Pelham Community Rowing Association (PCRA) rowers topped the medal stand at last weekend’s USRowing Youth Nationals for the first time in its 10-year history.
All five of its qualifying boats made it through heats, repechage and/or semi-finals, on to finals, two boats ultimately capturing gold and silver.
Lightweight doubles rowing partners MaryGail DiBuono (Mamaroneck High School senior) and Emma Landauer (Brooklyn Technical High School senior) dominated their heat, semi-finals and final to win the event. The pair showed a lot of composure and control as they significantly under-stroked their competition, a gold medal never in doubt. Their winning time of 7:45 was the fastest winning time ever recorded at Youth Nationals in this event.
Impressively, the girls paired up only about six weeks ago, and even then they put the majority of their training time to another boat that had also qualified for Nationals, the Girls Lightweight 8+. Landauer and DiBuono pulled double duty throughout the run to Nationals, practicing in the double each day only after having already practiced in the 8+.
PCRA also brought home a silver medal in the regatta’s biggest event, the Girls Quadrupple Sculls. Seniors Tessa Dikkers (Pelham Memorial High School), Yasmine Hemida (Mamaroneck High School), Claudia Jensen (Bronxville High School) and sophomore Liliane Lindsay (Harrison High School) came in first in their heat, advancing them directly to semi-finals.
That runaway first place performance, several boat lengths out in front of the competition, prompted the commentator to note that, “PCRA is truly putting on quite a show for us all!” The PCRA powerhouse Quad has been rowing together for a year, and has racked up an impressive number of first place showings, including an undefeated fall season.
Ultimately they came in second in their final to a composite team from Connecticut brought together this spring specifically to train for Nationals.
PCRA made their first foray into Nationals with a prestigious sweep boat entry (1 oar per rower) with the Girls Lightweight 8+. This event was quite possibly the most competitive event of the entire regatta, with blistering fast times that were often equal to or better than their open-weight counterparts. PCRA’s boat was competitive in their heat, repechage, and semi-final, and were well in line for medal contention. In a nail-biter of a final, the PCRA boat lined up as the Davids to a pack of storied rowing Goliaths: 3 crews from California and two from the Boston area. Oakland Strokes dominated from stroke one and handily won with a commanding performance. The next five boats all crossed the finish line in contact with each other in a breathtaking rush to the finish line.
PCRA crossed into a sixth place finish by 16/1000ths of a second, only 2.2 seconds out of a 3rd place finish.
PCRA’s Boys Lightweight and Quadrupple Sculls both made it through to finals, ultimately finishing in 10th and 12th place, respectively.
The eighteen rowers and one coxswain from PCRA have been training hard for Nationals since their qualifying wins at New York State Rowing Championships in Saratoga Springs on Mother’s Day.
These elite high school athletes have been combining an arduous daily routine of rowing and land workouts for an average of six hours a day, both before and after school, notwithstanding the year-end academic crunch of AP, finals, and Regents exams. Good students all, the rowers found out on the eve of the their trip south that the team had once again been awarded Scholar-Athlete status for maintaining a team-wide grade-point average of 90 percent or higher.
All of the students gave up many traditional high school events to train for Nationals, but none more so than Yasmine Hemida and MaryGail DiBuono, both from Mamaroneck, who missed their senior prom to compete on the national stage. To make it up to them, their teammates organized a surprise “Tennessee Prom” one evening, replete with fancy dress, corsages and boutonnières. Not bad; now both girls will have both dried corsages and medals to remember their senior year by!
As an exclamation point and fitting acknowledgement for an outstanding season, both Yasmine Hemida and Liliane Lindsay were invited to the US Rowing Jr National Team Selection Camp, where the top 34 athletes in the country vie for spots on the Jr. National Team, which will race at worlds in Bulgaria, or the Jr. National development team that will train in Germany this summer.
Eighteen national championships were on the line this year for the 361 crews that travelled to Oak Ridge, Tennessee from over 30 states. For the second year, California teams dominated the medal count, showing the competitive advantage nod that goes to teams that can train on the water year-round. Even so, PCRA will enter the USRowing history books as one of the most successful teams at the 2012 Youth Nationals with five boats making finals and two medaling, a far better performance than many well more established teams.