by Margot Cochran for The Montclair Local
Montclair High School’s boys varsity eight and girls junior varsity eight capped a record-setting season for Mountie rowing by winning national championships in their respective categories at last weekend’s Scholastic Rowing Association of America (SRAA) National Championships regatta on the Cooper River in Camden.
A third Mountie boat, the boys’ varsity eight, rowed home with a silver medal.
Founded in 1935, the SRAA Championships welcomed 183 competing schools from across the United States.
Of the nine MHS boats that competed in Friday’s time trials, eight advanced to semifinal heats Saturday morning. From there, five of those eight advanced to the finals Saturday afternoon.
Coming into this regatta as the defending national champions with an undefeated 2018 record, Montclair’s boys varsity eight — Henry Vecchione, Kenny Coplan, Owen King, Paul Mihalis, Alex Abuhoff, Max Pursche, Djoume Traore, and George Vrotsos-Rogers, with cox Julianna Langhorn — were clearly the team to beat.
They did just that, capturing a second straight national title with the fastest time of the day, 4 minutes, 16.232 seconds, more than two seconds better than runner-up New Trier (Winnetka, Ill.). Upper Arlington HS (Columbus, Ohio) took the bronze medal in 4:20.589.
“The boys varsity eight have had an amazing season again,” said head coach Jeremy Michalitsianos. “It’s one thing being the favorites for the event and the number one seed, but to withstand the pressure every week and to keep winning shows how resilient they are and also their exceptional athleticism. They train so hard and are so motivated that I am always trying to tell them to take more rest.”
To reach the final, the Mounties won their time trial on Friday in 4:25.602 and set the pace with a 4:24.437 run in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, the Montclair girls JV eight — stroked by Efi Mihalis, and pulled by Roisin Cahill, Kimmy Troeller, Marley Pradieu, Maddie Barnett, Isabella Hummel, Estee Goel, and Kathleen King, with cox Amelia Cataldi — took just 5:04.155 to complete their 1500-meter race. This was 2.5 seconds ahead of Mount Saint Joseph’s and almost 5.7 seconds ahead of Saratoga.
“The girls JV eight win was great to see and showed their true speed after the disappointment of the silver last week at Stotesbury,” said Michalitsianos. “[Head women’s coach] Lorna Rundle got them to peak perfectly for the race.”
For the boys’ second varsity eight competition, Nora Grabcheski coxed Theo Weil, Henry Skutch, Lucas Cooperman, Patrick Schroeder, Liam Daily-Smith, Julian Zincani, Joe Rosen, and Manny Angeles to a first place finish in the time trials followed by a win in their semifinal.
While Gonzaga High (Washington, D.C.) won the final by a two-second margin, the Mounties did well to sprint past the Central Catholic (Pittsburgh, Pa.) in the last few meters to take second-place and earn a silver medal.
“The boys 2V should be proud of their silver medals,” said Michalitsianos. “Although they were a little disappointed not to win, have shown their potential for the future especially as six of the crew plus the coxswain will be back on the team next year.
“I’m very happy for the whole program this season which has been our most successful ever. Being a public high school gives me, and all the coaches, a huge amount of satisfaction.”
While the high school season has come to a close, the undefeated boys varsity eight will continue to compete, first at the U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships, scheduled for June 8-10 in Sacramento, Calif. They will then take part in the Henley Royal Regatta in England in early July.