Wind and rough water will bring a crew regatta to a halt, but as four hearty high school crews proved yesterday at the Baltimore Championship regatta, fog and driving rain will not.
Crews from Roland Park, Institute of Notre Dame, St. Paul's and Bryn Mawr gamely contended with the elements and each other at the Baltimore Rowing Club on the Middle Branch in Cherry Hill, with Roland Park capturing the team title in the final race of the day.
IND won the regatta's showcase event, the varsity eight, and held a commanding lead in the team scoring through the first three of six events. But Roland Park won two of the final three events, and its 1-3 finish in the varsity four boosted the Reds past IND in the team scoring, 20-19, for its second straight title. Last year, Roland Park beat IND for the team title by a 20-18 margin.
St. Paul's earned one victory, in the JV four, and finished third with 15 points.
Parents and friends huddled under umbrellas and ponchos and peered out into the fog to watch the regatta, held since 1995 to crown a champion among the area's rowing programs.
"Outside of making us miserable, the rain wasn't a problem," said IND coach Mike McEwan. "We had very calm water. You don't want wind or lightning, obviously, but rain is OK. It just makes you uncomfortable. At least it's the same for everybody."
In the varsity eight, IND, Roland Park and St. Paul's engaged in a spirited three-way contest, slashing through the rain together for most of the 1,500-meter race. St. Paul's appeared to hold the lead until the final 100 meters, when the IND crew - coxswain Courtney Haile, Laura Nitzel, Tera Gebhardt, Libby Long, Isabel Portieles, Christine Melvin, Stephanie Krause, Natalie Schuck and Shellie Bronis - nudged ahead.
Although times were not available, the winning margin was a few seconds, or roughly one seat in the boat, McEwan said.
"It was a great race," McEwan said, adding that IND avenged a loss to Roland Park in a regatta at Georgetown last week. "I told them we have to go strong the whole race. Last week, we lost it in the last 100 meters."
According to St. Paul's boys coach Judd Anderson, a bolt broke on one of the St. Paul's oar locks, rendering one oar useless for the final push to the finish line.
"That was so sad," Anderson said. "They had that race by a quarter-length. They were so steady."
With the help of a boat borrowed from Loyola College - McEwan's alma mater - IND swept the novice, JV and varsity eight races to take an 18-5 lead over Roland Park after three of the six races.
But the Reds won the novice four and finished 2-3 in the JV four, closing the deficit in the team standings to 19-14 entering the final event, the varsity four.
In each race, a team earned five points for winning, three points for second and one point for third.
IND needed a top-three finish in the finale to secure the championship, but quickly fell back to fourth place. The Roland Park team of coxswain Sarah Devine, Kristin Pelsis, Airlia Esworthy, Elizabeth Duke and Elisa Prosperetti won going away, with another Roland Park boat placing third.
"Just like last year," McEwan said. "We win the big race, but they take the team title."