If success is relative, than for the New Trier Rowing program the bar is high.
Yet, that didn’t stop New Trier rowers from reaching new heights this past school year.
In the season’s finale, New Trier Rowing’s top boys varsity 8 (person) boat made the US Youth Nationals finals on Sunday, June 11, for the first time, said program head coach Sandy Culver.
The crew placed fifth among the nationwide field in Sarasota, Florida, that included high school and club crews
“Traditionally, it’s extremely difficult for us as a public high school to compete there,” Culver said.
The girls top varsity 8 boat also made the finals — a feat it had not achieved in a decade, Culver said — where it finished seventh.
New Trier varsity girls rowers after the Midwest Scholastic Rowing finals.
In the same regatta, New Trier also had two other boats place: the U16 girls 8 boat took fifth and the boys second varsity 8 seventh.
The impressive capped an already record-breaking campaign for New Trier Rowing.
“I couldn’t be happier overall,” Culver said. “We had a really strong season. Our varsity 8’s, boys and girls, and second varsity 8’s were particularly successful at the highest level.”
Culver became the program’s leader when longtime head coach Rose Marchuk shifted to a smaller role prior to the 2022-’23 school year. Culver led the girls crews, while Nate Kelp-Lenane took over the boys side, and the two filled out their coaching staffs.
Culver said she and Kelp-Lenane set their sights on continuing and amplifying the program’s positive culture where hard work and fun commingle.
New Trier Rowing has two competition seasons — fall and spring — each year, and fills multiple eight-person boats on the varsity level. It also races in fours and can adjust to the format of different regattas, Culver said.
This year, Culver and company “beefed up” the racing schedule.
“We raced every single weekend but two,” she said. “The kids learned how to race. They raced more than they ever have. So there was less a case of nerves sitting there (on race day).”
Culver said it quickly became clear that this year’s crew was special.
On the boys side, the potential was visible. She said the average height on the boys top boat was 6 feet 4 inches.
“This was the strongest senior and junior classes ever in height and power and ton of natural physicality and talent to work with,” she said, adding that the crew was “really, really happy to make it to the grand final at (US Youth nationals).”
New Trier’s second varsity 8 boys crew rows in the Midwest Scholastic Rowing regatta in the spring.
At least six senior boys are headed to high-level universities to row: Kannan Alford (Stanford University), Alek Balassa (Yale University), Preston Lodolce (Santa Clara University), John Salvi (Stanford University), Noah Silverstein (Princeton University) and Jack Skinner (University of California).
The girls top boats, she said, received a boost of energy from the sophomore class, which pushed the talented senior unit to new heights. At least nine senior Trevians will row in college: Julia Alexander (University of Wisconsin at Madison), Ruby Barnett (Boston College), Lydia Hales (UCLA), Bella Kasprisin (University of Wisconsin at Madison), Evelyn Orsic (University of Texas), Lucy Rush (University of North Carolina), Elise Kahler (Santa Clara University), Sophie Kahler (University of Wisconsin at Madison) and Ava Sofranko (Clemson University).
The fall season was highlighted by the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta on Oct. 20-22 in Boston.
New Trier recorded its best combined performance at the event, which welcomes high school and club crews from around the globe. New Trier’s top boys varsity 8 placed fifth among 90 boats and the top girls varsity 8 finished sixth among 89. The girls were the only high school boat to finish in the top 20, and the boys sixth top-five finish at the regatta is the most every for a high school crew.
The spring season brought New Trier rowers to Cincinnati, Milwaukee and New York. New Trier Rowing’s spring postseason began May 13 with the Midwest Scholastic Championships, which featured high school programs across the region, in Kensington Park, Michigan. New Trier showed out, racing five boats to first-place finishes, including its top varsity 8+ boats on the girls and boys sides.
The finishes qualified New Trier boats for the Scholastic Rowing Association of America Nationals (high schools only) and the US Youth Nationals (high schools and clubs). At the scholastic regatta in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, New Trier’s two boys varsity 8 boats won their races, while the two girls varsity 8 boats each placed second — setting up the US Youth nationals in June.
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