"Stotesbury is a prestigious event," the 6-foot-2, 160-pounder said. "It carries a lot of weight in the rowing community. And the level of competition brings out the best in everybody. That makes it exciting."
Stotesbury, the world's oldest and largest high school race, begins at 8 a.m. Friday with boys' freshman eight trials and concludes at about 6 p.m. Saturday with the girls' senior eight final.
This year's event features more than 5,000 student-athletes and 925 boats. Crews from nearly 200 schools are participating in 31 events. "It's one of the highlights of the spring rowing series," Malvern Prep coach Craig Hoffman said.
The Friars' varsity quad is made up of Velte, fellow senior captains Jeremy Gonzalez and Mike Lewers, and junior Alex Stoczko. Two weeks ago, the crew captured gold in the Philadelphia City Championships on the Schuylkill.
This weekend, Velte and company should be challenged for top honors by Conestoga, Roman Catholic, and Montclair (N.J.). "The four quads have finished within one second of each other, so anything could happen," Hoffman said.
Velte, the No. 2 seat, and No. 3 man Lewers, will row at Yale and Georgetown, respectively. Gonzalez, the bow, will spend a year at the Kent School (Conn.) before going on to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Another key member of Malvern's crew is senior Julian Venonsky, a 5-5, 110-pound bow for the varsity lightweight double. "The kid's got a lot of heart," Hoffman said.
Venonsky, who is headed for Cal-Berkeley, is partnered with sophomore Jim McManus. The Friars' varsity double is made up of senior stroke Robbie Smith, bound for St. Joseph's, and sophomore bow Chris Frey.
Hoffman is in his 16th year as head coach. "He puts you in a position to be successful," said Velte, a three-time Stotesbury champion. "He instills in everyone a winning attitude."
On the girls' side, Radnor will try to defend its varsity eight crown. Last year, with a clocking of 4 minutes, 38.43 seconds, the Red Raiders clipped defending champ Mount St. Joseph (4:44.03).
"They've been fast all season," said Meg Kennedy, Mount St. Joseph's 13th-year coach. "They'll go off first in Friday's time trial. That's always a coveted spot."
Following in the footsteps of Kennedy and assistant coach Mike McKenna, two members of Mount St. Joseph's varsity eight, No. 2 seat Rose Ehrlich and No. 7 Julie McGlynn, will row at Drexel. Six others in the boat are also committed to Division I schools.
In the boys' varsity eight, St. Joseph's Prep looks to improve on last year's third-place showing. St. Albans, of Washington, D.C. is the defending champ.
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