“Two of the best boats in the world” would be an appropriate description of the girls and boys first boats after winning gold and bronze respectively at the Junior Nationals. Both the girls first boat–Claire Collins ‘15, Libby Murray ‘14, Olivia Shehan ‘14, Eileen Russell ‘15, and Garam Noh ‘15–and the boys first boat- -Rich Caputo ’14, Francesco Franzinetti ’14, Henry Sanford ’15, Alex Devries ’15, and Grant Louis ’14–had outstanding seasons despite the Connecticut River’s unpredictability. The boys coach Geoff Bond acknowledged, “It was a long and challenging season. We had lots of water challenges on the Connecticut River: too much water, not enough water, not enough rowing. The kids have persevered and dealt with the adversity.” Many of the rowers on the team believe Bond’s coaching helped them achieve success. Sanford ’15 said, “What [Bond] did best was to remind us that, at its core, rowing is about getting out what you put in.” Sanford also noted the strong atmosphere of team competitiveness, which fostered the belief that anyone on the team could advance in the ranks if he worked hard enough.
The girls team was coached by a team of Eve Goldenberg, Miriam Singer and Casey Kelsey. At the New England Interscholastic Rowing Association Regatta on May 24, the girls boat was seeded first and proved they deserved their ranking when they beat Newton Country Day by seven seconds to win gold. Throughout the whole season, according to Collins ‘15, “[We] tried to go in thinking anyone could be competition”– even though no girls crew even touched Deerfield’s fast boat. This win was especially gratifying for the girls because the year before, after a technical difficulty in the middle of the race, they did not qualify for Nationals. Noh ’15 attributed their success to the fact that “the lineup of the boat worked magic,” adding “All five of us just worked really well together and loved being on the water with each other every day.” The boys first boat, seeded second, wound up first at New Englands and qualified for Nationals by beating out Belmont Hill in the 1,500 meter final race by four seconds, with a time of 4:52.124 minutes. Sanford observed, “What we achieved was a by-product of the hard work we did all season.” After training for three weeks post-graduation, the two winning boats and a double boat of Sam Armstrong ’15 and Charlie Ughetta ’15 headed to Lake Natona near Sacramento, California, for the United States Rowing Youth National Championships June 13-15. While the practices focused on technical elements and becoming faster, Noh explained, “a lot of the preparation was also mental. Going into an event as competitive as Nationals, it’s really important to believe in yourself, your crew, and what you’re capable of doing–it’s really easy sometimes to fall into bouts of self-doubt.” Collins added, “We kept a calm mentality of keeping our heads in the boat but we did not set a limit for ourselves. We didn’t just go out there and compete to ‘see’ how we would do, we went out to try and win.”
Noh remarked, “I think we knew that we could go far, but we always took it day by day, practice by practice, race by race. We tried to make sure that we gave our utmost focus and effort to what was immediate.” The boat once again won gold with their time of 7:52.334 in a 2,000-meter race, more than five seconds faster than Pacific A, which took silver.
The boys first boat took bronze in the finals in a nail-biter race with a time of 7:04.1, just three seconds slower than Pacific A, which finished first with a time of 7:01.469. Armstrong said of the final race, “Frankly, I can’t remember anything except for the sprint at the end. I know that at that point, with 350 meters left, we fell behind. Pacific, the winners, had an ungodly sprint, and Belmont Hill, in second place, had a slightly better sprint than us.” After reflecting on the moment he passed the finish line, Armstrong remarked, “I remember being confused and disappointed. I didn’t know what place we got, but I knew it wasn’t first.” The double with Armstrong and Ughetta took tenth with a time of 8:10.854—an impressive feat given their limited practice as a pair. Next year, both the girls and boys hope to bring boats to Nationals in Sarasota, Florida. The girls coaches are even thinking about bringing an eight to Henley in England in July. As Russell said, they are looking forward to the chance to go to Nationals again, but “this time as the crew to beat.”