The T.C. Williams girls crew program regained its status as one of the best in the country with a medal-filled finish to the season. The senior eight captured gold on June 6 during international competition at the Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association 65th Annual Regatta in St. Catherine. The second varsity eight took gold on May 28 at nationals on in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and on May 22 at states, and finished second on May 15 at the prestigious Stotesbury Regatta in Philadelphia.
Head coach Jon Schildknecht said the senior eight underwent some personnel adjustments before heading to Canada and the moves paid off.
"We’re pretty excited about how [the senior eight] finished the season," Schildknecht said. "We didn’t win states and we had less-than-spectacular performances before that. So going up there and competing on a bigger stage and to finish in first place was phenomenal."
The crew was composed of Rachel Blumenstein (coxswain), Hallie Lenneman (stroke), Nora Willkomm (seven seat), Christina Wohler (six seat), Gracie Barbara (five seat), Marian Wolz (four seat), Natalie Brown (three seat), Emily Leidolf (two seat) and Emma Carlisle-Reske (bow). Lenneman and Barbara are seniors while the rest are juniors, meaning a bright future for the Titans.
"It bodes really well for next year," Schildknecht said. "The continuity, the carryover from one season to another is very important. That’s one thing that’s impressive about the win in Canada."
The second varsity eight was composed of JoBelle Cruz (coxswain), Kalie Benjamin (stroke), Barbara (seven seat), Kelsey Donley (six seat), Jackie Tilley (five seat), Kate Banchoff (four seat), Alexandra Lemke (three seat), Nadia Magallon (two seat) and Caroline Olsson (bow).
Coach Mercedes Kiss led the second eight.
"She was able to get more out of them than probably anybody could," Schildknecht said. "She also got them to believe that [they could compete at that] level. To me, the sum of that boat was more than the individual parts. She got them to work more than any other coach could have. The hard work and effort put in from them … was outstanding."
Leidolf and Lenneman were individual standouts for TC. Leidolf was invited to compete for the junior national team during the summer — the first time a TC rower has been invited to the team in about 10 years, Schildknecht said.
"What makes her stand out is her determination," the coach said. "This girl just won’t quit. If you tell her she can’t do it she’ll just prove you wrong. She’s kind of the heart and soul of the team."
Media recognized Lenneman as one of the best rowers in the Washington D.C. metro area.
"She’s as steady as they come," Schildknecht said. "She’s one of the smaller people on the crew. She’s competing at an open weight category and she’s 130 pounds. There’s no quit in her. … She exemplifies what you’re looking for in a stroke seat and just in general from a senior rower."