By BOB YORK
The amount of time it takes to get from 4:54.008 to 4:55.622 on your stopwatch is 1.614 seconds. That’s not enough time to say “Lake Quinsigamond,” but yet it proved to be more than enough on the clock to keep Deerfield Academy’s number-one boat from a shot at defending its national championship.
The invite to the Youth National Rowing Championships, which are annually held on Melton Hill Lake in Oakridge, Tenn., are contingent on a school’s number-one boat finishing either first or second at the New England Interscholastic Rowing Association Regatta at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester. The flagship of the Big Green fleet saw it aspirations of bringing home another national title run around when it had to settle for a bronze medal in its own back yard.
Belmont Hill, which captured the boys team title for the 10th consecutive year, won the battle of the Number One boats, covering the distance of 1,500 meters in 4:44.315. The Choate Boat, which Deerfield defeated earlier in the season to win the Senior Cup for the first time since 2005, took the silver medal – and the second and final invite to the Nationals – in 4:54.008. Deerfield wound up third, less than a bow’s length behind, in 4:55.622.
In the final team standings, the Big Green finished clutching a bronze medal, just one point out of second place. Deerfield chalked up 35 points during the regatta, while Groton School wound up second in the final standings with 36 points. As usual, Belmont Hill prevailed atop the 12-team field with 49 points.
Over on the girls ledger, meanwhile, Winsor High School sailed to the team victory with 45 points, while Groton was a close second with 42 points. Greenwich Academy was a distant third with 26 points. Deerfield wound up tenth in 14-team field with eight points.
“All four of our boats enjoyed successful seasons,” said coach Wayne Berger, who is leaving his post as skipper of the Deerfield boys crew program to become a full-time rowing instructor in Australia. “I’m just very proud of what they were able to accomplish this season. It would have been great to have been able to get a shot at defending our national championship … but that’s the way things go sometimes. They gave it their best and that’s all you can ask of them.”
Deerfield’s number-one boat hit the waves this spring with a distinct championship air to it, as two of the crewmembers were on that title team, as Rich Caputo (14) and coxswain Grant Louis (14) made it to Melton Lake last year. The three other members of that team – Brad Plunkett, Henry Bird and Brad Hakes – moved on to pursue collegiate careers. Filling the void in this year’s boat, which drew a second seed for the number-one event, were Warner Brown (13) and Ted Romeyn (13), two of this year’s Big Green tri-captains, as well as David Lucente (14).
Deerfield’s number-two boat entered its NEIRA competition as the fifth seed and picked up the pace from there to finish third in the grand finale in a time of 5:00.970. Belmont Hill paved the way in the bracket as well with a time of 4:54.370, as Choate pulled in second in a time of 4:59.100. The shipmates who powered Big Green boat number two were Riker Bixby (15), Erik Alfieri (13), Wills McMahon (14), Conner Romeyn (13), another Deerfield tri-captain and Francesco Franzinetti (14).
Deerfield’s third boat, which consisted of Will Trapp (15), Alex DeVries (15), Kyle Wellner (13), who was the recipient of this year’s Coaches’ Award, Connor McDermott (14) and Charlie Ughetta (15) nearly lived up to its early billing by earning a fourth-place finish following a third-place seed. The Big Green crew missed the medals podium when it hit the finish line in a time of 5:13.879, more than a six-second gap behind St. Mark’s (5:07.282) bronze-medal finish. Belmont Hill won the race in a time of 4:59.913, followed by Groton at 5:03.370.
Deerfield came up just short of a bronze medal in the competition featuring the number-four boats as well, as the Big Green finished fourth in a clocking of 5:17.703. As usual, Belmont Hill won the event at 5:06.824. Groton was second in 5:09.509, while St. Mark’s placed third with a time of 5:14.098. That fourth boat featured a lineup of James Chung (15), Caleb Friends (16), Charlie Brahaney (14), Bryce Klehm (15) and Cyrus Moghadam (14)
In the girls competition, Deerfield failed to place any of its boats in their respective grand finals. On the individual level, the Big Green’s two co-captains, Olivia Shehan (13) and Casey Butler (13) were named winners of this year’s Coaches’ Award.