The Bishop Eustace girls' crew program went though a number of changes this season. Two of the biggest were a new head coach and a different practice time, from a morning schedule to an afternoon one.
"This year has taught me about making sacrifices and the adjustments you have to go through in life," Gabriella Wilkins, the sixth seat on the varsity eight, said. "Things happen that are out of your control, and you have to be prepared for them."
Not altered was the varsity eight's commitment to winning. In the final event of the 82d annual Stotesbury Cup Regatta yesterday on the Schuylkill, Eustace held off Mount St. Joseph Academy and repeated as champion.
After winning in a strong headwind, the girls, in following a rowing tradition, picked up coxswain Jackie Hinke from the deck and tossed her into the water.
"It's an amazing feeling," said Wilkins, an 18-year-old from Voorhees. "That was the hardest race of my life. We fought through the conditions the whole way. Normally, since we're a small varsity eight, we don't do particularly well in a strong wind. We prefer a placid wind."
Along with Hinke, the Eustace eight (Nikki Bourassa, Steph Bogs, Gabriella Wilkins, Sabrina Malak, Diana Filipek, Caitlin Schemenski, Liz Ferry and Ravenna Wilkins) covered the 1,500-meter-course in 5 minutes, 14.62 seconds.
"There have been a lot of changes this season," Eustace coach Rich O'Brien said. "More than anything, though, the girls stuck together."
Gabriella Wilkins is headed to Fordham, where she will row and possibly pursue a law degree. Her sister, Ravenna, is a junior and the boat's bow.
Finishing behind the Crusaders from Pennsauken, Camden County, were Mount St. Joseph (5:19.34) and Holy Spirit (5:20.89).
In the boys' varsity eight, St. Joseph's Prep earned the championship hardware with a clocking of 4:33.55. Winter Park (Fla.) was second in 4:36.61, and St. Augustine Prep took third in 4:41.68.
The Hawks swept the five eight-man races. "It's kind of a historic day," Prep coach Bill Lamb said. "We did this once before, in 1997."
The Prep recently dedicated the varsity eight boat to Lamb's father, William, who died last August. "I have to think my dad had a hand in all of this," the coach said. "It was like he was here with us. It was pretty emotional."
In placing third, St. Augustine, from Richland, N.J., claimed its first varsity eight medal at Stotesbury. "We rowed our best race of the year," eighth-year coach Ray D'Amico said. "Two bigger, stronger crews beat us."
After losing to Roman Catholic by 0.27 seconds in Friday's qualifying senior quad, Malvern Prep had the upper hand in the finals. The Friars triumphed in 4:59.49, beating out Roman (5:04.60) and Conestoga (5:13.72).
"We were behind at the beginning, hit a lot of rough water," Malvern senior Mike Rawlings, a second seat, said. "But we grinded it out, took a lot of big pushes toward the middle of the race."
Malvern's senior quad includes bow Brandon Hanna, third seat Mike Bohs, and stroke Mike Donohue. That boat will compete next week in the Scholastic Rowing Championships in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
In the girls' senior four, Ocean City (6:02.09) was runner-up to Peddie School (5:55.38).
"Peddie made a good push with about 700 meters to go and got some separation on us," Red Raiders coach Jeff Garbutt said. "We didn't respond well to that move."