Bulldog Rowers Achieve a First for Norfolk Academy: Gold Medal at State Regatta

Many athletic triumphs have been recorded in the 290 years of Norfolk Academy history, but a gold medal for rowing in the Virginia regatta, which brings together public and private school teams from across the state in head-to-head competition, was not one of them.

Until Saturday, May 12, when the Boys’ Lightweight Four won a decisive first place finish in a hard-fought six-boat race on the Occoquan Reservoir at the VASRA (Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association) regatta. All six boats in that final race had advanced out of morning heats, with the two top finishers in each heat moving on to the final race. Racing down the 1,500-meter course, four boats were vying for first, until the Bulldogs moved into a hard sprint, winning with a time of 5:14.6. Their final push moved them more than a boat length ahead of second place Great Bridge (5:18.8), a team that regularly provides tough competition in local regattas; J.E.B. Stuart School (public, Fairfax) earned third place and Forest Park High School (public Woodbridge) was in fourth.

The rowers, all juniors and members of the N.A. Swim and Dive team, are Destin Rodgers ’19, Peyton McNider ’19, Will Klena ’19, and B. Gray Randolph ’19; they were guided to victory by their coxswain, senior Katie Debbas. The role of the coxswain is to lead the rowers through the race strategically, setting the rowing rates and deciding when to sprint, and several of the rowers credited her tough regimen at practices and in competitions for motivating them.

That win, and points earned by the Boys’ Varsity Eight (11th place overall), earned the Norfolk Academy boys a second place overall for the Division 2 Points Trophy, behind Hickory High School of Chesapeake. The Lightweight Four also earned the right to compete at the Scholastic Rowing Association of America regatta in Camden, New Jersey later in May.

The state level success came after a season during which the team won the EVSRA championship, which includes public and private schools from Hampton Roads and Williamsburg. In addition, the Bulldogs won the Independent School and Club Regatta, which includes local private schools and club teams from Richmond and Williamsburg. Norfolk Academy Crew had an outstanding day overall at the VASRA regatta, with multiple boats advancing to finals and petit (consolation) finals.

Final Standing at the VASRA regatta:
Girls’ Junior Four: 5th place
Girls’ Lightweight Four: 4th place
Girls’ Varsity Four: 10th place
Boys’ Varsity Eight: 11th place
The Girls Varsity Eight raced very well in a tough heat, but did not advance to finals.

“It was a historic and exciting day for Norfolk Academy Crew. For our program that only rows in the spring season to be as close as we are to the bigger programs up in Northern Virginia is a feat and an achievement of which we are very proud,” said Athletic Director Aubrey Shinofield, who coaches Girls’ Varsity Crew. “It is a tribute to the hard work that these athletes have put into this season, the support and programming we have gotten from our strength and conditioning coaches Larry McCarthy and Earl Ware, and the tireless effort of all of the crew coaches. We still have  a lot of work to do, but this weekend showed us that we are on the right path.”

Norfolk Academy Crew is a co-ed team of more than 90 members. The team is coached by the following: Robert Hansen and Aubrey Shinofield (Girls’ Varsity); Alexander Conner and Angela Nelson ’08 (Boys’ Varsity); Elizabeth Johnson and Matthew Lilly (Boys’ Novice); Debbie Grell, Jill Borowski and Katherine Gill ’16 (Girls’ Novice). Chris Nelson coaches and provides maintenance and repair of the boats, and Bob Carroll assists with daily operations and launch maintenance for the team.