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Nine Capital Region school districts will be represented by 37 shells at Fish Creek on Saratoga Lake today and Saturday in the 76th Scholastic Rowing Association of America’s National Championships.
Last year, three local boats won national titles. With so many entries from the region hitting the water today, the area clubs could have a shot at a few more.
More than 3,000 rowers will compete in the event, with racing scheduled 9 a.m.-5 p.m. both days.
“I think there’s a lot of depth,” said Chris Chase, the regatta director for the Saratoga Rowing Association. “I think we have a good chance of equaling last year’s [number of local champions], and at least a good chance of putting as many people in the finals.”
Chase also is a former head coach and former executive director for the SRA.
Last year, Saratoga won the women’s senior 8 petite final (for third- and fourth-place finishers in the semifinals), 2.06 seconds ahead of a shell from Burnt Hills.
The Emma Willard duo of Celeste Pomputius and Libby Hughes won the women’s lightweight double championship in their first year rowing together.
Pomputius, a senior, and Hughes, a sophomore, return this year to defend that title. Emma Willard coach Bob Tarrant said they clicked pretty quickly last year, and surprised him with a national title. This season, they have not been beaten.
“We’ve put them in some pretty tough races,” Tarrant said. “They won sectionals in the regular doubles race, because they don’t have a lightweight division. They won states based on their time-trial time, which was 17 seconds better than second place.”
Shenendehowa’s Ian Fisher won the men’s senior single championship and Abby Knight was the women’s senior single runner-up last year. Both graduated, but the team returns to Nationals with six shells in contention.
The Shen women’s junior 8, which floats one junior and eight sophomores, competed last year with most of the same girls and finished seventh at Nationals in the freshman 8 category. This year at states, they were second only to a boat from the Saratoga Rowing Association.
“Saratoga’s always really fast and one of our top competitors,” Shenendehowa girls coach Drew Kroft said. “The fact they were the only ones to beat us was impressive because we’re such a young group.”
From stern to bow, the shell holds Lindsay Blake (coxswain), Kelsey Thornton (stroke), Tori Torrisi, Danielle LaBlanc, Lauren Miranda, Carly Tashjian, Megan Lounsbury, Meghan Berman and Sam Charboneau.
Kroft said he wants the girls to row their best race and, if they can equal their finish in last year’s freshman competition, that would provide a good steppingstone toward medals in the future.
Niskayuna and Burnt Hills will send six and five boats, respectively. In addition to the Burnt Hills Rowing Association’s runner-up finish last year in the women’s senior 8 petite finals, it had a women’s second 8 shell that just missed the finals. The program will contend for titles in both categories once again this year.
Its second 8 is an entirely different boat from last year’s, while the senior 8 returns four girls.
“They would definitely like to perform better this year,” Burnt Hills girls coach Donica Nalbert said of the senior 8. “My hope is for them to get back to the petite finals, although I know they want more.”
The shell contains, from stern to bow, Emily White (coxswain), Victoria Catharine (stroke), Kelsey Piel, Amanda Primett, Stacy LaRose, Emily Hoskinson, Katie Manilenko, Bridget Rudgers and Charlotte Munday.
Of the six seniors in the boat, four are going to row collegiately next year.
Shaker and Ballston Spa will send three shells, Emma Willard two and South Glens Falls one. Homeschooler Emily Elliott is rowing in the women’s senior single, representing Mohonasen, and fellow homeschooler David Brzozowski is rowing for Brzozowski Homeschool. Both row with the Mohawk Homeschool Rowing Association.
No two local clubs equal the number of entries for the host SRA, which will put 13 boats in the water, including the women’s junior 8, which just missed the finals last year with a fourth-place finish and returns many of its rowers.
From stern to bow, they are Isabel Price (coxswain), Lizzy Fitzhenry (stroke), Kayley Bradley, Thora Olsen, Chelsea Brown, Erica McBain, Katie O’Connell, Caroline Blackington and Jill Perkins.
“Last year. most of them were sophomores,” Chase said. “We’ve been racing our top eight as a senior eight all season and racing our varsity eight in the junior category because they’re all juniors or younger. At states, we raced them [the junior 8] in 1v [the senior 8 category] and freshmen in junior category. Everybody was racing up all year to get that competition.”
The Saratoga boys have a junior 8 shell filled mostly with freshmen, Chase said, that has been a pleasant surprise.
“I don’t think anyone really expected them to do so well,” he said. “We thought we’d take our lumps, we’re a young team. Someone forgot to tell the kids.”