It stands to reason that the sheer number of competitors at this weekend’s Virginia Scholastic Rowing Championships means only a few medals will be earned by Prince William crews.
Including first-time participants James Madison (Vienna) and Great Bridge (Chesapeake), 29 schools rowed at the state championships.
At least one crew from each of the five Prince William schools made it to a final, including three each from Gar-Field and Woodbridge. Three earned medals: a bronze from Woodbridge’s boys varsity eight, their fourth consecutive top-three finish, and silvers from Hylton’s boys lightweight four and Woodbridge’s girls lightweight eight.
But medals aren’t the only way to judge success, even at the state championships.
The Potomac girls four had the type of Saturday that could easily be overlooked on such a simple scale of success.
Charise Arellano, Christina Tuck, Jessica Jones, Tanya Otsuka and coxswain Amanda Rivera comprise the four, which has had the same makeup since the beginning of the Spring.
The crew barely missed making finals, finishing about three seconds behind third-place Yorktown in a morning heat. They left no doubts in their petite, pulling away from West Springfield, Thomas Jefferson and Christ Church early and holding off the Spartans to win by more than six seconds.
“The girls had a good race,” said head coach Mary King. “They missed finals by such a small amount, but they came back in the petite and had an awesome row. They were kind of finally rowing like we’ve been trying to row all season. Hopefully that will take us into metros on a positive note.”
What makes the feat more impressive is that half of Potomac’s girls rowers were in that boat.
The Panther program is certainly Prince William’s smallest with just 26 rowers, and might be one of the smallest programs in the state. Of the 26 participants, just 10 are female.
“Bottom line, they’re seventh in the state, if you look at it that way, finishing first in the petite,” said King. “With 10 girls on the whole team to put a four together [with], that’s pretty impressive on their part. I told them, ‘you’ve got to be pretty proud of yourselves.'”
Between the two most prestigious local events of the year, the state and capital area championships, is one of the season’s most enjoyable: Saturday’s trip to the Mathews Regatta.
Situated on the Chesapeake Bay, area coaches praise the regatta because it allows the upper and lower boats to get on the water, and unlike most regattas, there are no limits to how many times one rower can row.
“It’s great,” said King, “especially when we have novice rowers who get so many of their races canceled. Sometimes they’re dying to race.”
Coaches also get a chance to mix up their normal boat lineups as well as race themselves. Most of the races are 1,000 meters instead of the normal 1,500.
The Mathews County High School crew Web site bills the regatta as sort of a festival, with food and arts and crafts present. It also notes that it is the season’s only saltwater stop.
“We’re still on the water between states and metros,” said King. “I think it’s good, kids who are antsy about ‘I made the boat, I didn’t make the boat,’ for states or metros don’t have to worry about that. It’s a nice way to unwind a little before the next three, metros, Stotesbury and nationals.”
One scene from Saturday’s state championships on the Occoquan spoke to crew’s popularity, if not its growth.
The Sandy Run Regional Park grandstands, located on the Fairfax County side of the river, are usually full for the state championships. Even with intermittent rain, that was still the case on Saturday.
Apparently, some observers have figured out how to get a different view of the races. A handful of fans lingered near the finish line on the Prince William side of the river late in the afternoon, becoming more noticeable when they opened up their umbrellas.
Keith McMillan covers crew for the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger. Reach him at (703) 878-8053 or by e-mail at [email protected].