HHS Crew sweeps (and sculls) FSRA West District Championships


Cassidy Bull

After their race, freshmen Vivek Kondapavuluru and Duncan McEwen carry their boat off of the dock and back to the trailer. The two were proud of their fourth place finish, as it was an improvement from their previous regatta.


It’s 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday and the HHS Rowing Team is waking up to get ready for their FSRA West District Championship Regatta in Sarasota. Upon arrival, the team began re-rigging or putting together their boats that they would use on the racecourse. The whole set-up process took a couple of hours, but once the boats were ready, the racing and the waiting for racing could begin.

The first boat to launch was the men’s junior four, including sophomore Savion Fordham, Sophomore Nicholas Jeske, Junior Andrew Schweitzer, sophomore Giancarlo Martinez and coxswain senior Rachel Nieland. They took first with 30 seconds to spare, finishing with a time of 5:31.05 for a 1500-meter race. “The combination of debatably sarcastic threats from coach, and just really knowing your boat mates like buds is all the motivation we really need,” said Jeske. “We know our expectations and we’re proud and had fun fulfilling [them].”

The men’s lightweight eight raced next, including sophomore Ankit Balaraju, sophomore Alex Barrow, sophomore Dylan Raab, junior Rafael Carrion, freshman Javier Cuevas, sophomore Luke Bincarousky, sophomore Johnny Liu, freshman Duncan McEwen and coxswain Isabella Roman. They were the only boat entered in their category, and despite thinking it was an April Fool’s Day joke at first, they ended up racing against the women’s lightweight eights where they placed first with a time of 5:12.40. “It was a great experience for me and reminder to never underestimate an opponent no matter their looks,” said Cuevas. “They really pushed us to be as fast as possible.”

Freshman Duncan McEwen then had to race for the second time in the men’s freshman double category with freshman Vivek Kondapavuluru. The two placed fourth with a time of 6:33.56, but winning wasn’t everything. “Even though we didn’t get a medal I felt a lot of improvement in that race. Everything finally seemed to come together,” said McEwen. “We actually got a chance to see how we stacked up against other freshmen rowers. We have a lot to work on if this boat wants to do very well, but overall I’m satisfied with our progress.”

Sophomores Savion Fordham and Nicholas Jeske earned their second gold medal of the day with a time of 5:34.14 in the men’s junior double category. “We had strong competitors,” said Fordham. “But we pushed through and held a lead to win the gold.”

Despite arriving at the course so early, Juniors Luis Cuevas and Andrew Fonda did not race until 2:46 p.m. They were in the men’s junior quad with junior Andrew Schweitzer and sophomore Giancarlo Martinez, who had already raced once. The quad placed third with a time of 5:30.80, which the boat was excited about, but junior Luis Cuevas noted that the waiting for the race was boring and scary. “Hello my name is Luis and I am a single, six foot tall, charming male. I find waiting so long in the day to race really nerve wracking because it gives you a lot more time to sit around and think about the race,” said Cuevas.

The only women’s race of the day was the women’s lightweight double, which included freshman Amanda Majchrzak and senior Cassidy Bull. “Before your race there’s this moment of extreme nerves, but as soon as it starts they all melt away,” said Majchrzak. “All that matters is you pull as hard as you can.” Despite only practicing once prior to the race, the two placed second with a time of 6:44.51.

Four rowers from the men’s lightweight eight, sophomores Ankit Balaraju, Alex Barrow, Dylan Raab and Luke Bincarousky, also raced in the men’s lightweight quad category where they placed fourth with a time of 5:36.16. “We were all excited for the race and we were optimistic, but on the row up we could feel the first race from the eight in our legs and arms. We weren’t at 100 percent, but we still gave it our all,” said Barrow. “We have this rivalry with Plant, we always have them the first 500 [meters], but they always catch up and beat us. Hopefully States will be different.”

With the day coming to a close, senior Luke Jeske placed fifth in the men’s varsity single with a time of 7:14.67.

After racing was completed, the team de-rigged all the boats and loaded them onto the trailer to take back to their boathouse. The parents, rowers and coaches then gathered together as the team was awarded their medals. The total amount of hardware collected added up to 16 gold medals, two silver medals and four bronze medals.

There’s a tradition in the rowing community where when a boat gets first place, they throw their coxswain in the water. The team honored this and crowded onto the racecourse launch dock where senior Rachel Nieland and freshman Isabella Roman were tossed in for a swim. “It was a perfect way to end an exciting day,” said Roman. “Everybody seemed to enjoy it.”

To conclude the successful race day, the team huddled and put their hands into the circle, the coxswains called “Go Big Red on three, one, two three!” and the rest of the team echoed with the yell of “Go Big Red!” and threw their hands up.