<b>Yorktown Men’s Crews Complete First 3-Medal Season</b>
When the Yorktown men's first varsity eight went to the starting line on May 22 at the Occoquan race course at Sandy Run Park for the 2010 Virginia State Championship, a lot of pressure was on the five seniors in the boat, along with their sophomore stroke man Ben Vihstadt. All five seniors were returning gold medalists from last year's sweep of the top two categories of men's varsity eights.
In the books already in 2010 had been Yorktown victories in the men’s third eight and junior eight. All that was left for the first ever "hat trick" by the Arlington school, was for the first varsity to bring home a third medal. But three big things stood in their way. Also lined up in the grand final of the men's first eight were crews from St. Albans and Thomas Jefferson, both Stotesbury Cup finalists in Philadelphia the week before. St. Albans won the silver medal in the prestigious and highly competitive national event and prior to that was undefeated throughout the regular season. Both St. Albans and TJ had beaten the crew from Yorktown by more than 10 seconds at various points during the season. Also lurking in one of the outside lanes was the crew from traditional powerhouse Washington-Lee. The Generals had been waiting all season for a chance to show their best speed versus their cross-town rivals and displace the Patriots on the medal dock at season's end.
For the five Yorktown seniors, Peter Bacas, Chris Brown, Steve Cauffman, Dan Rozynski and Leon Suvak, this last race of the 2010 Virginia season and the last of their Yorktown careers was going to be a test of resolve in the face of extremely high team expectations bumping up against a much stronger field of opponents than the prior year. They knew they had to find a way to race "above their past level."
Based on prior results no one would have predicted the outcome of this last race of the season at Sandy Run. The St. Albans and TJ crews seemed in a class well above the rest of the field including last year's defending champs from Yorktown and most knowing race fans would have expected an easy St. Albans win, with perhaps a challenge from TJ, but that was about it. At best Yorktown would fight it out with W-L for a distant third.
With a slight tail wind blowing, the six grand finalist crews lined up for the start at about 2 p.m. Saturday. Across the water from left to right were the top crews from Westfield, Yorktown, St Albans, TJ, Woodson and W-L.
Using a new five stroke starting sequence, the Patriot eight rocketed at over 40 strokes a minute and surged into the lead. By about 350 meters in, the Patriot lead had extended to about 3/4 of a boat length. The next 350 meters saw the lead begin to dwindle and by 750 meters or about half way to the finish of the 1,500 meter course, all three of the top crews were even. Washington-Lee began to fall behind. Coming into the last 500 meters by the packed grandstands St Albans had pushed into a very slight lead, with TJ and Yorktown less than a deck back. At the finish it was, as expected, St. Albans, with TJ only a second back and Yorktown another 1.5 seconds back on TJ, with W-L four seconds behind the leaders. This was the closest men's 1V finish in over 10 years of state championship racing.
Though only a bronze medal, the Patriots had their hat trick, a new first in the program's 42-year history.
In the three weeks since coach Andy Bacas installed sophomore Ben Vihstadt in the stroke seat of the Yorktown first eight, the crew has made up over 10 seconds on its regional competition and goes into the SRAA Nationals Regatta next week with legitimate hopes of making the grand final of six crews at the high school national championship. Along with St. Albans and TJ, the Washington D.C. area contingent of men's crews will be one of the strongest of the last 10 years.
"I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of these kids today," head coach Andy Bacas said. "The ground and time they made up this week was unbelievable. They rose to a huge challenge and really went for it. If we can keep this sort of speed up next week, we can be real contenders at nationals."
Leading off the day for Yorktown was the two-second victory earned by the men's junior eight, a crew that came into the state championship regatta seeded No. 1. The Patriot crew, made up of nine sophomores and stroked by Andrew Knizner, bested crews from West Springfield, Thomas Jefferson, Robinson and Woodson.
In a heartbreaker for the women's side of the Yorktown program, the women's first varsity eight was edged out a bronze medal by T.C. Williams by .2 seconds and wound up fourth in the premier women's event which was won by Robinson. National Cathedral of Washington, D.C. was second.
Receiving medals for Yorktown first eight were: Daniel Thom, Chris Brown, Steve Cauffman, Dan Rozynski, Leon Suvak, Peter Bacas, Fielding Williams, Ben Vihstadt, Wade Oakley.
In the junior eight, Keating Walsh, Erik Auer, Jaime Ranfone, Ryan Carroll, Paul Schneider, Josh Doyon, JP Wright, Andrew Knizner and Aaron Rosen won medals.
<b>W-L Crew Competes at State</b>
Washington-Lee crew finished up its regular regatta season on May 22 with the state championship finals at Occoquan. The men's second varsity eight finished in the medals with third place. The men's varsity placed fourth in its final, mere seconds out of the hardware. Both men's shells qualified for the Scholastic Rowing Association of America Championship being held this year in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The women's varsity placed sixth in the petite final.
States were a tall order this year with heat qualifications two weekends ago — cut short due to weather — immediately followed by a road trip to Stotesbury in Philadelphia and ending with the state's final races Saturday.