Local rowers defended their surf well Saturday, placing 14 shells in the finals and winning four gold medals in the Scholastic Rowing Association of America’s National Championships on Fish Creek.
The youngest of the champions came from the host club.
Saratoga’s women’s freshman eight finished the 1,500-meter course in 5:31.723, outpulling St. Ursula Academy, which finished second in 5:34.527. Saratoga coxswain Isabelle Germano said the girls got their customary quick start, pulling away around the 11th stroke, and held off the challenge of the surging St. Ursula crew.
“Ursula started gaining on us in the last little bit of the race, but I kept thinking, ‘We’ve got this. We’ve got this,’ ” Germano said. “I couldn’t believe that just happened. I was crying by the end of the race, for the last couple strokes. It was the most intense, most amazing feeling I’ve ever felt.”
The freshman eight includes, from stern to bow, Germano, Kerri Wegner (stroke), Kate Kolbe, Caroline Murphy, Lexi Georgia, Ali Samach, Caty Hogan, Kelli Wegner and Sophie Coco.
Their schoolmates in the women’s junior eight won another national championship for the club, finishing in 5:25.449, ahead of the James Madison B shell, which finished in 5:26.479.
The junior eight includes, from stern to bow, Isabel Price (coxswain), Lizzy Fitzhenry (stroke), Kayley Bradley, Thora Olsen, Chesea Brown, Erica McBain, Katie O’Connell, Caroline Blackington and Jill Perkins.
The Shenendehowa men’s junior double shell also took gold, piloted by Alexander Loy (stroke) and Ian Colpoys in 5:31.110. They beat out St. John the Baptist High School, which finished in 5:32.773.
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Ryan Allen won the men’s varsity single competition for Ballston Spa, pulling away for the win in 6:11.489 ahead of Jacob Gardner-Rosen (6:16.229) of Friends Select. South Glens Falls’ Jon Braga was third in 6:17.556.
The Emma Willard women’s lightweight double of Celeste Pomputius and Libby Hughes (6:18.572) finished second to the Baldwin shell (6:12.804). It was the first time the pair has not crossed the finish line first since taking gold at nationals last year.
The Saratoga women’s junior eight was holding a short lead on the shell from James Madison, but lost its line briefly in the last 50 meters, taking a slight angle in its lane before righting the ship and pulling home.
“When people get excited, they don’t necessarily row together,” Price said. “It was good, just different people pulling at different times, but it worked.”
The close finish made the win all the more exciting and special for the group, Fitzhenry said.
“It was amazing,” Fitzhenry said. “It was indescribable. We’ve worked so long for this. We’ve been rowing since seventh grade, so it wasn’t just this year, it’s been three years.”
The Shen men’s double was a bit of a surprise. The pair rows other boats during the regular season with the Saratoga Rowing Association club.
“Coming in, we knew we would be doing a lot of club boats,” Loy said. “I thought we’d get to race this because it’s our only scholastic possibility, but it wasn’t really in the plans.”
They were trailing the shell from St. John the Baptist and were content to hold off the rest of the field, at first.
“We were trying to stabilize second place, until we realized we were gaining on first,” Colpoys said. “That’s when we really kicked it into high gear and ended up passing them. We weren’t expecting them to move on them that much.”
Allen was another champion that started as a chaser. He said Braga, who he knows well, was out front, giving Allen a little more incentive.
“Jon was out far ahead, and I was just trying to catch him because we train together,” Allen said. “I wanted to finally beat him.”
The Saratoga women’s junior quad took bronze, as did the Shen men’s lightweight four and the Shaker women’s varsity double.
SILVER AND GOLD
The runner-up finish by the Emma Willard women’s lightweight double followed their 2009 national championship in the same event. That gold medal came as a surprise to the team, coach and their opponents, as it was the first season Pomputius and Hughes, a freshman and a junior at the time, respectively, had rowed together. This year, however, there were high expectations from the start.
“Coming out of nowhere last year and getting gold at nationals made this year tougher because suddenly, people were racing to beat us,” Hughes said. “Every race was intimidating. We had no idea what to expect because there are always boats that can come out of nowhere. We were always on our toes, and ready for anything.”
Hughes said, though, she has gotten more out of crew than she thought she would when she started rowing as a freshman.
“I would have loved to have gotten a gold, but getting that silver still felt really good,” she said. “If we had let up a single stroke, we wouldn’t have gotten this far. The other boat was powerful and strong. We pulled as hard as we could, so I’m satisfied.”