Four crews from Duxbury once again took on some of the best youth athletes from around the world at the Head of the Charles in Boston. They held their own, earning automatic qualification spots for 2020 in the men’s and women’s youth fours events.
The girls varsity four of Deirdre Sullivan, Olivia Szachta, Emma Szachta, Libby Weldon and coxswain Fiona Shortt was the top finisher for Duxbury on the weekend, earning 27th out of 85 entries in the women’s youth fours event.
“The Head of the Charles is hands down the most exciting yet challenging course to row down,” Shortt said. “Although we didn’t have the smoothest race, I’m incredibly proud of how hard the rowers pulled it back together.”
Girls coach Betsy Davenport was just as proud, praising the girls four for its ability to stay focused and row to an excellent finish.
“After a boat-stopping collision with a slower crew, they had an impressive sprint and made up significant time,” Davenport said.
Racing in a fierce field that showcased five of the six 2019 men’s youth national championship finalists, several strong foreign entries, as well as a new fastest-ever time by the winning crew from California, the boys varsity four of Tom White, Walter Stanwood, Will Rubin, Chase Estabrooks and coxswain Emma Collins finished 36th out of 85 boats entered.
“Racing at a prestigious regatta such as the Charles is a spectacular opportunity that I know we’re all so grateful for,” Collins said. “To be able to share a weekend of racing with Olympians and world champions is pretty cool, and possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many. To be able to have a solid showing on the course as a program, like we did this weekend, is even more amazing.”
Boys coach Oli Rosenbladt said the members of the boys varsity four are “a little down” on themselves because of where they finished, but he was quick to praise their effort.
“We were up against a lot of very good teams out there today, and they rowed a strong race,” Rosenbladt said. “In fact, their time in the event this year would have won the event in 2018.”
Duxbury also fielded entries in the men’s and women’s youth eights events. The Duxbury boys entry of Tyler Williamson, Greg Kania, Jackson Moore, Eric Brill, Henry Figler, Conor Howlett, Taidhg Driscoll, Griffin Siciliano and coxswain David Tufankjian finished 68th out of 85, and the Duxbury girls crew of Caitlin Stehn, Sarah Glinski, Kyleigh Russo, Katie Winter, Lauren Levasseur, Gabby Hutchinson, Bridget Curran, Charlotte Roest and coxswain Caroline Smith came in 71st out of 85.
“Head of the Charles is a race like no other,” Stehn said. “The energy and excitement are contagious along the course. I was honored to race my senior Head of the Charles with such an amazing group of girls.”
Both the boys and girls eights fields featured the current U.S. national champions. Rosenbladt acknowledged it’s intimidating to a degree, but he said he’s always believed that competing against the best is the best way to grow. He said Duxbury crew athletes are aiming to raise the bar and that they accept that challenge fearlessly.
Davenport praised coxswains Shortt and Smith for navigating such a difficult course extremely well.
“Even the most experienced crews and coxswains rarely make it through the bridges andaround the turns without some type of hiccup, and for our young athletes to show such composure really speaks to their maturity,” Davenport said. “Both boats felt that this was their best rowing of the season, and I think they rowed with more rhythm and swing than last week. Everyone is looking forward to a total team performance next weekend at states.”