In what has become tantamount to an annual May event much like graduation and Memorial Day, St. Ed’s rowing program will once again be represented at the Stotesbury Regatta at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia next weekend. Only this time there is a slight twist to the plot.
“We extended our streak to five years in a row now taking at least one boat to national level competition,” head coach Aaron Lee said. “There were two years when it was only a boys boat, but this is the first time it will be only girls.”
Senior Maggie Taylor and freshman Kylie Oakes will represent the Pirates in a double after qualifying in early April at the Florida Scholastic Rowing Association state sculling tournament in Sarasota. Taylor and Oakes came together as a tandem despite experience levels about as far apart as you can get.
“Kylie was a total novice who had never touched an oar before January,” Lee explained. “She is in a double with the most veteran person we have. For Maggie to be in the same boat with a pure novice had to be one of the most difficult situations to manage.
“It’s just the two of them and it’s been hard to push Maggie and at the same time try to bring Kylie up to her level. They haven’t had the easiest time, but I think they’ve been pretty successful. At sculling states they came in ninth and I hope they can make a deep run into the group at Philadelphia as well.”
Taylor, a six-year rowing veteran, will end her St. Ed’s career in Philadelphia before entering a new phase in the fall as a member of the rowing team at the University of Virginia. This will be her third trip to the prestigious Stotesbury Regatta. That she was teamed up with an inexperienced but recognized talent in Oakes was partly a function of the makeup of the 2017 team.
“We had 23 kids with three seniors and two juniors,” Lee explained. “The other 18 are all in the eighth through 10th grades. Two-thirds of the team was novices. We have been dealing with this (type of team dynamic) ever since 2014 when we lost eight seniors. We have always had this sort of weird lag in the years behind that.
“We will wind up with the same thing with this group. We’ve got nine kids in ninth grade and we will go from there. It’s been an interesting year with so many new kids, so many young kids and so many kids trying to figure out how things work.
“It was really difficult to come up with that one thing that everybody should be doing. This was a disparate group with different needs, but it has come together very well. This may be the most raw talent that we’ve had. Some of the kids in this group have incredible potential, so we really do look good going forward.”
The season is over for all but Taylor and Oakes. The boys varsity 4 boat had a shot at Stotesbury but fell short in speed and results at the state sweep races in Sarasota. Seniors Michael Burke and Tyler Zudans teamed up with rowers Eddie Pines, Jake Burns and coxswain Paul Siegl on the varsity 4. Pines is a freshman, Burns a sophomore and Siegl a junior.
Lee had high praise for his three seniors. Taylor, Burke and Zudans have a combined 14 years of rowing experience at St. Ed’s.
“The three seniors have been fantastic,” Lee said. “In a year when I was going to need so much help, they worked hard and were just incredible leaders. They have really outdone themselves in terms of results as well as bringing along a young team that needed to learn how everything worked.”
“My rowing career at St. Ed’s was always a big chunk of my life here at school and in the community,” Burke said. “I joined freshman year and everyone was really nice and receptive even though I didn’t know what I was doing. I was a novice and in rowing novices are usually looked down on.
“But I grew over these past four years and this year I was on the opposite side where I taught the new kids how to do things.”
Burke may join a more relaxed club rowing team at Georgia Tech. For Taylor there will be no such relaxation at UVA.
“This summer is going to be pretty intense for me,” Taylor said. “I have workout instructions and will be in shape and ready to go when the fall season starts in September. I’ve been at St. Ed’s for almost 14 years, so I’m excited to move on and see what’s next.
“I will be a full-time student and athlete at UVA, so it should be a lot of fun.”