The Ocean City High School girls varsity eight went from perennial contender to the top boat in South Jersey this spring.
The Red Raiders crew led O.C. to the No. 1 ranking in The Press Elite 11 all season.
Add the accomplishments of a championship junior eight and a highly competitive second eight, and Ocean City is The Press Girls Crew Team of the Year.
The Press crew Elite 11 rankings rate overall team performances, with emphasis on the varsity eights.
“It’s pretty cool to be the fastest in South Jersey, and hopefully it’s something we can keep doing,” coach Ian Tapp said. “I’ve lived all my life in South Jersey, so to me it’s a meaningful thing. I was a little surprised where we ended up (as a team), but I knew they’d be in it.
“Sometimes we’d have three or four boats across in practice. The varsity eight, junior eight and second eight all wanted to be fast. They’re not all there (in the varsity eight), but they’re pushing to get there.”
The Ocean City varsity eight finished second to perennial power Mount St. Joseph at the Philadelphia Scholastic Rowing Association City Championships on May 5. Two weeks later, the Red Raiders placed fourth and led South Jersey boats at the Stotesbury Cup Regatta in Philadelphia. Their division had had 32 boats.
At the Scholastic Rowing Association of America Regatta, Ocean City finished third in a petite (consolation) final.
Two other championship events, the Garden State Scholastic Rowing Championships and the Atlantic County High School Rowing Championships, were ended due to high winds before the major divisions could race.
The Ocean City varsity-eight crew consisted of stroke Claudia Scherbin, Eve Chiarello, Jenevieva Mulhall, Alexa Japzon, Margaret Kane, Avery Panico, Kira Tracy, bow Samantha Perro and coxswain Lucy Greene.
“The varsity eight worked really hard to catch the Philly crews,” Tapp said. “That helped us to be fast. They had that mindset, to be as fast as possible. I don’t think they had a bad piece all year.”
Moorestown was No. 1 in the final Elite 11 last year, with Holy Spirit second and Ocean City third. But the Red Raiders’ varsity eight finished ahead of Moorestown in all three championship regattas this year. Holy Spirit ran a varsity four as its top boat this year.
Avery Panico is a third-year member of the varsity eight and the crew’s only senior. She’ll row for Drexel University next year on a partial athletic scholarship.
“This was by far the best varsity eight I’ve been in,” said Panico, an 18-year-old Ocean City resident. “The boat clicked very well, and everyone in the boat took it seriously.
“We raced four times at nationals (the SRAA Regatta), and got better each time.”
Greene, a junior, was the coxswain of the second eight last year before moving into the top boat this spring.
“It was a lot of fun for me,” said Greene, a 17-year-old Ocean City resident. “From a coxswain-coach point of view, there was great team progress. It feels great to be the top boat in South Jersey.
The O.C. junior eight was the only area boat to win at the Stotesbury Cup. The Red Raiders also won at the City Championships and the nationals. Ryleigh Mack, the stroke of the crew, said the boat’s success is still a little shocking.
“I wasn’t expecting this much success, but as the season wore on, we knew it was a possibility,” said Mack, a 17-year-old junior from Marmora in Upper Township. “Most of our races were close, and I think we knew how to put everything into it.”
Coach of the Year
Tapp earns the nod as The Press Girls Crew Coach of the Year for leading Ocean City to its success.
“I happen to be at the right place at the right time,” Tapp said. “They’re really fantastic kids, and I’m fortunate to have a great coaching staff. I don’t do anything without the (assistant) coaches — Pat Scherbin, Steve Kelly and (volunteer assistant) Donna O’Keefe.”