Another Good Year at ACRAs

The Virginia Rowing Association enjoyed another year of strong results at the American Collegiate Rowing Association national championship regatta over the weekend.

For the third year in a row, the regatta was held at the best racing venue in America: the 1996 Olympic course, in Gainesville, Georgia — eight lanes across, perfectly aligned buoys, a world-class finish tower, and the nicest grandstands in rowing.

The team traveled to Gainesville mid-week to finish their taper and to acclimate to the venue. The parents arrived later in the week and quickly set up the parents-only lounge in the hotel courtyard. Happy hour! Of course they also provided the athletes with essential food and drink at the course on Saturday and Sunday.

VRA’s Sunday finals began with the two 1Xs (singles) racing in the petite final. Eddie Tiernan (a pure novice) and Chris Pena (4th year) took 1st and 3rd respectively — a solid result considering the depth of the singles field. Click here for the finish line clip.

For the first time since 1995, a national championship was won by a women’s VRA crew. Yes, women! The VRA club women sent a double and a pair to ACRAs, both coached by assistant coach Ben Carr, and the double won! It was a great way to start the day. Congratulations to Danielle Fisher and Katie Brown. National Champs!

Next up were the two 2Xs (doubles), who raced in the grand final. The A 2X of Christian Salcedo and Dan Ponton earned VRA’s second medal of the day, a bronze, while the B 2X of Ethan Bauer and John Evans followed closely in 4th place. Click here for the finish-line clip, and receiving medals.

The final small boat was the pair (S: Evan Dennis, B: Nick Hine), who took 5th in the grand final — again, a good result considering the depth of the field. Sorry, no finish-line clip.

The novice 8 (C: Alex Yang, S: Andrew Heinzman, 7: Isaac Mackey, 6: Scott Helgeson, 5: Mike Becker, 4: Ian Crouse, 3: Alex Pilewski, 2: Kian Ivey, B: Justin Deaver) got the afternoon racing underway, battling a typically fast Orange Coast College crew all the way down the course. The two crews pulled away from the rest of the field in the first half of the race and dueled for the second half. Like several UVa crews, the Hoos rowed in a boat wake for the middle thousand of the race due to officials’ launches. The water calmed down in time for the sprint, and the novices uncorked a strong sprint to pull ahead by about a half length. The gold medal was the first one for a Virginia novice crew at ACRAs. The monkey is off the back! In all, the N8 earned three silver medals and one gold medal in championship regattas this spring. Click here for the finish-line clip and medals and cox toss.

The lightweight 4 (C: Lindsay Sackellares, S: John McNulty, 3: Edwin Nieves, 2: Bert Udler, B: Elliott Oakley) seemed to improve with every row during ACRA training. They had an easy time advancing out of their heat on Saturday. In the final, they dueled with the University of California—Santa Barbara crew. UVa pulled level in the third 500, but UCSB pulled away in the sprint. The Hoos didn’t collect gold, but they continued their string of medals for the spring: two silvers and two golds for championship regattas for 2013. Click here for the finish-line clip and medals.

The varsity 4 (C: Charlene Friel, S: Matt Schilling, 3: Dylan Staples, 2: Alfred Hubbard, B: Sam Kush) is always a tricky event because many schools boat their top 4 rowers, while UVa typically boats our 17th through 20th rowers. As expected, the medals were all taken by crews who used their top 4 rowers: Orange Coast, Purdue, and George Mason. Still, Virginia took 4th in a field of 24 crews. Sorry, no finish-line clip.

The 2nd varsity 8 (C: Sarah Zillioux, S: Charlie Hanley, 7: Peter Malm, 6: Gage Wells, 5: Perry Cox, 4: Thom Hammond, 3: Sean Watson, 2: Ed Crocker, B: Will Courtney) had a similarly easy time in their heat on Saturday, winning by a comfortable 5 seconds. The Sunday final brought a rematch of the Dad Vail final with the always-tough Michigan Wolverines. Michigan’s depth showed, as they won the final with a time of 5:55.3, beating the Hoos by 1.7 seconds, who were another 4 seconds ahead of UCLA. The JV took home gold, gold, bronze, and silver medals from the spring championship regattas. Click here for the finish-line clip.

The varsity 8 (C: Katie Garrity, S: Scott Stuard, 7: Ian Feeney, 6: Ty Saitta, 5: Forrest Brown, 4: Ben Hammond, 3: Garrett Thomas, 2: Steven Lee-Kramer, B: Jon Furlong) posted the fastest times in both the heats and semifinals, setting up another showdown with the three crews from Michigan in the grand final. The Wolverines moved out to a one-length lead early in the race and sat there the rest of the way, holding off the charging Wahoos by about a half length at the finish line. Grand Valley was another length back. Virginia’s V8 earned gold, silver, and silver medals for the spring. Click here for the finish-line clip.

As always, the athletes and coaches thank our parents and alumni for everything you do. A big thanks to alumni Kyle Davis, Sean Fagan, Lane Cobb, and Mark Bezold for making the trek to Gainesville to see the Hoos race. Special thanks go to Chris Malm, for organizing the parents all year long, and to John and Britt Saitta for providing a welcoming social atmosphere at all of our regattas. As Jon Furlong said at the all-team meeting, the team is blessed to have your support and love. Thank you!

And of course, the Virginia Rowing Association extends its best wishes to our graduating seniors. You are fantastic athletes and even better people. There’s no replacing you! You will be missed.

Training for the Henley Royal Regatta has begun in earnest. Updates to follow.