At New England Champion-ships this past May, the Deerfield Academy varsity crew teams showed the competition why they were number one seed. The girls’ first boat placed first over defending champion Winsor School with five seconds to spare, and the boys won their first ever New England team championship. The gold medal finishes meant both the boys’ and girls’ first boats qualified for the 2017 Youth National Rowing Championships in Sarasota, FL, held on June 9.
The Deerfield first boat consisted of Bailyn Prichett ’19, Anna Scott ’18, Lily Fauver ’17, and Erika Warren ’18, with Jerilyn Zheng ’19 as the coxswain. The girls’ crew found a winning recipe through a laid-back approach: “We have a real ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality,” rising captain Bailyn Prichett ’19 said. “Off the water, we’re a pretty lighthearted team, always having fun. On the water, we get down to business and finish what we need to get accomplished.”
June’s results reflected this chemistry. The girls placed third out of eighteen in their time trial, which qualified them for the semifinals. They were then edged out in the final stretch by Saugatuck with less than a second difference to finish fourth. However, following this semifinal heat, the girls began a winning streak, coming in first place in the B Final and finishing as the seventh fastest boat in the country.
In spite of last season’s success, coach Melanie Onufrieff knows there is little margin for error now that the crew has a target on their backs: “Success one year does not guarantee success the next,” she said. “We have a strong returning group and are welcoming some promising newcomers to the mix as well. We’ve got to believe in ourselves, keep driving each other to be our best, and never get comfortable with where we are.”
The boys crew team began competing in Sarasota simultaneously. Throughout the season, the first boat roster consisted of Freddie Johnson ’17, Luca Basile ’17, Will Sanford ’17, Gordon Johnson ’17, and Dani Michaelson ’17 as coxswain. However, at Nationals, postgraduate students are ineligible to compete, so Henry Lowe ’19 was tasked with filling in at bow seat for Basile. After their success in the time trials, the boys finished first in the semifinal heat and never lost the lead in their final race. Their work resulted in earning the title of the fastest youth boat in the country— Deerfield’s second national title in six years, and the first title under head coach Spencer Washburn.
“The feeling was exhilarating,” recalled Freddie Johnson ’17, captain and stroke seat on the first boat. “After getting bronze in 2016, we had more to work on. Almost every night I thought about how we could put ourselves in a position to be the best in the country.”
The strong bond between the seniors in the first boat and Mr. Washburn made winning Nationals all the more meaningful for both parties: “We talked a lot about doing it for ourselves or doing it for Coach Washburn,” Johnson said. “And to see him on the bank looking so proud was a great feeling.”
The key to maintaining last season’s success for both the boys’ and girls’ crews’ is enjoying themselves without losing sight of the season’s goal: “I think it’s important to continue balancing hard work while still having fun in such a challenging sport,” said Prichett. Until the spring, the teams can only prepare for the starting horn in April.
Coach Onufrieff had a parting piece of advice for all Deerfield teams: “Preparing well, training hard, and putting your team first sets you up for success on the race course, in the classroom, and in life.”