The 2022 rowing season was nothing short of historic for the Blair girls’ rowing team. As the team starts a new season this fall, varsity coach John Redos takes a look back at their record-breaking year and discusses how the program’s success is a testament to each athlete’s dedication and hard work.
For all scholastic rowing programs, there are two distinct national championships: Scholastic Nationals, which is a competition only for the high school teams, and USRowing Youth Nationals, which is for any rowing team, club or school that qualifies to compete. In 2021, the Blair Women’s Rowing team placed second in the United States at Scholastic Nationals and 12th overall at USRowing Youth Nationals—proving that Blair’s team can compete with the top programs in our nation.
While the spring represents our main racing season, preparation begins in September. Our Small Boat Fall rowing season has now become a staple in our program, and this year marked the first time Blair rowers raced in the single. Most school programs focus on one style of rowing, sculling and sweeping. Up until 2020, Blair competed only in spring sweep rowing. Sculling in singles gave the team the opportunity to take on one of the technical boats in the sport, and do so in a fun, relaxed, yet still competitive environment.
In addition to earning their first sculling medals at the Head of the Housatonic, this fall the team welcomed varsity assistant coach Annie Gardner. Coach Gardner played a monumental role in the team’s success, and her expertise in both rowing and the biomechanics of the human body led to the increase of our rowers’ athletic maturity, on and off the water. Coach Gardner completed an amazing coaching team, and with the continued support of novice coaches Marianna Paone and Latta Browse, the girls received unflagging support, no matter the stage of their Blair rowing career.
With the onset of winter, the crew moved into Blair’s new indoor rowing center on Park Street. The ability to work not only on the dynamic ergometers and in the weight room, but also in an 8-person indoor tank, proved to be a true game changer. The coaches focused on technical skills that previously could only be approached on the water, and the countless strokes taken on Park Street were the final touch in the lead up to our spring season.
Spring began with a successful training trip to Austin, Texas, followed by the start of racing season at Mercer, where we witnessed the varsity team sweep Peddie by double digit margins in all races. Our varsity fours sent a clear message that carried through until Nationals in June. Along the way, our top girl’s four took bronze at Mercer Sprints, one of the most competitive regattas in the country. They proceeded to seize gold at the Garden State Championships, Cooper Cup, USRowing Mid-Atlantic Championships, Stotesbury Cup Regatta and Scholastic Nationals. This marked the first time that a Blair women’s crew had won any of those regattas, and it was the first Blair crew in history to win Scholastic Nationals.
If that was not enough, our Junior 4+, consisting of Maggie Hayes ’23, Emily Tierney ’25, Renee Tracy ’23, Shannon Dooley ’23 and Allie Wolff ’24, set Blair history by earning silver at Stotesbury and third at Scholastic Nationals in their respective events.
These achievements left the coaching team beyond proud, but in the junior rowing world, the most important event is USRowing Youth Nationals. This year, for the first time in school history, Blair qualified not one, but two, crews for the event in Sarasota, Florida. In addition to our top four, and under the watchful eye of Coach Gardner, Blair qualified a U17 4+, which earned silver at Mid-Atlantics.
Going into Florida, the crews knew they were fast, but at this level, the team understood that they had to dig deeper than they ever had to continue their historic season. Blair’s top girls four, consisting of seniors Petra Csanyi, Dylan Bentley, Isabella Dugan and Caroline Johnson as well as sophomore Sami Goldman, had the regatta of their lives. They finished second in the nation. It was, without a doubt, the race of the regatta. The U17 four of Lyra Phelps ’24, Emily Tierney ’25, Riley Bacinski ’25, Hannah Mathews ’25 and Sophia Shah ’25 came in seventh overall, winning their B final in one of the grittiest performances I have seen in my time at Blair. They finished as the top high school in the country in their event, taking down extremely competitive clubs along the way.
While the Blair season ended with smiles from ear to ear, the train did not stop. Over the summer, Ava Gamble ’21 and Petra Csanyi ’22 made the United States and Hungarian National teams. They both competed at the U23 and U19 World Championships in Italy and were the first Blair women to even make a National Team. Over the past four years, our crew team members have learned to challenge what they think is possible and take risks in discovering what it truly means to believe in themselves. Congratulations, to all of Blair’s elite rowers and coxswains, on an outstanding year.