The unbeaten Holy Spirit High School girls lightweight-eight boat will be an underdog this weekend at the USRowing Youth National Championships in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

The St. Augustine Prep varsity-eight and lightweight-eight crews also will compete at the regatta, which brings together the top high school-age rowers in the nation.

Racing begins at 8 a.m. today, Saturday and Sunday.

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The USRowing Youth Nationals is different from a high school event because it takes place after the scholastic season, has a collegiate 2,000-meter race distance and allows junior rowing clubs to participate. A rowing club crew can have top competitors from several high schools.

The regatta has 18 divisions and as many as 24 crews in each division.

The Holy Spirit lightweight-eight crew consists of stroke Cailin McCully, Shannon LaSala, Katie Bainbridge, Victoria Light, Caroline Bradley, Nicole Maslowas, Sofia Iaconelli, bow Danielle Peck and coxswain Kiersten Stone.

All but Iaconelli were at the event at Oak Ridge last year when the Spartans won the "B" (consolation) final of the women's youth lightweight eight division, for seventh place.

"We know what to expect," Holy Spirit girls lightweight-eight coach Rory Roberts said. "Most of (the other girls lightweight crews) are rowing clubs, and some are extremely fast. It's hard to gauge how we'll do. Our girls always set a goal to win."

The St. Augustine varsity eight also competed at the event last year, placing sixth in the men's youth eight "C" final.

The current St. Augustine varsity-eight members include stroke John Ruskey, Alastair Watson, Dan Capone, Shane Dickson, Zack Seither, Austin Neri, Zach LaBarth, bow Dan Stinson and coxswain Brett Barry. James Boney is an alternate who can step in if someone is sick or can't row.

Dickson, Seither, Watson, Capone and Barry were in the boat in 2012.

"It's quite a festival for the kids, a great event with great schools," St. Augustine coach Ray D'Amico said. "Our goal is to make it into one of the three finals. The club teams from California and the Midwest are really tough. The New England schools (Philip Exeter and Kent School) are here, and some of the best high schools (Central Catholic, Chaminade, St. Joseph's Prep and LaSalle College High School)."

Area boats qualified for the Youth Nationals by placing first or second at the Philadelphia City Championships on May 5 on the Schuylkill River.

The Holy Spirit girls lightweight eight won its final at that event, and was the only area crew to win every race, including the Stotesbury Cup and the Scholastic Rowing Association of America Regatta, throughout the season. The St. Augustine varsity eight and lightweight eight were both second on May 5 to St. Joseph's Prep.

The Hermits' lightweight eight consists of stroke Vittorio DiPentino, R.J. D'Amico (the coach's son), Kevin Motylinski, Connor Burbridge, Josh Power, Conor Murphy, Bill Mayer, bow Thomas Puhalski and coxswain A.J. Parra. John Livingstone is the alternate.

The Prep lightweight eight didn't go to the Oak Ridge event in 2012.

"I didn't think the lightweights would qualify (at the City Championships), but they've improved so much," coach D'Amico said.

The women's youth lightweight-eight preliminary heats begin at 1:28 p.m. today. The men's youth lightweight-eight heats start at 3:41 p.m., and the men's youth (varsity)-eight division heats begin at 4:37 p.m.

Repechage (second chance) and semifinal races will be held Saturday. The "A" (1st through 6th), "B" (7th through 12th) and "C" (13th through 18th) finals will be Sunday.

Contact Guy Gargan:


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