That 1,500-meter course was a straightaway for other boats.

It was more like a loop for Chandler Lally and other seniors on the Radnor girls' varsity eight.

"Full circle," Lally said.

She was referring to the beginning and end of her scholastic career. She also could have meant her journey as a national-caliber rower.

Lally and her teammates won the highlight of the girls' competition at the 85th annual Stotesbury Cup Regatta on Saturday. The Red Raiders captured the big race by more than five seconds, finishing better than a boat length ahead of a tough team from Mount St. Joseph Academy.

"From Day 1, this is what we've been hunting for," said Radnor coach Megan Biging, who took over the program just as Lally and classmates were entering the school as freshmen.

Three years ago, Lally and her ninth-grade teammates won the freshman eight at Stotesbury. It was the beginning of a quest, and it also was one of the signature moments at the start of a career that has taken the sunny 18-year-old around the world.

That victory back in 2008 was the program's only victory in big-boat competition at Stotesbury - until Lally and three of her classmates joined with five other girls to close the circle with a dominant run to capture the Robert Engman Trophy.

"This is definitely what we wanted," Lally said. "To win by open water, it's just amazing. This is what we've been working for. This was our goal all along. It's what we wanted to do, to go out with a bang."

Biging said the Red Raiders feature "a bunch of hardworking high school rowers" - Kendall Chapin, Sophia Blair, Lexie Katz, Alli Webster, Emma Burke, Hannah Edelmann, Kirsten Fitch, and coxswain Sophie Faude - and one special athlete.

Lally has been a member of the U.S. National Team for two years. She has been to France and the Czech Republic to represent her country.

"It's interesting because it's two completely different levels of competition," Lally said. "But I love competing with these girls. I love being a part of this."

That was clear on the awards dock, as the Red Raiders exchanged tearful hugs of celebration and joyfully tossed Faude into the Schuylkill.

It's easy for an athlete of Lally's caliber to get tugged away from the high school team. She has earned a scholarship to the University of Virginia, one of the best college programs in the country. She has a lot of national-team commitments.

But Radnor won its first varsity eight race at Stotesbury because Lally never left home, which is the other part of her full circle.

"This is her family," Biging said. "She's had experiences with the national team that she can share with these girls. She can teach them things that nobody else can.

"This is where she comes from."

Contact Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or on Twitter at PhilAnastasia.