Ocean City's varsity eight would agree that it was not the best of times last year in the Stotesbury Cup Regatta.

Ocean City finished 21st in the time trials and did not qualify for the semifinals. With virtually the same rowers - two graduated - the Red Raiders qualified for the semifinals Friday in the rain-drenched, 85th annual regatta on the Schuylkill.

"We have two new guys," said second seat Zack Kooker, a senior. "I think we've all matured as rowers. And we've trained a lot more aggressively."

Sixth seat Alex Szabo agreed that the added year of experience really helped the Red Raiders.

"We like to race," he said. "We're very competitive."

Blood boat. Germantown Academy coach Susan Hermann says sophomore Eric Blood is a sculler to keep an eye on.

Competing in the boys' singles sculls on the first day of the regatta, Blood, whose boat is appropriately named Blood Driven, finished eighth in the morning time trials to advance to Saturday's semifinals.

"He has great potential," Hermann said.

Blood started in a novice four boat as a freshman but moved into the single scull this season. Hermann said he has adapted well.

"It is quite different," Blood said. "In the four boat, you rely on others, and they rely on you. In the single, you just have to learn to push yourself."

How did his boat get its name?

"After we bought the boat, my father said I could name the boat, but it had to have blood somewhere in it," he said.

Blood didn't get involved in crew until he was a freshman.

"I had no idea what it was like, but I remember coming up Kelly Drive and seeing it," he said. "It was nice on the river today. It was a little choppy, but there was little wind."

Blood finished before several downpours hit the course.

Hermann also was pleased with the Day 1 effort put in by a girls' junior varsity boat with Angie Heyse, Katelyn Koons, Alex Takei, Mauri Honickman, and coxswain Lynn Nemeth. They finished fourth out of 56 entries in the semifinals.

Friars advance. Monsignor Bonner sent a contingent of boats to the semifinals, including junior varsity doubles (Jake Gibbons and Quinn Garvey), lightweight doubles (Sean Foy and Ryan Dartnell), and junior varsity four with coxswain (Steve McDonald, Ben Gibbons, Jack Kelly, Matt Onimus, and Dylan McCreavy).

The varsity four of Ryan McCarry, Charles Anderson, Brian Berry, and John Martin also made the semifinals, along with Christian Furlong in singles.

Coach Dave Krmpotich's daughter Sarah was the biggest cheerer for the Friars when she wasn't in a boat herself for Mount St. Joseph. She's in the Magic's second varsity eight as the No. 4 oar.

"Yes, I had to try the sport because my dad's a coach and my brother Matt rows," she said. "I don't think it would have been fair if I hadn't tried it.

Speaking of rain. Anne Miller, who has been involved with Stotesbury for 12 years and is a certified U.S. Rowing referee, said it wouldn't be Stotesbury without some rain.

Fortunately, Friday's rain was not accompanied by any thunder, so racing continued, although some boats took on water.

"If it's Friday, it must be Stotesbury," said Miller, whose daughter Liz rowed for Harriton and now coaches there. "It's also sunny on Saturday. And that's what's predicted."

Contact staff writer Don Beideman at 267-815-0733 or dbeideman@phillynews.com.