Fast times during last Friday’s opening heats of the Scholastic Rowing Association of America national championship regatta on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia led to gold medals for three Capital Region boats.
Niskayuna Rowing claimed gold medals in both the boys’ and girls’ varsity double with the Saratoga Rowing Association girls’ varsity eight winning gold after overnight rains made the Schuylkill River unsafe for semifinal and championship races.
Medals were awarded based on the initial times from Friday’s races.
The newly created double lineup of Niskayuna juniors Adam Conrad and Daniel Kelly proved they were the two-man crew to beat Friday, edging out Ridgewood, New Jersey, by three seconds for the top overall time.
“They haven’t raced a lot [together], so we knew the heat that we were in was going to be pretty tight, so I told them to go out there and have a good race,” Niskayuna boys’ varsity coach Sean O’Brien said. “It was tough, four-boats across for most of it and our boat was still in fourth place with about 300 meters to go until they decided to turn it on and walked through everybody for the win.”
On Friday afternoon the New York State and Stotesbury Cup girls’ champion double of Heather Schmidt and Jordan Zenner owned their heat by 22 seconds and the top overall time by five seconds on Albemarle, Virginia.
“We knew that time trials or heats could end up being finals [time], they knew to go out hard enough that they wanted to make a statement, but not show their full hand,” Niskayuna executive director and girls’ varsity coach Stacey Apfelbaum said. “They did a shift up [strokes per minute], to practice it, but they were not pressed.”
Experience has taught the Saratoga girls’ varsity eight to not leave anything to chance.
“In earlier years we might have thought of trying to conserve energy or set ourselves up for a certain lane, but we’ve been burned too many times,” Saratoga Rowing executive director and girls’ varsity coach Eric Catalano said. “Our mentality was just to pull the fastest heat time, try to pull the fastest semifinal time and try to pull the fastest final time.”
The Saratoga eight of coxswain Mackenna Billington, Bryn Dittrich, Claire Macy, Natalie Haring, Angelina DePaulo, Sara Schechner, Zoey Goodness, Meghan Fairley, and Audrey Letts won their heat by seven seconds and bested rival Mount Saint Joseph Academy from the Philadelphia area by less than one second overall.
Rain in the Northeast Friday afternoon continued through Saturday.
“It was a lot of rain and the current the next morning was just ripping fast,” Catalano said. “We did anticipate some weather, but not the full extent of it.”
Their efforts paid off after Saturday’s remaining semifinals and finals were cancelled. Medals were awarded based on Friday’s overall times.
“They’re competitors, they want to get out there, they’ve been rowing together better, gaining speed and they were thinking they could give an even better performance in the final, potentially,” O’Brien said. “They said they had more in them.”
Also earning medals were the Augustine Classical Academy entry from Mechanicville, the girls’ lightweight quad of Sarah Trouwborst, LilyAnna Hopkins, Ashlyn Chaffee and Isabelle West finishing second to East Grand Rapids, Michigan by less than one second Friday afternoon.