The Saratoga Rowing Association’s varsity eight-girl team has accomplished something no other Saratoga rowing team has: It won first-place gold in the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston.
A total of 85 boats from across the United States and other countries competed in the three-mile race on the Charles River on Oct. 21.
“That race usually represents some of the top boats in the country,” said Eric Catalano, varsity girls coach and executive director of the Saratoga Rowing Association.
All nine girls on the winning boat — eight rowers and a coxswain — are Saratoga Springs High School students. Five are seniors, three are juniors, and one a sophomore.
“Everyone who was in the finals of the national championship [earlier this year] was in the Head of the Charles,” Catalano said.
The winning team was Mackenzie Battle, Alexis Georgia, Meghan Hampton, Shannon Merboth, Claire and Caroline Murphy, Kelli and Kerri Wegner and coxswain Mackenzie Hart.
Chris Chase, a founder and regatta director for the association, said Saratoga teams have done well at the prestigious Head of the Charles in past years, including finishing well in the top 10.
“This is the first time someone from Saratoga has won,” he said.
He said all the more remarkable is the fact that the team was smaller and lighter than many of the teams they were competing against.
“Being so small and going into a headwind, they are a tenacious group,” Chase said.
He said most of the seniors on the team are getting scholarship offers. Caroline Murphy of Saratoga Springs, for example, has received offers from Harvard, Brown University, and Duke University.
Murphy’s father, Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III, said his daughter has chosen to attend Duke next fall.
“We are thrilled,” said Murphy, whose younger daughter, Claire, is in 10th grade.
There was a tense moment during the race. Each boat is started 10 seconds after the other in the timed event. The idea is to try to pass the boat in front of you and the one in front of that.
When the Saratoga boat was attempting to pass a boat from Philadelphia under one of the bridges along the Charles River, coxswain Hart asked for permission to pass and was given permission by the other boat. But as the boats went under the bridge, their oars locked and the Saratoga boat had to stop rowing for several seconds.
James Murphy, who attended the race, said Hart was able to get the team back into rhythm quickly and the team continued its excellent race.
“You could easily think that was the end of the race,” Catalano said about the boats clashing their oars, “but they got right back up to speed and won by three seconds.”