Game Summaries & Headlines.
It wasn't their best row, but it was still the most perfect. The East Grand Rapids Lightweight Quadruple Sculls (stroke-seat Isabella Bigler, 3-seat Katie Edison, 2-seat Brynn Edison, and bow-seat Evie VanderArk), aka the "Twigs in the Wind," blew down the Schuylkill River like a tumbleweed to capture the Pioneer's first national championship on a rainy, breezy day in Philadelphia. Watch the full race here.
In 2019, three of the four girls (B. Edison, K. Edison, and Bigler) were second in the varsity lightweight coxed four as first year rowers. Adding VanderArk to the mix, the fastest of the bunch, Coach Brian Chorney envisioned this crew racing at the national championship. Essentially, these girls rowed the entire season together in hopes they had their application for nationals accepted. They sat up high in the water in prior races when rowing a coxed shell, raced open-weight crews with significant height and mass on them, and still gutted out every stroke while continuing to grow together. The girls even finished second in the open varsity quad at the Midwest Championships.
Entering nationals, the crew was completely locked-in. They putting on phenomenal displays of balance during balance drills the coaches have not seen before. At weigh-ins on Friday, the girls joked about how small they even felt like lightweights compared to the other lightweight crews with one student even accidentally weighing in with a water bottle on her.
After making weight with ease, the girls got onto the race course. After starting off the line in second place, the girls fell back to fifth place just 250m into the race, struggling to maintain the boat speed they had at 37 strokes per minute after settling down to a more sustainable 32 strokes per minute.
By the midpoint of the 1500m race, the Pioneers were back up to third place. Augustine Classical (NY) had a 7-seven second lead on EGR with Springside Chestnut Hill (PA) sitting half a length ahead in second. With just 300m left in the race, the three lead boats broke away from the rest of the field, with Augustine Classical still well in the lead, by about 6 seconds in front of East.
Suddenly, the East girls shifted up the intensity, pulling into second. As they did Augustine Classical began losing form, while EGR charged hard to line grabbing the win by 0.990 seconds. With only six boats entered in the event, Friday's race was meant to be a race for lane position in the final. However, with Saturday's final canceled due to weather the highlight reel race became the final.
The race was so close, the girls didn't even know they had won until after they were back on shore. When asked how the race went, Junior Katie Edison said, "All the girls out there were so nice. We were so happy to finally meet other lightweight quads--but that was one of the worst rows we have had." Sophomore Evie VanderArk went on, "We had a really hard time keeping our line in the wind, and I hit a few buoys." However, despite the issues, a national championship is still the unimaginably perfect way to celebrate the closest crew East has compiled in year, and the championship will continue to bond these girls for the rest of their lives.
In the other girls event with EGR representation, junior Hannah Smith captured fourth in the Varsity Single. Smith finished second in her heat of six to clinch a spot in Saturday's cancelled final. While the winners of each heat at blazing fast times, Smith looked forward to testing her speed against the field in finals and hopefully walking away with a medal. However, while disappointed, Smith has a bright future ahead of her, and earned an invitation to the U19 National Team Selection Camp this summer.
Final results of lightweight quad:
|1||East Grand Rapids (MI)||05:29.178|
|2||Augustine Classical (NY)||05:30.148|
|3||Springside Chestnut Hill (PA)||05:35.998|
|4||Egg Harbor (NJ)||05:44.618|
|6||Cathedral Catholic (CA)||06:03.508|