi Simms (stroke), Christina Knox, Olivia Tice-Carroll, Maddie Lauinger, Julianna Hunt, Maddie Carlton, Katelin Cordero, Zoe Ramos

JV Four – Mimi O’Malley (cox), Katie Gresko (stroke), Nina Lawlor, Bernadette McGirr, Victoria Summerville

JV Eight – Megan Mirabella (cox), Caroline Carbone (stroke), Jenny DiPietro, Jocelyn Ziemniak, Quinn Devore, Christina Vosbikian, Alaina Hunt, Brynn McGillin, Ariene Merkle

Lightweight Four – Madi Kist (cox), Sophia Cocozza (stroke), Lauren Woodrow, Emma Tenzinger, Ellie McGlynn

Lightweight Eight – Annie Tenzinger (cox), Emily McHugh, Liz McKernan, Maura O’Donnell, Bridget Fitzpatrick, Kate Mirabella, Josie Marrocco, Lexi Meister, Abby Shreero

Second Eight – Alyssa Pagliaro (cox), Emily Ruddy, Maddie Wescott, Gwyn Kieffer, Fiona Kelly, Danielle Kosman, Jacqueline James, Marissa Mulligan, Rachel Heller

Varsity Four – Beth Weinrich (cox), Kate Stromberg (stroke), Hanna Leonard, Natalie Keane, Alana Cianciulli

Varsity Eight – Mary Raggazino (cox), Maddie Lawn (stroke), Natalie Simms, Steph Eble, Kierra McCloy, Lauren Matchett, Kait Loftus, Michela Karrash, Leah Ramos