Disappointment at States

After a big week at the Ted Phoenix Lower Boat Championships a week earlier, Yorktown’s varsity crews lined up against the area’s best at the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association’s state championship regatta Saturday May 11.

While the days leading up to the regatta were rain-filled and windy, the crews got a final practice on the Occoquan Friday afternoon to prepare for Saturday’s races. The crews and coaches were relaxed and felt prepared, and while the forecast was touch and go the morning conditions turned out excellent, with light winds, flat water, and pleasant temperatures—almost perfect for rowing.

The men's 1V was the first to race in heats. The men had posted a disappointing finish at the Charlie Butt Regatta at the end of April, but the boat had been re-rigged for a starboard stroke and the lineup completely rearranged in the intervening two weeks. The 1V men were a faster crew than two weeks earlier, the question was how much faster? The answer came soon enough in the heat. The men, ranked fifth, and stationed in lane 4, rowed a beautiful race and in the final 250 meters walked up on a very fast Madison crew; finishing 2nd and securing a lane 6 draw in the grand final.  More importantly, the 1V men had announced that they could run with the top crews in Virginia.

The junior 4 rowed next in a two-to-qualify heat against  Langley, Fairfax and Mt. Vernon. The men put up a great fight, but ended up just 1.21 seconds out of second place.  The men would not advance, but they had rowed well and had been in the hunt throughout.

The 2V men rowed last in qualifying. Rowing in a heat with Thomas Jefferson, the men delivered, finishing just 0.24 seconds back of TJ and securing a lane 2 draw for the grand final. The 2V heats had been very closely contested, and the 2V final was shaping up to be one of the more exciting races of the day.

Unfortunately, the morning’s nearly perfect rowing conditions disappeared as the day wore on. By the time the afternoon finals began, the wind had picked up. Blowing across the course from the Prince William side to the Fairfax side, the wind created a cross-headwind at the start while closer to the finish the wind became a slight tailwind, favoring crews in lane 6.  With the 2V in lane 2 and the 1V in lane 6, racing would be interesting.

The 2V final had difficulty with alignment, forcing a change to a quick start. Just as the starter was giving the commands, the Yorktown crew lost its point and started heading toward the buoy line. The seven seat’s oar caught on a buoy, but the men recovered quickly and began their march down the race course.  At the 300 meter-to-go mark, the men were in 3rd place definitely in position to medal. It was here that the wind became a factor, propelling the Madison crew in lane 6 past the Yorktown men. The men would finish in 4th, just 0.51 seconds behind Madison—a courageous race and very well rowed.

The 1V men rowed in the final event of the day. Lining up in lane 6, the men faced St. Albans, Madison, Washington-Lee, Jefferson and Robinson.  The men found themselves fighting the wind early in the race, falling behind the field and in 6th place entering the final 300 meters. Here again, the wind gave them a boost and suddenly the 1V began moving up on the 5th place Robinson crew.  In the end, it was not enough however as the men finished in sixth--just 1.26 seconds out of 5th place and the automatic bid to SRAAs. Still, the men had surprised several of their competitors and demonstrated significant improvement from their late April low point. 

On the women’s side, the 1V heats played out as the seeding predicted. Yorktown, the fifth seed overall, lined up against West Potomac, Georgetown Visitation, county rival Washington-Lee and National Cathedral School, the overall number two seed. The Yorktown women had a great start and hung with NCS through the first 500. However, the NCS crew pulled away in the middle and would eventually finish seven seconds ahead of the Patriot ladies. Yorktown had a good sprint and earned its way to the grand final by finishing second, 3 seconds ahead of W-L and 5 seconds ahead of Georgetown Visitation.

The women’s 2V heat was loaded with crews capable of rowing their way to the grand final, making it one of the best races of the day. The Madison 2V took control of the heat early on, but places 2-4 were overlapped and traded places all the way down the course. Unfortunately, the Patriot ladies finished on the wrong side of the bow ball, placing 4th and failing to nab one of the top 3 spots needed to advance to the final. The gap between elation and disappointment can be maddeningly small in crew as there was just over 1 second separating 3rd place and a spot in the final, and 4th place and an early end to the day’s racing.

The lightweight 8 was a final only consisting of top seed McLean, Yorktown, Woodbridge, and Lake Braddock. The McLean lights took control at the beginning, while the Yorktown women had a shaky start. They calmed down and worked hard through the middle to try and stay with McLean and Woodbridge. Those two crews proved too much for the Patriots and the girls finished 3rd behind McLean (5:38), Woodbridge (5:48) and Yorktown (6:02). The lightweight 8 secured a spot at SRAAs and looks to continue building on their recent performances.

Like the men’s event, the women’s 1V grand final was buffeted by wind, with the southwest breeze putting a serious cross headwind on lanes 5 and 6. The Yorktown women were in lane 6 and knew they would need to overcome the wind and have the race of their life to be in the hunt. The girls were focused and ready. At the start, top seeds Madison and NCS pulled quickly away from the field, while the Patriot ladies stayed connected to the pack. However, Oakton and TC Williams gradually inched away and fought it out for the bronze medal, with Oakton pulling it out to medal for the first time.  At the end, Yorktown was fighting with McLean for fifth, and the final automatic invite to SRAAs. Unfortunately, just like the men, the women were shut out, finishing sixth, just over two seconds back of McLean.

In the end, it was a discouraging day for coaches and athletes alike. The gap between the medal stand and disappointment was small, but Yorktown found itself on the wrong side of the equation time and time again Saturday. Resolve is crucial however, since life is 10 percent what happens and 90 percent how you respond. And Yorktown will look to respond, both at Stotesbury and next year—who’s ready for some Chain Bridge Hills?!?

Full results of the regatta can be found here.