The high school crew season begins at 10 a.m. today at Lake Lenape in Mays Landing for nearly all of the teams from Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties.
The Lake Lenape Sprints I — the first of three — will be held on a 1,500-meter race course that ends just past the lighthouse at Lake Lenape Park.
Most of those teams will double up for the weekend by rowing again Sunday at the Flick-Horvat regatta on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.
They will race in 21 divisions today at Lake Lenape. There will be two heats each in boys and girls varsity eights starting at approximately 1:30 p.m. In addition to the southern New Jersey teams, the guest teams of Fordham Prep, from the Bronx, N.Y., and St. Peter’s Prep, of Jersey City, will compete.
The Lake Lenape Sprints II and III will be April 6 and 13, respectively. The St. Augustine Lake Lenape Invitational, for non-public boys teams, will be held March 30.
High school crew is a sport that crosses state lines. Three more Flick-Horvat events will be held in April, and some local teams will race in Middletown, Del., in the coming weeks. Races also are scheduled on the Cooper River in Camden, and in Mercer County.
The weekly Press Elite 11 rankings of southern New Jersey crew teams will begin in early April. The rankings rate teams according to overall performance, with an emphasis on the varsity eights.
A closer look at the coming season:
Siobhan Knuttel, a Brigantine Rowing Club assistant coach and rower, takes over the boys and girls programs at Cedar Creek in the Pirates’ second year. Knuttel took up the sport of crew as an adult. At the Brigantine club, she participates as a coxswain for eights and rows in singles, doubles and quads.
Mike Giegerich is the new boys coach at Holy Spirit, after assisting for five years. He is also a coach at the Viking Rowing Club in Ventnor Heights.
William “Whitey” Thomas, a former Rutgers University rower, takes the helm of the Ocean City girls team. Thomas, who also rowed in the 1970s for the Ventnor Beach Patrol, coached the Bishop Eustace girls and boys crew teams the last three years.
Sean O’Brikis is the new coach of the Our Lady of Mercy Academy team. O’Brikis has coached youth baseball, basketball and football, but not crew until now. He replaces Lou Renzulli, who stepped down after four years. O’Brikis, a crew parent (his daughter is Ashley), stepped up to take the job.
Boys team previews
St. Augustine Prep has 21 seniors and could be stronger than it was last year, when the Hermits topped The Press Elite 11 for the third straight season. The St. Augustine varsity eight won every local race in 2012 and captured the Garden State Scholastic Championships final and the Atlantic County High School Championships. Alastair Watson, Dan Capone and coxswain Brett Barry are seniors who were in the boat last year.
The Prep junior eight was the only local boys boat to win at Nationals, and seniors Brian Tindall, Ryan Gerace, John Livingstone and James Boney are returnees who were on that crew. Senior Austin Neri is a good prospect who was in the novice eight last year. Hermits juniors include Zach Seither, Shane Dickson and coxswain A.J. Parra.
Holy Spirit should have a competitive varsity eight with seniors James Muller, Drew Remy and JB Magee back to lead. Holy Spirit was second to the Prep at the Garden State event. Five Spartans seniors return from the second eight, which was a Press All-Star boat. Those five: Fred Bishop, Chase Malia, Sean McGettigan, Joel Sawyer and Damon Tomassi. Emily Giegerich, the daughter of coach Mike Giegerich, is a senior coxswain.
Oakcrest graduated 17 seniors after running a varsity eight for the first time in its nine years. The Falcons may once again be led by a varsity four this spring, and some of the candidates include senior Jonathan Peacock, senior coxswain Matt Tragotta, and juniors Zack Hartman, Jeremy Nale, Robert Tewell and Kenny Roller. Other seniors include Brandon Bunting, Ryan Geibler and Gabe Villanueva.
Absegami finished second to St. Augustine in the Atlantic County varsity-eight race, The Braves have several seniors, including Zeeshawn Ali, Eric Ewell, Franco Huynh, Spencer Agli, Michael Bird, Patrick McColgan, Tyler Calimer and Joe Eberhart. Junior Kyle Hershman, who was on the 2012 varsity eight, set the erg school record this year.
Egg Harbor Township has nine seniors, and many second- and third-year team members. The Eagles will run eights and fours, and the top boat may be a varsity four. Candidates for that boat include twins Mitch and Steven Ratte, Marco Valencia, Brandon Caputo and coxswain Colleen Ebert.
Mainland Regional has only one senior, Zack Dothe, but has many good juniors and sophomores. Junior leaders are Martin Brenner, Vince Carraccio and Jesse Troiano, and sophomores are Doug Davis and Mike Bell.
Ocean City is rebuilding and has one senior in Connor Brady, and five juniors. Brady stroked the O.C. lightweight eight to the Atlantic County title last year, and juniors Patrick Carr and coxswain Justin Goucher are two others back from that crew. Tyler Carroll, William Graham, Dennis Neville and coxswain Chris Barham are other junior leaders.
Atlantic City plans to run a varsity eight, second eight and junior eight, in addition to other boats. The Vikings have seniors Justin Brog, William McCue, Steven Garcia and Rohit Mukherjee, plus juniors Juan Forero and Daniel Williams, and sophomores Gerald Roche and McCarthy Johnson.
Vineland showed improvement last spring with a novice eight that became a Press All-Star boat. The crew won at the Garden State and County regattas. Ian Fay, Brandon Emonds and Kyle Leimeister are back from that crew. Michael Bowen, Josh Marcacci, Saige Gomez and coxswain Joleen Rodriguez also should help the Fighting Clan.
Cedar Creek features juniors Nick Erlandson and Kendall Laster, seniors James Bridel and Aaron Bronsky, and sophomore coxswain Amber Thiess.
Girls team previews
Holy Spirit returns 16 seniors who helped earn the Spartans the No. 1 spot on The Press Elite 11 last year. Holy Spirit had the top varsity eight, junior eight and second eight in 2012. The Spartans’ lightweight eight was the area’s most successful crew, winning at the Stotesbury Cup and at Nationals. Sofia Iaconelli, a senior this spring, was in the varsity eight last year. Katie Bainbridge, Shannon La Sala, Tori Light, Nicole Maslowas and coxswain Kiersten Stone — all seniors this season — were in the lightweight eight in 2012. Lauren Turner, the two-time winner of the Greenhead Sprints indoor rowing regatta, was in the second eight last year, along with Nicole Kilar. Michaela Baldino, Erin Coffman and Sally Widman were in the junior eight.
Absegami was Holy Spirit’s top area rival last year, and the Braves’ varsity eight upset Spirit at the Atlantic County High School Rowing Championships. Gabriella Miranda, Bethany Warlich, Falon Irwin, Briana Riccelli and Adrienne Pedersen return for Absegami from that boat. Warlich was second in the Greenhead Sprints this year. The Braves also will count on rowers Angelica Mullins, Sam Allen, Taylor Parker and Kerri Roman, and coxswains Tina Murphy and Alyssa Rice.
Egg Harbor Township has several seniors who should make the Eagles competitive. Seniors Brittany Winkler and coxswain Nicasia D’Allesandro are back from the lightweight four, which won at the Garden State, Philadelphia City and County events in 2012. Seniors Mackenzie Logue and Hadley Irvin are back from a varsity four that was second in the area to Mainland Regional. Kristine Auble, Rachel Reinhard and Bea Eribal are seniors who were in the 2012 junior four, another Press All-Star boat. The Eagles also have seniors Amanda Auble and Carlie Cohen.
Mainland Regional likely will be led by Kennedy Stafford, Amanda Ryan, Morgan Rann and Stacey Price. Coxswain Morgan Gerety may join them in a varsity four or eight. The Mustangs should also have a strong lightweight four, with Danielle Kiejdan, Yvonne Olson and Meg Dorner back. Junior Bridget Keough and sophomores Jenna Rosado, Stefanie Petrova and Pam Bacharach are good prospects.
Atlantic City has seniors Anjelica Grebenschikoff, Ilana Anmuth, Elvia Alvarez, Angela Gomez and Alanna Storr. Junior leaders are Leslie Feriozzi and Theresa Burns. The Vikings are a young team with a lot of potential. The A.C. freshman eight and novice eight each won at the Garden State and Atlantic County regattas to become Press All-Star boats.
Oakcrest lost only one senior to graduation and plans to feature a lightweight four, junior eight and varsity four. The Falcons will rely on seniors Connie Capone and Nicole Littlefield, juniors Michaela Allen and Jessica Lindsay, and sophomores Victoria Thies and Taylor Phy.
Ocean City expects to have a good nucleus and has a large group of freshmen. New coach Whitey Thomas chose not to list any individuals, saying he was still getting to know his personnel and that crew is a team sport.
Our Lady of Mercy Academy is rebuilding and has only two seniors — Danielle Dougherty and Giuliana Campo. Juniors include Ashley O’Brikis, Rebecca Hesser, Marilyn Porcaro and Niki LaBelle. The Villagers have 10 sophomores.
Vineland has Aria Asselta, Aubrie Lincks, Mollie Fisher and Ellen Harrold to lead. Seniors Chelsea Cohen, Melissa Zerra and Emily Slusarczyk could be in the varsity four. Slusarczyk, Juliana Merighi and coxswain Nina English are returnees who were members of the novice four that won the county title. Ana Mejia is a coxswain.
Cedar Creek returns senior Langley Oudemans to lead, and sophomores Gabby Torres, Nikki Martin, Aeberli Begasse and coxswain Hope Long will help.
Contact Guy Gargan: