At 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, Daleszandro Jasper does not exactly strike fear into opponents when he steps into his single scull.
"A lot of people underestimate me because of my size," Jasper said. "It doesn't bother me, though. I'm able to succeed with hard work in the weight room and out on the water."
An overachiever in the minds of many, Jasper will represent Roman Catholic today and tomorrow in the 81st annual Stotesbury Cup Regatta on the Schuylkill. He will compete in the boys' varsity single.
"It's the biggest high school regatta in the country," Jasper said. "I'm anxious about it, but really excited at the same time."
Jasper, 17, mostly played basketball as a youngster, but, with a little prodding from his father, also named Daleszandro, decided to give rowing a shot in high school. "I kind of wanted to try something new," the senior said. "I ended up liking it, so I stuck with it."
Earlier this month, in the city championships on the Schuylkill, Jasper won the varsity single. He covered the 1,500-meter course in 5 minutes, 47.09 seconds, edging Malvern Prep's Jonny Muntz (5:52.69) by 5.60 seconds.
"I had watched how [Muntz] had raced in Manny Flicks [races] during the year," Jasper said. "I paced myself at the beginning, then passed him at the end."
On April 29, Jasper - who lives in Germantown, near Chew Avenue and Washington Lane - easily won the Catholic League championships with a six-minute performance.
"He usually races against kids who tower over him," Roman Catholic coach Roger Ross said. "But he's strong and light, really steps it up on race day. Sometimes he only really tries when he's put to the test."
Jasper could have contended for a spot on Roman Catholic's varsity quad this year, but, according to Ross, he had been missing too many practices. Outside commitments, including a part-time dishwashing job at a Roxborough restaurant and twice-a-week college prep classes in Germantown, were reasons for the absences.
"When D.J. is here, he always gives you 100 percent," Ross said. "He's a very focused kid."
In rowing, Jasper is one of the sport's few black competitors. "I really don't think about that too much," Jasper said. "For me, it's just about training hard and racing hard - not about color."
At the Stotesbury, Roman Catholic's varsity quad, which won the Catholic League title and took second in the city championships, will include senior Dan Bratton, and juniors Gerry Carr, Dan Loftus and Jonathan Lees.
In the single, Jasper will be facing stiff competition. Last year, David Wakulich, of St. Catharines College in Ontario, won the event in 5:59.53.
"We're hoping D.J. can do well," Ross said. "He knows what he's capable of doing. And he's definitely a kid capable of surprising people."
Jasper is headed to Widener, where he plans to major in electrical engineering. One problem: The school does not have a rowing program.
"I'm going to miss it," he said. "Depending on how much I miss it, I might consider transferring to a school that does have crew."