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High school teams compete at Pittsburgh Scholastic Sprints Regatta

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 5:54 p.m.

Ten rowing teams from across the area had a rare opportunity to compete against one another at the Pittsburgh Scholastic Sprints Regatta on the Allegheny River last weekend.

North Allegheny's boys and girls rowers dominated, with 13 of their 16 boats finishing in the top three.

The Central Catholic boys team had several first-place finishes, including varsity 8+, in which it was a scholastic national champion last year. The Vikings, who won in 4 minutes, 42.9 seconds, took the top three places.

Allderdice, Fox Chapel, Hampton, Mt. Lebanon, North Catholic and Oakland Catholic also won events.

“There are many competing races on the weekends prior to sprints,” organizer Mark Bellinger said. “Many teams go in different directions.

“This gives rowers a chance to compete against each other for the first time this season.”

Coaches and rowers considered the meet a good tune-up for the Midwest Scholastic Rowing Championships in Zanesville, Ohio, this weekend. Top finishers will advance to the Scholastic Rowing Association of America Regatta on May 23-24 in West Windsor, N.J.

“(Pittsburgh Scholastic Sprints) was fun for the kids,” North Alle­gheny girls coach Todd Ridenour said. “It was nice for them to win so many medals before racing against more schools in our upcoming races.”

Fox Chapel boys captain Axel Hamel enjoyed the spirited competition between the Foxes and North Allegheny.

North Allegheny boys captain Derek Coleman agreed the teams are strong rivals and are looking forward to meeting each other again at the Midwest Championships.

Fox Chapel girls captain Vanessa Sacco liked rowing in front of a home crowd.

“It was nice to be around parents who can't travel with the team,” Sacco said.

“The Pittsburgh regatta is more casual than what we usually face,” North Allegheny girls captain Leah Griffin said.

Grace Halloran, a freshman at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, said competing on familiar water helped her on a First Row boat that finished fifth in Women's Junior Varsity/Second 8.

“I barely had any nerves before the start,” she said.

Because of elevated water and a threat of high winds, some novice and small-boat races were canceled.

Pine-Richland junior Kaylyn Rocher was disappointed not to compete.

“I was really looking forward to it,” she said.

Boys coach Megan Batykefer said North Allegheny scrambled for starters.

“Our (junior varsity) and varsity men and women predominately row small boats, so we had to be flexible and put some lineups on the race course that we have never practiced,” she said. “(We had) to row our novice four-man boat as (junior varsity) since their event was canceled, too.”

The Three Rivers Junior team will travel out of state for the second time in a month when it competes at the Midwest Junior Rowing Championships on May 17-18 in Bantam, Ohio.

Top finishers will advance to the USRowing Youth National Championships on June 13-15 in Rancho Cordova, Calif.

Three Rivers took first or second place in five events at the Ohio Governor's Cup Regatta on April 26 in Columbus.

“It was a great way to measure where we were,” coach Rick Brown said. “We were able to try out some new lineups and try some different parts of our race that we have been working on.”

“(Governor's Cup) is always a good race,” said Quaker Valley junior Jane Merriman, who was on a women's first varsity 8+ boat that won a gold medal and a women's first varsity 4+ that captured silver.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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