Mount St. Joseph Academy's crew swept the eights categories to take home four gold medals.
Mount St. Joseph Academy's crew won gold medals in all five eights races at the Philadelphia City Championships at the beginning of May, but last weekend's Stotesbury Cup Regatta, with a much wider-ranging field of competitors, presented a greater challenge for the Magic.
With no novice eight category offered at Stotesbury, the Mount entered a freshman eight, junior eight, second eight, and senior eight in the oldest and largest high school regatta in the U.S.
The result was the same as at Cities; the Mounties swept the eights categories to take home four gold medals. In the fours events, one MSJ boat did not advance out of time trials on Friday, and another ended its weekend in the semifinal round. However, another four, a junior boat that was put together after the City Championships, won a silver medal.
The Mount's freshman eight has excelled all spring, with Kayliegh Costello at coxswain and (stroke to bow) Michaela Ianieri, Layla Seward, Ella Kurek, Ava Smith, Bridget Horgan, Maddie Dudley, Ally Truitt and Marianna Rambo on the oars.
In Friday's trials they recorded the fastest time, six seconds better than number two Bethesda Chevy-Chase, from Maryland. These two and the next 10 in the order were seeded into two semi final sections. The Magic won the first semi by five seconds over Delaware's St. Andrew's School, while Niskayuna High School, from upstate New York, topped BBC in the other semi.
In the finals, the Magic attained a modest lead over the first third of the race, then kept gradually increasing it. They drove hard into the finish to win the gold medal by almost six seconds in five minutes, 20.67 seconds. There was more drama in the battle for the silver medallion, with Niskayuna (5:26.23) outdueling St. Andrew's (5:28.17).
In the junior four, Branksome Hall from Toronto dominated every stage of the event, but the Mount boat (Kylie Reichert - cox, Emily Feilke - stroke, Olivia Duffy, Addy Smith, Eva Getty) moved up from seventh in the time trials to place second behind Branksome in the semi's and make the final race.
The Canadians won the gold medal in 5:30.47 while the Mount secured silver in 5:37.41, battling in the sprint to edge out Marietta (Ohio) High School (5:37.71).
The Mount's second four (Ava Vavra - cox, Anna Rybny - stroke, Elizabeth Vasquez, Lola Figueroa-Clark, Grace Fullmer) had grabbed the last spot out of the group of 12 boats to make the semifinals. Their weekend ended in the semi's, where they placed sixth in the first section.
In Saturday's finals, the Mount fans turned their attention from the junior four to the junior eight (Sarah Mark - cox, Molly Chipman - stroke, Maddy Wynn, Michaela Kowalski, Julia Fede, Alexia Levine, Norah McGlynn, Anna Fedders, Molly Maher).
First in the time trials, this group also put up the fastest overall time as it won the first semifinal contest. Montclair (N.J.) High School was two seconds off the Mount's time as it won the second semifinal race.
Although the Magic led for most of the final race, Montclair remained close and appeared make a move on the Mount as the boats came alongside Peter's Island. The Mount wasn't having any of it, countering and then starting their sprint. They dialed it up even more over the last 200 meters and won the race going away. They got the gold in 5:11.59 to Montclair's silver-medal time of 5:15.77, while the bronze medal went to Virginia's South County High School (5:19.48).
Like the juniors, the veterans in the Mount second eight (Angelina Baker - cox, Anna Ledwith - stroke, Maya McCottry, Kari Prosperi, Nina Rowello, Alexa Kennedy, Ellie Fazio, Megan Krumenacker, Aoife Meacle) had proven to be the fastest boat in the first two stages of their event.
In the semifinals, both Walt Whitman of Maryland (second in the Mount's semifinal) and Virginia's W.T. Woodson (winner of the other semi) were about six seconds slower than the Mounties.
In the final the Magic got off to a strong start and simply shut the door on all the other crews. However, there was lively competition farther back as the boats in lanes one, two, four and five remained close together until late in the race.
A strong finish gave the Magic a time of 5:15.06, while Washington DC's Jackson-Reed High School (5:20.42) took the silver medal over Walt Whitman (5:22.49).
Stotesbury had started off with clear weather on Friday, but rain arrived on Saturday morning. Fortunately, it tailed off during the day, and by the time the senior eights were ready to go, there was once again evidence of a sun in the sky.
There had been some shifting of personnel in the senior (varsity) eight very early in the season, with some rowers also performing with the Mount swim team over the winter and just making the transition back to crew. Varsity crews coach Mike McKenna said that once everyone was back in the fold, things settled down pretty quickly.
After a few weeks, he moved sophomore Vanessa Ksiazek to the stroke seat in the boat, where she would help set the rhythm for the rowers as a group.
"I'd had my eye on her as a stroke, and once we moved her there she did very well," the Mount mentor said.
Chloe Van de Meulebroecke was the coxswain, and going forward in the boat from Ksiazek were Kathryn Sponseller, Caroline Johnson, Grace Hartzell, Clara Pagano, Alexa Konowal, Kelly Cleary, and Zoe Truitt.
McKenna related that his charges were surprised when St. Andrew's recorded the fastest qualifying time on Friday, just ahead of the Mount. In an invitational staged at St. Andrew's a few weeks before, the Magic had beaten the host Saints handily. Also present at that race was Jackson-Reed, which would also be a Stotesbury finalist.
The Magic had put up the fastest time in the semifinal races, and in the finals they contended with St. Andrew's for the early lead in the middle of the race course. Jackson-Reed was also in the picture, but the real surprise came from lane one, closest to the riverbank, where Holy Spirit High School (a long-respected program from Absecon, N.J.) began to push into the lead and was still there almost halfway through the race.
Briefly, Coach McKenna was concerned that the MSJ coxswain, Van de Meulebroecke, might not notice Spirit soon enough.
He quickly realized, "She saw them; she knew."
The Garden State girls never had a large lead, and the Mount moved ahead as the field entered the second half of the course. Alongside Peter's Island, the Magic increasingly appeared in command, and like the MSJ eights ahead of them, they had enough gas in the tank to draw farther away going through to the finish line.
The Mounties won the gold medal in 5:06.77. The boats in the middle may have neglected Holy Spirit after the Jersey school lost its early lead, but Spirit stayed with it in the inside lane and won the silver medal in 5:10.59. Some observers said that St. Andrew's appeared to stumble on a few strokes going down the home stretch, and indeed the Saints were edged out by Jackson-Reed for the bronze medal by less than a second.
In the grandstand, all of the other Magic crews were going wild. It was "sweep complete" for the eights of Mount St. Joseph Academy.