West Potomac Crew Team did very well last year; as a matter of fact the crew team captured all four Virginia state championships in the four-boat category.
They're not wasting anytime kicking off this year's season. Not only has the team increased in size, but they've purchased two new King Quantum racing shells, an 8-seater for the girl's team and a 4-seat shell for the boy's team.
One of those new shells was dedicated a few weeks ago. The person it was dedicated to was Jeff Dietze, director of student activities at West Potomac for the past 30 years. A dedication ceremony was held at Fort Belvoir one day last month after team practice.
"The boat was named after him for all that he has done for the school and the crew program over the last 30 years," said Betsy Jones, president of the West Potomac Crew Boosters.
Tom Burgess, crew parent and vice-president of Booster operations, said, "We love Jeffrey Dietze. He is an institution at West Potomac High School. Our head coach, Malcolm Doldron, who coxed for West Potomac six years ago came up with the idea to do this for Jeff Dietze and the booster board's support was unanimous.
"Jeff's support for all student activities, including our rowers and coxswains, is greatly appreciated and has been for years. He is respected by the students and admired by parents who realize what it takes to keep these programs supported and thriving. While the school system may not support our crew team financially, we could not exist with his support and the support of Principal Eric Brent.
"This is the fourth West Potomac Crew shell in our recent fleet with a full honorary name. Another shell was named after Charles J. "Chick" Little, Jr. who coached West Potomac Crew for decades and was named a lifetime honorary member of the club on March 7, 2004, along with former West Potomac coach Craig Losee.
"Another 4-rower shell was named for Bob Wood, a long-time crew coach, who is the team's current freshman boy's coach and teacher at West Potomac High School. Another shell, called a quad, was named after Eileen Kubal, a benefactor of West Potomac Crew."
The crew team also purchased eight new rowing machines for their practice sessions. To offset these costs, the team has been busy holding fundraisers. The silent auction held at Collingwood on the Potomac yielded $7,000, while a March Row-a-thon brought in another $4,500.
This past weekend, 57 of West Potomac's rowers and coxswains traveled to the East River near Mathews, Va. They captured four first place finishes and 11 ribbons in the 13 races they entered in the 2004 Tidewater Crews Regatta, which featured 18 high schools, most of them from the southern Virginia and Tidewater areas.
"This was our first trip to southern Virginia and a great conditioner for our team," said Head Coach Malcolm Doldron.
The Wolverine's freshmen girls led the way, taking two first place ribbons and winning against the Tidewater area's best crew teams. West Potomac's 2nd Lightweight Girls Four and Girls Novice Four also won their races.
EARLY IN THE REGATTA, there were high winds that forced the boats close together. This didn't stop the Girl's Freshman 8 boat from crossing the finish line 4.5 seconds sooner than the boat from Great Bridge High School from the Chesapeake area. The boat was coxed by Tori Wong, stroked by Loren Windborne, with Carrie Urban, Annie Kraft, Marina Tyquiengco, Dana Vance, Katie Adams, Diana Carriker with Sarah Aitcheson in the bow.
"The freshman girls are working together much better for this early in the season, said Assistant Head Coach Tammy Lafley, who coaches freshmen and novice girls with new West Potomac coach Dawn Placek, who rowed for the University of Virginia last year.
The Girls 2nd Lightweight Four boat, which took first in their race, was coxed by Chelsea Cunningham, stroked by Amra Halilovic with Moira Holt, Diane Thompson and Asia Mernissi in the bow.
West Potomac's Girls Novice 4 boat also crossed the line first, one and a half seconds ahead of WT Woodson High School. They were coxed by Tori Wong, stroked by Annie Craft with Carrie Urban, Diana Carriker and Emily Echols in the bow.
"They did really great," said Kelly Wernecke, West Potomac's Girls team captain. The Girls Varsity 8 boat finished second to Great Bridge High School, 3 seconds behind the winning boat. The Girl's Varsity 8 is coxed by Ashley Morris and is stroked by Natalie Jones with Jackie Devar, Jessica Stage, Virginia Stilwell, Lauren Davis, Amber Flynn, Leah Withers and Kelly Wernecke in the bow.
In the most unusual race of the day, the team's coxswains won the coxswain-only race at the end of the cool, wind-blown fiesta. The team's girl coxswains rarely race, but not only did so on Saturday, but won their race, five seconds ahead of Maury High School. This cox-only boat was coxed by Sarah Mullen. It was stoked by Moira Holt with Chelsea Cunningham, Ashley Thompson and Ashley Morris in the bow. Ashley was very excited about rowing," said Robbie Morris, Ashley's mother.
ON THE BOY'S TEAM, the team's Boy's Varsity Four Boat, the same rowers who won the 2003 U.S. National championship, finished second in their race, four-tenths of a second behind Mathews High School, one of the powerhouse crew teams in Virginia.
"I had a bad start," said Paul Burgess, Boy's team captain. "We'll see Mathews in two weeks at the Occoquan," said Team President Andrew Norberg. "Should be a good race," he added. Along with Burgess and Norberg, this boat is stroked by senior Kip Wanser with Luke Urban and is coxed by Ashley Thompson. All are seniors, except Urban, a junior.
The boy's Second Four boat was coxed by Ashley Thompson, was stroked by Alex Fetgatter, Kenny Roden, Thomas Luhring and Andrew Meyer. They got off to great start, but because of very high winds, were involved in a near lock-up with another boat and finished in fifth place. These "lock-ups" occurred all day and required coxswains to steer carefully to win. In one case, two boats were locked up together fully, crossed the finish line together and both boats were disqualified.
The Boy's 2nd 8 boat finished in third place in their race, four-tenths of a second behind second-place finisher Cox High School. This boat is coxed by Samantha Lightle and is stroked by Stephen Aramony and includes Kevin Crandall, Jake Banta, Chris Walker, Andrew Patton, Rivers Johnson, Monte Korpe and Nathaniel Wood
West Potomac's Boys Novice 8 boat finished fourth in their race. It was coxed by Jessica Watson and stroked by Colin Jones, Rivers Johnson, Nick Brady, Nathaniel Oak, Jamie Johnson, Tommy McPeek, Will Todd and Chris Todd.