Holy Spirit High School boys varsity-eight rowers Kris Walls and Harrison Gargel will both graduate this spring, but they’ll still be teammates next year.
Both Spartans have committed to attend NCAA Division I La Salle University in Philadelphia and will row next year for the Explorers. Gargel and Walls have both signed national letters of intent, and they’ll both receive partial scholarships that are both athletic and academic.
“Actually we weren’t aware that we had both committed to the same school until a week before the signings,” said Walls, a 17-year-old from the Smithville section of Galloway Township. “It’s great that we’ll still be rowing together.”
So far this season, the Holy Spirit boys varsity eight has been the best in southern New Jersey and has led the Spartans to the No. 1 ranking in The Press Elite 11. Gargel, 3-seat, and Walls, the bow, helped the Holy Spirit crew to the season’s first championship at the Garden State Scholastic Rowing Championships on April 26 on the Cooper River in Camden.
The Spartans get a big test on Sunday when they race at the Atlantic County High School Rowing Championships on Lake Lenape in Mays Landing. The regatta begins at 10 a.m. and will have 34 divisions.
Mike Giegerich is in his second year as head coach of the Holy Spirit boys team. Giegerich was an assistant the previous five years.
“La Salle is getting two great athletes,” Giegerich said of Walls and Gargel. “I’ve been coaching them since they were freshmen, and it’s amazing how they’ve grown mentally and physically.”
Gargel is an all-around athlete who also swam for Holy Spirit two years and played football three years. He was a member of the Spartans’ junior eight last year, which was a Press All-Star boat.
La Salle was the only college he visited.
“I fell in love with the school and the crew program,” said Gargel, an 18-year-old Brigantine resident. “When I saw the team at crew practice (indoors), everyone was having a good time and there was good energy. The coaches were good. They made you feel like you want to be there and that you’re part of the team already. I also like the fact that it’s closer to home.”
Walls only competes in crew who rowed in the freshman eight his first year, and was in several boats at various times the next two years. He spent some time in the varsity eight in 2013.
He visited Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) and then La Salle.
“I really liked the campus and the coaches, and it was a good fit for me,” Walls said. “Coach (Tom) Madden is new (as the La Salle head coach) this year, and I liked his vision for the team. I think there’s great things to come for the program and I’m excited to be part of it.”
Walls has rowed bow during much of career at Holy Spirit. The bow (or seat-1) is the seat at the front of the boat that crosses the finish line first.
“In the bow I have a greater sense of what’s going on in the boat,” Walls said. “I’m able to point out what we need to do. I focus on pulling hard and keeping the boat set. I see things things very well from there.”
More than half of the members of La Salle’s current men’s crew roster are from Atlantic County high schools. James Boney, Dan Carmody, Steve Devine, Vince Granese, Matt Reganato, Bill Smith, and Kevin Sullivan are from St. Augustine. Holy Spirit graduaes are Brandon Libbey, Sean McGettigan, Jack Schall and Gary Stinson. Nick McGloin is from Absegami, and Kyle Roller went to Oakcrest.
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