By Krissy Navrat, Expeditionary Programs Manager
On Sunday, November 19, high school and middle school rowing teams from across New England gathered in Hull, MA to compete in the annual Icebreaker Northeast Regional Open-Water Rowing Championships. This race is hosted by the Hull Lifesaving Museum, demonstrating the pinnacle of these youth rowers as their fall season comes to a close. While weather snarled plans for some local teams, rowing teams from Vergennes Union Middle and High Schools (Vergennes) and Mount Abraham Union High School (Mt. Abe) were able to attend and made a strong showing for Vermont rowing.
Throughout the crisp fall day, teams competed in a series of races including three rounds with a variety of heats and two distance challenges: the Novice Distance Challenge and the Nautical Mile.
Each crew competed in a variety of three sprint races. Times from the individual crews were combined to determine the winner for each heat. The first Vermont crew to hit the water was Mt. Abe for the Novice High School Fours with an impressive cumulative time of 16:17. Vergennes Middle School followed with a time of 17:33 for the Novice Middle School Sixes. Two Vermont teams dominated the First Sixes event: Mt. Abe taking first with a time of 20:31 and Vergennes High School coming in second with 21:08.
The race concluded with the two distance challenges. Vergennes Middle School and Mt. Abe competed in separate heats for the Novice Distance Challenge. The High School Novice Fours featured Mt. Abe in second place with 4:48 while Vergennes Middle School competed in the Middle School Novice Sixes taking a time of 3:37. Rounding out the day’s competitions, crews prepared to compete in the Nautical Mile. Vergennes High School and Mt. Abe lined up to participate in the First Sixes event. Mt. Abe managed to win the race by over 30 seconds with a time of 5:04 while Vergennes High School rowed toward the finish line with a time of 5:40, placing them in second. Full results from the day are posted by the Hull Lifesaving Museum on their website at www.hulllifesavingmuseum.org/openwaterrowing.html
As the competition concluded, teams huddled around to hear the results of the race. Their smiling faces, resilience, and displays of camaraderie were well worth the collaborative effort it took to get these teams on the water after a fickle weekend of weather.
The Icebreaker was a tremendous cap for Vermont teams, especially Mt. Abe’s fall rowing season. Their Novice Four had placed second in last month’s Otter Creek Challenge Race. Mt. Abe’s Experienced Six, having won two of three races this season, came into the Icebreaker looking to put an exclamation point on their efforts and they did. After winning their first of three sprint races, they fell behind the strong Vergennes team in the second sprint. Undeterred, they stormed back to win the third by over a minute, cementing the combined time sprint win. The crew then went on to win the nautical mile event, with Vergennes coming in second, giving Vermont all around some dominating wins at this New England-wide event.
Andrew Rainville, Mt. Abe’s head rowing coach told us, “These rowers have been working like crazy over the past two and a half months for this race. We weren’t going to win on raw strength alone, so our work on fundamentals, form, and coxing made all the difference. From focus in practice to building team camaraderie, they set themselves up for success and achieved. The experienced six victories belong not just to the seven in the boat, but also to their novice teammates who challenged and pushed them throughout the season. We couldn’t be prouder to end the fall season this way and we’re looking forward to the spring!”
The success of this rowing season and races would not be possible without the contributions from our dedicated coaches, donors, staff, teachers, volunteers, and students; a special thank you to the student boat builders who build our rowing gigs. It’s truly a team effort to generate the amount of support needed to achieve this level of accomplishment, and we have our outstanding community to thank for this rewarding 2023 season.
Enjoy these photos from the race day, courtesy of John Meshna and Nick Patch.