Facing an opponent with considerably more depth and clinging to a shot at the Baltimore high school rowing championship, St. Paul's coach Mike McEwan called on several of his younger competitors to row back-to-back races.
The two crews of girls who had just completed the 1,500-meter novice four race, some flushed and fatigued, turned around and headed right back to the starting line to run another 1,500 meters in the junior varsity four. One of the two young crews finished third and picked up a team point, keeping the Gators in the hunt.
But needing a second or better in one of the day's final two events - the lightweight four and varsity four - to win the team title, Roland Park came from behind to win the lightweight four and extinguished much of the drama heading into the final event.
The Reds finished third in the coveted varsity eight race, but finished first in five others and accumulated 37 points to win their third straight Baltimore high school rowing championship yesterday at Middle Branch Park.
St. Paul's, fielding a team with about 20 fewer competitors than Roland Park, finished second with 24 points. Institute of Notre Dame came in third with 11.
"I am ecstatic about winning," said Roland Park senior coxswain Sarah Devine. "It wasn't as close as we thought it would be, which is awesome because it means we did well."
St. Paul's and Roland Park both had two crews scheduled to race in each of the final two events. The Reds entered those races ahead 28-15. Had St. Paul's finished first and second in each race, the Gators would have earned 16 points (five for each first-place finish and three for each second) and won by one point.
"I was aware [St. Paul's could still win]," said Roland Park coach Skip Martinko, whose team won the championship last year by sweeping the top three spots in the final event. "I talked to the lightweight four before the race and told them we needed a second [place] to lock it up."
Roland Park started the day by capturing the regatta's first two events. St. Paul's fell behind early, finishing second to the Reds by half a boat length in the first race of the day - the novice eight - after a rower's seat came loose.
The Gators then lost valuable time to start the junior varsity eight when a rower placed her oar in the water at too sharp an angle, causing the oar to whip around and the blade to get stuck under the surface of the water, a costly mistake called catching a crab. Roland Park took the top spot in the event.
IND won the lightweight eight, but the Reds led 14-8 over the Indians after three events. St. Paul's, nine behind the Reds and three back of the Indians, began to make a move.
The Gators won the varsity eight and led the next race - the novice four - when a rower again caught a crab.
The crew could not completely make up the ground it lost, but finished second. St. Paul's other crew in the race finished third when Roland Park's second crew caught a crab not far from the finish line.
"That stuff usually evens itself out," McEwan said. "There wasn't a school here today that didn't have a crab at some point. I'm very proud of my team. I don't think I could have squeezed one more ounce out of them."
In addition to winning the novice eight, junior varsity eight and lightweight four, the Reds took the novice four and junior varsity four races and finished second in two of the three races they did not win.