The fourth varsity boat included the same boys who have raced together for most of the season: CJ D’Virgilio at stroke, followed by Scott Williams ’21 (3), Henry Bartol ’20 (2), Sean Dunbar ’20 (bow), and Avery Hamilton ’21 (cox). Our boys found themselves in a heat with familiar crews – all crews whom they had raced against during the regular season, and whom they knew would be tough competition. And indeed, the toughness of that competition showed itself right off the starting line, with the Rhinos falling back in the first 250 meters to strong crews from Deerfield, BBN, and Groton. In a championship regatta, that kind of early deficit is difficult to overcome, and such proved the case four our lads. Despite a 5th-place seeding prior to the regatta, the Taft 4V was excluded from afternoon racing with their 5th-place finish in the morning heat.
The third varsity boat likewise featured a lineup who would be familiar to followers of Taft boys crew: Stone Fenton ’20 (stroke), Alex Lo Faro ’21 (3), Nick Camp ’20 (2), Liam Shannon ’20 (bow) and Quincy Morgan ’19 (cox). The Rhinos got off to a solid start, staying even with Belmont Hill and Groton over the first 200 meters of the race. As the boats lengthened out into their base pace, Belmont began to edge out to a lead that would hold up for the entire heat. The Taft boys stayed focused and remained collected, rowing their own race on their own terms. Next to them, Groton and BBN worked hard to stay in contact with the Rhinos, and at the 1000-meter mark those two crews made their move to seize the second and third-place spots. Taft continued to remain focused and postponed their final sprint until they were 200 meters from the finish line. Over those last 200 meters, our lads walked through both Groton and BBN to finish two seconds ahead and earn a spot in the afternoon Grand Finals. In the Grand Final race, Deerfield stormed out to an early, decisive lead and went on to win the race handily, despite the efforts of Belmont Hill to come back on them. The real battle in the race shaped up to be for bronze, with Taft squaring off against Nobles all the way down the course. Entering the final 250 meters, Nobles had worked out to a half-boat-length lead on Taft, and it looked like our boys’ chances for a medal had sunk to the bottom of Lake Quinsigamond. But the Rhinos stormed back with a sprint to echo the one they had executed in the morning heat – and they proved too much for Nobles over the final ten strokes of the race. In edging Nobles by .6 seconds, the Taft 3V earned the first medal at NEIRAs for a Taft crew since 2011 – and only the second such medal in the history of Taft boys crew.
In the second varsity boat, co-captain Nick Mortimer ’18 stroked the boat for roommate Hudson Groner ’18 (3), Otto Piasecki ’19 (2), Mac Nolan ’19 (b) and Daisy Cook ‘20 (cox). Our boys got off to a fast start in their heat, seizing a quick lead which they held for a couple of hundred meters before relinquishing it to Belmont Hill. In the process, though, Taft also opened up a lead of open water over the other boats in the heat. By the time they hit the 500-meter mark, the race was virtually over, with Belmont Hill out in front by a good margin, followed by Taft, who enjoyed an expanding lead over the rest of the field. Rowing well within themselves, Taft went on to take second by six seconds over St. Mark’s and Dexter, saving as much energy as possible for the afternoon race – especially necessary, since one of the lads was suffering from a chest cold that made extreme physical exertion nearly impossible. In the Grand Final, the Rhinos once again got off to a fast start, setting the pace for the field over the first two hundred meters. Belmont Hill and Deerfield soon caught up to Taft, though, and forged ahead to battle it out for the first two spots on the medals dock. Taft and Nobles, meanwhile, traded spots back and forth down the length of the course, each trying to establish a lead in the race for the bronze medal. The boys in red held a small lead heading into the final 250 meters, but the boys in blue and white proved too strong in the sprint, and Taft had to settle for fourth place – the second year in a row that the Taft 2V finished fourth in New England.
The first varsity lineup consisted of Ben Roberts ’18 (s), Thomas Muller ’18 (3), Ali Sinan Kaya ’18 (2), Jack Ewing ’18 (b) and Zoe Eberstadt-Beattie ’18 (c). Their morning heat did not actually take place until 12:39 in the afternoon, and, as Tom Petty says, sometimes the waiting is the hardest part. Once the boats left the starting line in the race, the waiting was over, and Taft found itself in a very tough race. Belmont Hill took a lead by the 500-meter mark and never gave it up; Dexter strove hard to keep pace with Belmont, and the Rhinos, in turn, sought to stay in touch with Dexter. Taft managed to keep contact with Dexter through 1000 meters, but in the final 250 meters Dexter proved too much for them and so Taft had to settle for third place and a spot in the Petite Final. In the afternoon race, the Tafties went off the line hard, with perhaps their best start of the season. And they needed a quick start, as all six crews maintained contact with one another through the 500-meter mark and beyond. Taft powered out to a deck-length lead by that 500-meter mark and looked fit and composed as they answered any and all surges from the field with surges of their own. Competing effectively in the Petite Final race takes extraordinary motivation and mental toughness, since rowers in that race tend to experience a letdown after missing out on the Grand Final. Taft’s 1V displayed remarkable strength in fending off the other crews for the entire 1500 meters of the race and finishing in first by 1.1 seconds over a courageous crew from St. Mark’s.
All in all, it was a very successful day for Taft boys crew. With three crews in the afternoon finals, the boys accumulated enough points toward the team points trophy to finish in fourth place overall – behind only Deerfield, Belmont, and Nobles – out of the 20 teams which qualified for the regatta, and out of the 37 NEIRA schools with fours programs.
Complete results are available on row2k.com. A video of all of the day’s racing is available on the NEIRA Rowing YouTube page.
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.