While the result wasn't exactly what we had hoped for, the other coaches and I could not have been more proud of the races on Saturday. On Friday, captain Tad Schiebe ’19 challenged the team to approach these races with what he defined as 'the racing mentality.' It was something we felt was lacking last week, as each race included a moment of lost focus.
The fourth boat set the tone early with a hard-fought race against Thomas Jefferson and Lawrenceville, narrowly falling to the latter by a mere 2 seconds. I like our changes in the rematch at Stotesbury in the Freshman event. The third eight also had a good showing against a powerful field. The top two teams in the race, Lawrenceville and Winter Park, were in a class of their own, but the boys managed to hang with fourth place Chaminade for much of the race. Led by coxswain Arvin Vanikar ’21 and stroke Jackson Swets ’21, the boat pulled away from Madison in the final 30 strokes to finish ahead of them by 1.3 seconds. My favorite race was actually the second eight race, even though they finished in 6th. There was just something about their attitude these last few days that suggested they were going to give it everything they had. Clearly the youngest and smallest boat in the race, they hung on with the pack for nearly 1000 meters before the cracks began to show. These kinds of breakthrough performances are the building blocks of great rowing careers.
Three years ago when I took over as head coach, we had a rocky season. Ultimately, we were not able to progress out of the time trial at Stotesbury for the first time in school history. Senior Xander Atalay ’19 was in that boat, and I think the experience weighs on both of us from time to time. It certainly motivated us to prepare better the next year, perhaps propelling us into the final of Stotesbury in 2018. So when I heard from Xander on Saturday morning that he was sick and could not race, I felt a knot in my stomach. I felt confident that Zack Le Roy ’21 was going to do his best as the sub for Xander, but I wasn't sure what kind of effect Xander's absence would have on the boat's mentality. When I arrived at the boathouse, I found a calm, focused group. I think they realized that they were going to have to generate the calm intensity that Xander usually provides on their own. They rowed a great race, running with the leaders through the first 500m, then clawing their way back up to the tail of the lead pack just before the 1000. They gave everything they had, but lost a little more ground in the sprint. Their time was a bit slower than usual because they gave so much in the first part of the race to run with the top three crews. It was a brave performance. Word is that he is recovering and will be back in his seat shortly.
The upcoming weekend is another big one. Most importantly, there will be a boat dedication at 11 am for the Dominic Seiterle '94. He was a brilliant rower at St. Andrew's and Dartmouth, but is most famous for sitting in the six seat in the Canadian Men's eight in the 2008 Olympics. It's hard to watch the race without getting chills; check it out here. Dom will be on campus on Friday to spend some time with the team and then to cheer for the boys on Saturday. We will need a lot of support against the likes of Central Catholic (PA), Gonzaga (DC), St. Joe's (PA), Dallas Jesuit (TX), and Whitman (DC). Every crew in this race is finalist quality.