Sebastian River Rowing returned to Nathan Benderson Park for the 2nd and final weekend of the 2023 Florida Scholastic Rowing Associations State Championships on April 29th and 30th. The Sharks already had one State Championship this season and were hungry for more.
The threat of severe weather caused the race to be condensed to just Saturday, but that didn’t phase a determined squad. After the morning racing schedule, all of the boats from Sebastian River found themselves in the grand finals, which was a program first.
The afternoon started calm, but as the races carried on, the winds began to build. Up first was the Girls Junior 4 of Jayden Salazar (Junior), Sophia Crowley (Sophomore), Cora Lynn Kapp (Freshmen), Ember Lloyd (8th grade – Sebastian Charter Junior High School), and Emma Beale-Huling (Sophomore).
“The girls in the junior 4 were pumped for the final. They all had their most complete race of the year in the heats. They managed to seek out a victory over a fast-charging crew from St. Thomas Aquinas. It was one of those times as a coach that you wanted them to get back on the water as soon as possible and use the adrenaline to their advantage,” said Girl’s Head Coach and Director of Rowing, Tom Lange.
The Girls Junior 4 had a great start and were in the medal hunt through the middle of the race, but two waves came over the stern of the boat and caused it to slow drastically. The Junior 4 still ended up placing 7th overall, finishing 2nd scholastically and qualifying the boat for Scholastic Nationals in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The Boys Junior 4 of Jaden Watkins (Sophomore), Jake Rincon (Junior), Felix Rivera (Junior), Kris Waters (Sophomore), and Sean Langdon (Junior) were next on the course. Miami Rowing Club had the fastest time of the morning’s heats, Sebastian River was the next fastest, while Tampa Prep and Hillsborough High School were close behind.
“It quickly became a 4 boat race, as was expected. Miami had a really strong crew all year, and Tampa Prep and Hillsborough were at our heels. They were hungry, but I thought our guys would rise to the occasion,” said Lange.
The boys were able to build on a decent start and middle of the race and put together a great sprint to put some distance between Tampa Prep and hold off a hard-charging Hillsborough High School boat in the last 250 meters. The three crews were all vying for 2nd place as Miami outpaced them. The 4 were able to secure a silver medal and the program’s 19th Scholastic Championship.
The next boat on the course was the Girls Freshmen 4 of Hannah Rincon, Madison Engle, Sasha Hepler, Emma McElroy (7th grade), and Rainey Johnson. The girls were the 2nd fastest boat of the morning in the event.
“We knew it was going to be a three-boat race, but our goal was to make it a one-boat race early on. Hannah, Maddy (Madison), and Sasha have raced in different events all fall and spring and were prepared for the challenge. They took the lead within the first 20 strokes and worked the rest of the race to put more distance between them and 2nd place,” Coach Lange told Sebastian Daily.
The girls braved some rough conditions and rowed an immaculate race finishing 1st overall by over 10 seconds. It marked the team’s 20 Scholastic State Championship and the 2nd Overall State Championship.
Quickly behind the Girls Freshmen 4 was the Boys Freshmen 4 of Blake Boone, Kyler Dugan, Grant Maschhoff (8th grade), Adam Greer, and Cora Lynn Kapp. The boys, like the girls were looking to make it a three-boat race and take home a medal and Scholastic State Championship.
“Within 500 meters, they were part of a 3 boat group that were able to pull away from the rest of the field in the Grand Final. It was amazing to see a group of boys who rowed the event as 8th graders come back and get a medal this time around. We are really proud of them,” Lange added.
The Boys Freshmen 4 ended up 3rd overall and way ahead of the next scholastic team to win the Scholastic State Championship. The conditions worsened for the team’s last boat of the day, the Varsity Pair of Oliver Dobson (Junior) and Zach Long (Sophomore). The rough conditions took its toll on the boys who couldn’t capitalize on a great race in the morning to grab hold of a medal or state championship. Oliver and Zach finished in 7th place overall.
Sebastian River Rowing heads into May with aspirations of Regional and Scholastic Championships. The Double of Jaden Watkins and Jake Rincon will head to Southeast Junior Regional Championships on May 13th and 14th and try to qualify for Youth Nationals in Sarasota in June. Jaden and Jake will join Felix Rivera, Kris Waters, and Sean Langdon in the Junior 4 at Scholastic Nationals on May 26th and 27th in Oak Ridge, TN. The Boys Junior 4 will be joined by the Girls Junior 4 of Hannah Rincon, Madison Engle, Sasha Hepler, and Emma Beale-Huling.