The Ocean City boys varsity-eight boat was the best in the region for the second straight year this crew season.
The Holy Spirit girls varsity eight had a much tougher time than usual but still had the edge overall.
The Ocean City boys and Holy Spirit girls are The Press Crew Teams of the Year.
The Press’ crew rankings rate the overall performances of South Jersey teams, with an emphasis on the varsity eights.
“I think our guys trained really hard in the winter, and we had a group of guys who really wanted to go for it this year,” Ocean City boys crew coach Mike Millar said. “We graduated three last year, so we had some new guys. The crew really jelled quickly. They were the first Ocean City boys varsity eight to medal at City’s in several years. It was a nice step in the ladder. The county race is a fabulous event, and they were excited to win it.”
The Holy Spirit girls varsity eight was faster than Ocean City in the early-season races but then finished behind winner Moorestown and Ocean City at States. Holy Spirit outdid O.C. by placing third at the City Championships and won at the Atlantic County event.
At Stotesbury, Spirit led Ocean City again but failed to make a final. The Red Raiders were faster at Nationals, finishing fifth in the petite final.
The Holy Spirit girls varsity eight, second in South Jersey, was ahead of Ocean City in three regattas and behind the Red Raiders in two.
“It’s an honor to be the top team (in the area), even though it was a close year,” said Joe Welsh, the Holy Spirit girls crew coach who recently retired after 33 years of coaching and 27 as a head coach. “Our school is a little smaller, and there are some good coaches, like Chris Konicki of Mainland (Regional) and Ian Tapp of Ocean City. A close year like this made it more exciting.”
The Ocean City boys varsity eight was the best in South Jersey. The Ocean City boys varsity eight was third in the Garden State Scholastic Rowing Championship, commonly called States. The crew also placed third at the Philadelphia Scholastic Rowing Association City Championships and won at the Atlantic County High School Rowing Championships.
The Red Raiders’ varsity-eight crew included stroke AJ Oves, Blasé Japzon, Gregory O’Connell, Luke Hornick, Jack Branin, Seth Pierson, Noah Centrone, bow Jake Ruskey and coxswain Matt Catanoso.
O’Connell will row for La Salle University in Philadelphia next year.
“It’s a big accomplishment for the program to be the best in South Jersey,” said O’Connell, an 18-year-old senior from Petersburg in Upper Township. “I think the big key was our camaraderie. All the guys stayed together. We had a huge target on our back, and we went into it thinking we were the underdogs. We needed to get faster every week, and that had a lot to do with our staying on top.”
The Holy Spirit crew consisted of stroke Hayley McKeever, Claira Fucetola, Rachel Fabel, Megan Biondi, Riley Hackett, Mollie Knoff, Haley Bramante, Megan McCully and coxswain Natalie Weeks.
“I was a little surprised but I liked the fact that the season was more competitive,” said McKeever, an 18-year-old Linwood resident, who will row for Drexel University next year. “You could gauge yourself by the local boats. Moorestown definitely surprised me, but the competition made it fun. It wasn’t just the same crews from Philadelphia.“
Coach of the Year
Samantha Allen, the first-year coach of the Oakcrest boys and girls crew teams, led a Falcons boys team that ended up No. 5 in The Press Elite 11. Oakcrest was unranked at the end of last year. Allen gave special credit to assistant Mitch Rosen, who played a key role in the boys program.
“Mitch Rosen’s tenacious crews had a remarkable season,” Allen said. “They built momentum in the erg room that yielded outstanding results on race day. Thank you to Coach Mitch Rosen, David Bird, Charles Dupras and Mike Simons for their efforts. I could not be more grateful.”
Vineland’s John McCarty coached a promising young team that earned the No. 6 spot in The Press Elite 11.
“Wow, thanks. I’m shocked,” said McCarty said upon hearing of his selection. “The girls did all the work. We have a good young team, and we’re really looking forward to next year. I want to thank my two assistants, Lou Tramontana and Melissa Zerra.”