St. Joseph's Prep makes most of a slim margin at Stotesbury Regatta

Posted: May 19, 2014

The difference between sixth and seventh place in the trials was three-tenths of a second.

It also was the immeasurable distance between disappointment and memories that will last a lifetime.

"We were sixth, and seventh was, 'Don't come back,' " St. Joseph's Prep junior eight coach Bob Madden said of his team's performance in Friday's preliminary races at the 88th annual Stotesbury Cup Regatta.

Around 188 schools brought around 950 boats to the world's largest high school regatta on the swollen Schuylkill looking for one thing: a chance to shine.

That's what those three-tenths of a second meant to the guys in the St. Joe's Prep junior eight.

That's what they seized on a sunny, clear afternoon during a condensed and intense final day of competition.

"Sixth in the trials, first on the dock," St. Joseph junior Tim Carter said amid the celebration of their stunning victory late Saturday afternoon.

There were faster boats in more prestigious races, but let the underclassmen from St. Joe's Prep serve as the best example of the unusual circumstances and surprising results that marked this sprawling event in 2014.

Heavy rain on Friday created a rising water level and rapid flow that made the river "unrowable" on Saturday morning, according to regatta director Clete Graham.

"Normal flow is 6,000 cubic feet of water per minute," Graham said. "[Friday] night it was 22,000, and it was still 15,000 this morning."

Stotesbury officials canceled the morning races, eliminating semifinals. Normally, the top 18 from Friday's trials advance to Saturday's semifinals. Instead, the top six finishers from Friday moved directly to the finals.

That was why the junior eight from St. Joe's Prep nearly sat in the boathouse on a muddy Saturday instead of taking to the water. They had finished sixth on Friday, just three-tenths of a second ahead of the seventh-place boat.

"We knew we could race better," in the finals, junior Bob Relovsky said. "We just were lucky we got the chance."

Stotesbury officials pulled the buoy lines on Friday because they would have been torn away by the tide. The surging river seemed to be a factor in every race, as rowers in every boat were determined to attack the 2,000 meters from the start.

"We had a very aggressive race plan because of the fast water," said Madden, echoing the sentiments of most winning coaches on the dock.

Because of their sixth-place finish on Friday, the St. Joe's guys were in Lane 6, the Schuylkill's version of the right lane on a four-lane super highway.

But things were different on Saturday, with the current moving fast on the outside lanes. The Mount St. Joseph girls won the heavyweight eight out of Lane 5.

"I think it worked to our advantage," St. Joseph's junior Scott Dunn said of Lane 6.

In the end, it wasn't the lane or the current or the wind that made the difference.

It was the ability of the St. Joseph's junior eight rowers to pull together and seize their moment, which is another reason they stand as perhaps the best symbol of a special Saturday at Stotesbury.

"You make them work, work, work all winter long, from Monday to Saturday," Madden said. "You want to tell them, 'You're doing this so that you'll be those three-tenths of a second faster on May 16.' "


panastasia@phillynews.com

@PhilAnastasia

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