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Central Catholic rowers set for national regatta

| Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
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The Central Catholic Men's High School First Varsity 8+ boat took first place in the final race on Sunday, May 10, 2014, at the Midwest Scholastic Rowing Association Championship in Nashport, Ohio. Bow to stern are Matthew Kreps, Alex Butler, Devin Kaplan, Lucas Peilert, Alex Miklasevich, Kevin Costello, Jacob Wiedemer and Michael Grady. Jeffrey Cao is the coxswain, in front.

Members of a Central Catholic boat said it will be tough repeating as champions at the Scholastic Rowing Association of America National Regatta in West Windsor, N.J., this weekend.

Men's High School Varsity 8+, which posted the school's first win in national competition last year, qualified by taking first place at the Midwest Scholastic Rowing Association Championship in Nashport, Ohio, earlier this month.

“We have the potential to be a very fast crew, but we will have to redouble our focus,” said senior Jake Wiedemer, one of six returning rowers. “Our boat has a lot of talent, but we have to stay humble and realize we have a target on our backs now.”

“After winning last year, I think we feel a bit more pressure,” coach Jay Hammond agreed.

The Vikings expect a closer race than at the Midwest championship, in which they beat second-place New Trier of the Chicago area by almost seven seconds (4 minutes, 25.38 seconds).

“The Varsity 8+ is the most competitive event, with the best schools across the country competing,” senior co-captain Lucas Peilert said. “We have put in a sizable amount of training over the last eight months with this goal in mind.

“Recently, we had some strong practices, and need just to put out our best race when it comes down to the finals.”

Besides Wiedemer and Peilert, the crew includes senior Matt Kreps, senior Alex Butler, junior Devin Kaplan, junior Alex Miklasevich, junior Kevin Costello, junior Michael Grady and senior Jeffrey Cao.

Men's High School Second 8+, the silver medalist a year ago, is optimistic about capturing gold.

“(The boat) is quite fast and stands a good chance of winning,” Hammond said.

The crew of junior Edoardo Frezza, junior Nic Pereira, senior Jay Maier, junior Rob Barringer, sophomore Matthew Pilewski, sophomore Shane Burke, senior Zachary Volosky, sophomore Daniel Wisniewski and junior Nick Okwiya won in 4:36.50 at the Midwest championship.

Hammond expects the freshman 8+ boat of Nick Fratto, Ethan Ray, Carl Buck, Anicet Mundundu, Trent Uhlemann, John Peilert, Jack Maier, Jordan Croll and David Mitchell also to be in medal contention after winning at the Midwest championship (4:46.87).

“Our (freshman) head coach, Aaron Lucia, engineered a very impressive turnaround,” Hammond said.

John Peilert, Lucas' brother, said he and crewmates look forward to competing at the national regatta for the first time.

“It was great to win (at the Midwest championship), but we realize that isn't the endgame,” he said. “There is a lot of hard work and speed to gain if we are to catch the fast crews.”

Men's High School Junior 8+, which finished second in the Midwest, also will compete.

Central Catholic, the Midwest men's champion, will be one of four area schools represented.

North Allegheny advanced after winning four events at the Midwest regatta (Women's High School Varsity 4x, Men's High School Junior 4x, Men's High School Varsity 4x and Women's High School Junior 4+).

Fox Chapel (first in Women's High School Junior 4x) and Oakland Catholic (second in Women's High School Second 8+ and third in Varsity 8+) also qualified.

North Allegheny women's coach Todd Ridenour expects much stiffer competition.

Fox Chapel coach Mark Bellinger said he will be happy if his rowers reach the final and make it to the medal stand.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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