Last week marked the one-year anniversary of when Yorktown rowing coach Andy Bacas opened up his suitcase upon returning from a team spring break trip in South Carolina to find a juvenile foot-long canebrake rattlesnake waiting to bite him.
After fire and rescue officials responded by blasting the suitcase with a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher — a technique the fire and rescue crew had seen on television as a way of freezing the snake — the story made national headlines and was even mentioned on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“I think there was this little tinge of this common fear, like snakes on a plane and it made such an easy interesting headline,” said Bacas, who spent three days in the hospital, but recovered fully.
Not to be deterred, Bacas and his team are returning to the scene of the bite — or at least the place the snake found its way into the suitcase as Yorktown prepares for what could be its best rowing season in 41 years.
“There was no hesitation whatsoever, it’s the highlight of our season,” said Bacas. “It’s a great camp, we’ve been going there for years, and the team loves getting away together.”
Led by Croatian native and 2008 first team All-Met selection Ian Subek, the Patriot boys’ varsity eight has a chance to make school history, according to their coach, after finishing in second place behind perennial favorite Thomas Jefferson the past two seasons. Jefferson has won 13-straight Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association titles, but the Patriots finished just 2.3 seconds behind them last season.
The Yorktown girls’ rowing team welcomes a new coach, Carol Dinion. The Patriots didn’t qualify for the state meet on the girls’ side last year, but are medal contenders this season.
On the boys’ side, winning a VASRA title would “be the first time for Yorktown in 41 years,” said Bacas. “We’re not that great, but it’s high school sports, so you never know.”
The Yorktown rowing team is also seeking three volunteers to work the annual Charlie Butt regatta, scheduled to take place April 25. To train for the positions, the volunteers will be required to work all day (6 a.m. until two hours after the end of the regatta) with regatta staff at the Occoquan regattas over the next three weekends (April 4, 11 and 18).
These volunteers will learn to work a variety of positions including dockmaster, communications coordinator, finish line coordinator, launch master, course master and assistant regatta director. If the team doesn’t get enough volunteers, the event is in danger of being cancelled.