The News Page: Scholastic Championships 2005

By Brian Conley _______________________________________________________________
NATIONALS Boats, trailers, tents, thousands of athletes and incredible weather could not have made the National Championships more exciting. Thanks to Mr. Adams for driving our trailer up to the race course an extra day early so that the athletes could get a practice in on a very unfamiliar course.

The road to the National Championship Regatta started with Coach Zach and I traveling up early on Thursday afternoon and rigging up the four boats that had qualified and been selected to race at the National Championships. Around 4:00pm the athletes arrived from a rather long bus ride and immediately got changed for their last official practice of their season. They took to the water on rather unstable docks that were placed so crews could depart for practice. The athletes all seemed a little nervous about their lineups as we made some adjustments this week. When the crews came off the water about an hour later, they all realized that they had not the best practice in the world. After much explanation that this is an unfamiliar course, the athletes still seemed a bit nervous but somewhat relaxed about the situation.

RACING BEGINS (FRIDAY). The team showed up at 8:00am at the race course and did a quick check of their equipment. The Varsity Women's Four had the first race of this regatta for Lower Merion crew. They pulled one of the tougher heats in the regatta and came off the line tied for first with three other crews. At the half way mark, the ladies took a big move to push out to nearly a length lead over the other three crews who were still pushing hard. With 400 meters to go, Princeton High began to make a charge for the finish knowing the course pretty well since it was their home course. With this move, the other two crews also began to charge with them. LM with 200 meters to go began their charge as they knew if they didn't that these crews would steal their spot in the semi-final. Princeton High had timed it perfectly to squeeze out first place in the heat by 0.1 seconds but LM held 2nd which placed the ladies in the semi-final as well.

The lightweight men's four were up next. When shoving off, this crew was more focused and incredibly energized then in any other previous regatta. Off the start, LM Men were dead even with Upper Merion, who normally would take the lead off the start. The men at this point sat comfortably at a high rating of 37 spm for the body of the course. UM tried to take a move a little before the half way mark, but it was LM who took control of the race at this point with a big move solidifying their spot in the semi-final with 600 meters to go by opening up a length and half open water lead on the field. They crossed the finish line easily ahead of the other crews, giving them the seventh best time in their field for the day.

The Lightweight Women did not fair as well as previous races, but showed their determination and desire. Despite catching three crabs in the race the women were extremely close to the other crews and nearly qualified. They were only 10 seconds off first and 7.5 seconds from qualifying despite having to stop these three times. It was a very strong and valiant effort by the ladies of this four.

The Varsity Men's 4+ found themselves also in a very difficult heat. Coming off the line, the men found themselves right in the thick of the race. However, when they went to race rating the men had difficulty finding their rythym and at the half way mark it was evident the men were in a race for third with Lasalle. Even though the men had difficulty with the rythym the men never gave up, a trademark to all Lower Merion crews this year, and pushed through Lasalle with 300 meters to go to take third, still shy of qualifying.

After the first day, Lower Merion was proud to say that they had two boats in the semi finals for the National Championship and two boats that fought hard from start to finish and nearly made it. The team went back to a local hotel to get some much needed rest and dinner. The team was obviously starving because when the appetizers came out, it was like a pack of wild wolves dismantling the plate that was laid down only seconds prior. Dinner came and went and the athletes looked as though they were well nourished when they went to their rooms. Dinner was provided by the school as part of the trip. The athletes that were racing were informed of lights out at 9:30pm which seemed to be fine with all of them as they looked tired. The rest of the team were permitted to take advantage of the pool and a slightly later curfew of 11:00pm. Swimming and playing monopoly (I participated in the monopoly) satisfied us all. At 11pm, all the athletes went to bed and it was up to the coaches then to do the bedroom checks which passed throughout the night.

SATURDAY To make it to the second day of the High School National Championships, is an incredible feat to start a day and end a season. The Men's Lightweight 4+ drew their friendly archrival of Kearny, who beat them throughout the year by lengths of open water. Off the start, the men were in the lead by a mere seat over Kearny and Bonner. At the 1000 meter mark Kearny pulled ahead by two seats and Bonner by 1 seat. The LM crew never lost focus or desire knowing this was the best of the best they were racing and were outsized. The Men pushed back into Bonner knowing they had to get top 2. Bonner pushed back out to a length lead. With 500 meters to go Kearny now had one length of open water on LM who was a length behind Bonner. The men began their sprint and with each stroke began to draw in Kearny from their lead. Bonner also began to move and with 250 left Bonner was now only 4 seats up. The men continued to push and finished 3/4 of a length behind Bonner and one length open behind Kearny. This was the men's best race. They were happy with the way they rowed but disappointed with not making the final.

The Varisty Women came slightly later in the day in their semi. Off the line, it was Stanton who showed that they were going to be the team to beat. LM looked solid and strong and were in a dog fight for the entire length of the course to qualify. With their big move they pushed back in to the other crews slightly but at this point it was a battle to get fourth. The women pushed and with 400 meters to go were in fifth place. They began to take the rate up and with 250 to go had a bow ball now in fourth place. They pushed out alittle more taking fourth in the semi-final and giving pride to the Lower Merion team of an outstanding performance.

The team is extremely proud of all these crews that qualified to race and would like to congratulate them on racing at the highest level of high school rowing and competing with the best.

By David Greenspan _______________________________________________________________
I can tell you so little from day1, Friday. But the news from the heats was pretty good. LM Crew had two boats going into the Semis. Neither the Women's Light 4 that finished 5th (after some serious sickness struck members of the team) nor Men's Varsity 4 that placed 3rd in their heat made the semis despite heroic performances. The Women's Varsity 4 took second in their heatm down 0.1 seconds to Princeton High to make the semis. The Men's Light 4 won their heat beating 3 boats including Upper Merion and having the 7th fastest time of the day. They had beaten UM in Flick #4 with a come from behind victory, but had not challenged them seriously in more recent outings including Stotes, Cities and the UM regatta. It must have been very sweet to be out in front with open water a full 5.5 seconds. I am sorry I wasn't there.

With great trepidation the crews went out again for their semi final races, knowing that this much tighter field required them to beat 4 boats to get into the finals. The Lightweight Men were off first around 9:00. Kearny had beaten most everyone (except Crossley from Canada in the Stotes). Bonner had been the strongest Philly lightweight 4 since mid season. New Trier came in from afar, and had the 4th fastest time the day before. No one expected Forest Park or T. Jefferson to be slouches. They could only let 1 of these boats beat them to move on. Our boys had rowed 'the best race this year' the day before. Coach's plan months in advance to peak the crew at the right moment. With such a rough middle of the season, was this going to be it? Brian was 'sick' with nerves. "It was so much easier being in a boat then being a coach!" Strutting here and there on the bank, hand rubbing his hair, then biting some nails, then more hair rubbing silently spoke of his excitement. The heat was off. From a long way down the course it is really hard to see what is happening. But according to their coxswain, Aaron Greenspan, the Lightweight 4, "was even, maybe out a seat after the start. We settled at 37 strokes per minute. Bonner immediately took a length. Kearny started to respond at the 500, and pulled even for the next 500 meters. We were down a length on each but maintained contact. New Trier was dead even with us. We took our power 20 at the 1/2 way mark. We pulled within 1/2 a length of Bonner. Kearny also took off at the same time and move out a length over Bonner. Coming into the sprint, New Trier jumped up two seats, putting them 1 seat behind Bonner and 2 seats ahead of us. As we took the rate up a launch going up the course waked out lanes 1 and 2 ruining our steering point and stroke rate. Bonner took a full length at 350 to go and New Trier had us by 3 seats. Upon our 'flying start' we jumped out ahead of New Trier and pulled back into competition with Bonner losing to them by seulement 3 seats. New Trier almost came back at the end but failed by a seat to take us." LM settled for 3rd, 2 seconds out of the finals. Just 2 seconds out of 318, less than 1% difference separating them.

I would love to give you more details about the women's varsity semi, but I have very little real information. Their coach, Tara, looked pretty cool, much more so than her boss did for the men's race. Perhaps it was burried behind some sadness, "This is the last race I am going to coach", she said. I presume this refers to her plans to focus on her legal career. The ladies heat looked like it had them well back for much of the race. Stanton was clocked at 31 strokes per minute and 'comfortably in the lead after 500 meters' according to the commentator who shared little during this semifinal heat. Stanton were long and low as they approached the last 500. Hun was pulling up on them with a sprint. 3rd place was clearly held by Peddie in this last 200 meters but looked like our ladies were closing on them. Hun's sprint gave them an 0.1 second win over Stanton who never responded. LM came in 4th a second over Morrestown and 11 ahead of New Trier.

What a superb racing season. LM showed some real strength at times and lots of courage always.It is hard to imagine that after all the work that the season is now over. But there is lots more to look forward to. After a well deserved summer break (that will see some of our men and women sitting in boats I am sure) a new season can begin. The women have great depth, with lots of returning upperclasswomen and a huge freshman program of experienced ladies. The men need a strong recruiting year. The performances of this years crew should be a strong attraction for other LM athletes. NOW onward to the final event, The banquet!