Central Catholic rowers excel at Allegheny Boat Race |

Central Catholic rowers excel at Allegheny Boat Race

Bonnie Culbertson | For Trib Total Media
Members of Central Catholic's first freshman 8+ won the 1,500-meter event at the Allegheny Boat Race. The group includes, from left, Nick Paluselli, Justin Mendel, Liam O'Malley, Brandon Boyce, Blair Bean, Max Kraning, Paul Trevor Sandberg, Colin Aikins, Harrison Johnson (coxswain).

Following a tradition established by American college rowing teams, members of men’s crews at the Allegheny Boat Race last weekend on the Allegheny River wagered the shirts off their backs, with losers giving shirts to winners in each event.

Victorious in five of six events, including Varsity 8, Central Catholic amassed an impressive amount of clothing it waited to collect after the race because weather was so cold.

In its 10th year, the regatta featured mixed competition among five college, high school and junior teams.

A masters crew from Three Rivers Rowing competed.

Conceived by Central Catholic coach Jay Hammond, an ex-Harvard rower, and Jay Skuban, a former Fox Chapel coach who competed at Yale, the regatta combines elements of storied races between American college teams and those between British schools Oxford and Cambridge.

Rowing at various distances, with fastest crews going the farthest, boats were allowed to drive into opponents’ lanes after starting side-by-side. In other competitions, boats in all events cover the same distance, stay in their own lanes and race against a clock with staggered starts, Hammond said.

On a four-mile course, Central Catholic’s varsity eight plus coxswain of Edoardo Frezza, Nicolas Pereira, Anicet Mundundu, Robert Barringer, Devin Kaplan, Alex Miklasevich, Connor Lovejoy, Michael Grady and Nick Okiwya won in 19 minutes, 30 seconds — 14 seconds ahead of second-place St. Ignatius of Cleveland (19:44).

“The Allegheny Boat Race is very important to put our team into the right mindset as we get off the water into the winter training season,” said Grady, a senior who will row at Cornell University next year. “I feel that it will mentally prepare us, giving us confirmation that if we can complete a four-mile race, we can definitely complete (shorter races).”

Hammond said the regatta was designed to test rowers.

“Having the Allegheny Boat Race be competitive helps ensure the guys take it really seriously, hence getting really good quality training and race experience at this point in the season,” said Hammond, noting fall races condition rowers for sprints in the spring.

Frezza, a senior co-captain, found rowing in very cold conditions beneficial.

“It can build some mental endurance,” he said. “Being exposed to that strengthens us to be able to race in any temperature and even any condition.”

A coxswain on the Fox Chapel varsity eight, senior Emma Schwartzman found a four-mile course challenging.

“It was interesting to do a different length,” she said.

Fox Chapel men’s coach Matt Kowalski considers the regatta a gauge of the season.

“As a small club, it’s a great chance to measure our speed against some much bigger and faster squads,” he said.

“This prepares us in every way,” Fox Chapel junior captain Dylan Lukas said. “Central Catholic is a very strong team.”

The Three Rivers Rowing junior team won three of five events at a women’s regatta patterned after the Allegheny Boat Race on Nov. 8.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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