More than Paul Pratt's love of rowing, Episcopal Academy coach Molly Konopka said, was the junior's love of life on the water.
And it was that love, she said, that helped erase his teammates' doubts when they struggled over whether to row Friday in the Stotesbury Cup Regatta a day after Pratt's death.
Pratt, 18, crashed his Chevy Suburban on the 1300 block of Eagle Road in Radnor just before 8 p.m. Thursday, said Radnor Police Superintendent Bill Colarulo.
"He apparently lost control. He hit a curb, which caused his vehicle to roll into a tree," Colarulo said.
Pratt, who wasn't wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the SUV.
Police are still investigating the cause of the accident, but Colarulo said they don't believe alcohol or drugs were involved. The Delaware County medical examiner said he died of "multiple blunt force injuries."
"They felt Paul would have wanted them to row," Konopka said. "That's the way Paul was."
So, with heavy hearts, Pratt's grieving teammates powered through the Schuylkill and captured third in the time trials of the boys' varsity four, Pratt's key race.
Pratt was replaced in the boat by Andrew Jannetta, his close friend and the president of the school's junior class. Nick Mead, Guillaume Furey, Jeremy Konopka and coxswain Jimmy Larkin rounded out the team, which finished in 4 minutes, 40.39 seconds and qualified for Saturday's championship race. With Pratt, the team had captured the city title in the event just two weeks ago.
Before attending a morning service in the school's chapel, the boys decided they could not compete on Friday. But they reconsidered. Competing would be the best way to honor him, they said.
Race organizers allowed the Episcopal boat to begin the first heat by itself, and the boys rowed the 1,500 yards alone. But with 60 yards to go, they became engulfed by cheers.
The crowd, many of which were rowers from other schools, rose from the covered grandstand's wooden bleachers and encouraged the Churchmen as they slid across the finish line.
Episcopal's freshman and junior varsity teams withdrew from their Friday morning races to attend the school's services for Pratt. Along with the varsity four, the Churchmen competed in the boys' varsity lightweight double, girls' varsity double, girls' varsity four and boys' varsity eight.
On the banks of the river, friends, classmates and faculty gathered to watch Pratt's boat race. Episcopal junior Patrick Espe remembered Pratt as "one of the few that wasn't afraid to be an individual."
Grant Regillo, a junior, said Pratt will "never be forgotten because of the impact that he had on every person he met."
Junior Raphael Furey, who had known Pratt since the fifth grade, said, "He never cared what people thought about him. . . . It's hard to know that kind of person is gone from your life."
Maria Burke, also a junior, said, "He would smile with his whole face, and it would look so goofy. But it was so lovable. It's rare to find someone as funny yet smart as Paul Pratt."
St. Joseph's Prep coach Jim Glavin said Pratt was one of the area's top two rowers. He said Pratt was an exceptional talent and remembered seeking Pratt out to congratulate him at the junior nationals in Tennessee. The only area rower who could compare to Pratt, Glavin said, was Pratt's teammate, Nick Mead.
"Pratt had his ticket to ride as far as rowing," said Glavin, who lowered his boat house's flag to half staff and had his rowers wear black arm bands.
The regatta is expected to hold a moment of silence on Saturday in remembrance of Pratt.
Episcopal junior Michael Smerconish said he will remember Pratt as someone whose "sincerity made those around him better people. He was a fearless athlete, an exceptional student and an unbelievable friend."
Rev. James Squire, the Episcopal Academy chaplain, called Pratt "the best of mind, body, and spirit," echoing Episcopal's motto.
Squire called Pratt's death "a terrific loss for us as a school."
However, Squire said he was encouraged to see the school community come together in memory of Pratt.
"The junior class was down at the river," he said. The crew team "never had so much support. The class being down there was a healing experience for them."
Burke put it this way: "Everyone loves Paul. No exceptions. I'm going to miss his smile."
For the latest regatta coverage and a slide show, go to www.inquirer.com/stotesburyEndText
Phil Anastasia contributed to this article.