Crew - Boys' Varsity
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@ Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, MA
On Saturday, May 27, the Taft boys crew team competed in their end-of-season regatta, the NEIRA championship races, on Lake Quinsigamond, in Worcester, MA. Unlike the weather at this regatta in recent years, and unlike the prevailing weather we’ve had to row through this spring, the weather was just about perfect all day Saturday. There was a bit of a wind in the early heats in the morning, producing some unexpected results out of lanes 5 and 6; but for most of the day, the breezes did not substantially affect the outcome of the races.
The fourth varsity boat included the same boys as have raced together for most of the season: CJ D’Virgilio at stroke, followed by Otto Piasecki (3), Nick Olsen (2), and Henry Bartol (bow) with Daisy Cook directing the action from the coxswain’s seat. Seeded eighth in the fourth varsity category, Taft’s 4V had high hopes for racing above their seed and earning a place in the afternoon Grand Finals. The start was extremely fast, as starts at the NEIRAs always are, and the Rhinos founds themselves on the tail end of the group of six boats working down the lake after they had rowed 250 meters. Choate and Belmont Hill were predictably fast off the line; unexpected was the performance by the crew from Brooks, the number twelve, or final seed in the fourth boat flight. Brooks flew out to a strong position early in the race and hung on quite manfully for the entirety of the course. The boys from Watertown did their earnest best to overtake their foes from northern Massachusetts, or to surpass their rivals from Choate, but their comparatively slow start cost them. No crew ahead of them was willing to relinquish their lead, and in the end, Taft had to settle for fourth place – a finish that meant they would not be racing in the afternoon.
The third varsity boat raced an hour or so after the fourth boat, with winds dying down a bit from the first heats of the day. Aditya Balsekar coxed a lineup that included Hudson Groner (s), Ali Sinan Kaya (3), Mac Nolan (2), and Ben Gallant (b). Like their predecessors in the fourth boat, Taft’s 3V rowers dilly-dallied at the start and found themselves in fourth position halfway through the race. Gathering themselves, however, Taft was able to power through an overly ambitious crew from Nobles in the final half of the race and take third place to earn a spot in the afternoon Grand Finals. In the afternoon final, the start was even faster than in the morning heat, with Deerfield and Belmont Hill setting a torrid pace out in front of a pack that included Taft, Choate, CRLS, and Lyme/Old Lyme. Deerfield and Belmont Hill led the battle for first place, with the gold eventually going to Deerfield; while the other four boats all duked it out for the third and final medal. CRLS was the strongest of those four crews in the final 500 meters, and earned bronze. Taft rowed a valiant race, but was edged out by LOL in the last two strokes and had to settle for 6th place.
The second varsity boat had to wait nearly out the entire morning for their race at 11:30. Having earned a three-seed in the second-boat category, Nick Mortimer (s), Jason Bab (3), Ben Roberts (2), Jack Ewing (b) and Zoe Eberstadt-Beattie were excited to have a chance to get on the water and confirm that seeding. Caught a bit by surprise at the start of the race, our boys did not get off the line as quickly as they would have liked to, getting down to Nobles in the opening 250 meters. Showing plenty of poise, however, the Rhinos calmly battled back into position and took a small lead by the halfway point in the course. In turn, Nobles answered with a move of their own and regained the lead with 250 meters left, with Taft ready to chase them down. The speed shown by Nobles and Taft proved too much for the field; while Taft finished down to Nobles by 1.5 seconds, they had outdistanced their nearest competitor, BB&N, by 7.5 seconds, with the rest of the field even farther behind. In the afternoon final, it was Belmont Hill who pushed out to a lead over Deerfield and Nobles in the first 500 meters, with Taft and Groton following closely behind the leading pack. The Rhinos did an outstanding job of hanging on through the 1250 meter mark, where they could unleash what has become their trademark sprint. That sprint was enough to edge out Groton at the line, but not enough to catch the first three boats in the field, and so Taft’s 2V had to settle for a fourth-place finish to cap off what has been an outstanding season of racing.
The first varsity boat had an even longer wait for their heat, which took place at 1:06 in the afternoon. The 1V lineup once again consisted of Ben Moffa (s), Thomas Muller (3), Jay Lavallée (2), Ben Olsen (b), and Taro Sochi (c). On paper, the 1V heat looked like the “heat of death” in the first-varsity category, with Taft facing off against stiff competitors in Belmont Hill, Choate, Dexter, St. Mark’s, and Middlesex. Not surprisingly, Dexter surprised the field by racing out to a quick, early lead on all boats, setting a frantic pace in the first 250 meters. Dexter was able to hold on to their lead through the 500 meter mark, until Belmont Hill and Taft both began to walk through their boat with a steady, lower rating. Dexter refused to die, however, and pushed all boats in the race to go all out through the finish line, with Belmont Hill taking first by 1.1 seconds over Taft, who finished 3.5 seconds over Dexter. The final race of the day was the Boys First 4 Grand Final, with an impressively fast field that included Deerfield, Nobles, Belmont Hill, Berkshire, and Groton in addition to Taft. As is invariably the case, the Grand Final in the race involving the top varsity boats went off with a screaming start, Deerfield and Nobles working out to a boat-length lead by the 500-meter mark, and Belmont and Berkshire doing their best to stay with the two crews who had distinguished themselves throughout the season as the class of the league. Taft found themselves a length down on the field at 500 meters and had nothing left in the tank to draw upon after the blistering pace they had to row in their heat just to qualify for the finals. In the end, Taft took 6th place, and can be proud of having improved three spots over their ninth-place finish last year.
As a team, Taft finished in fifth place in the points trophy competition – a mere three points out of third place – their best finish ever in the regatta. Complete results are available at row2k.com.
Finally, a special thank you to all the parents and friends who came to the regatta to cheer for our Taft rowers – your support has been tremendous all year long, and we are a stronger team for your enthusiasm.