Great Valley Crew heads to nationals

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Last weekend, the Great Valley High School Crew Club (GVHS) took three of four racing shells to the Philadelphia Scholastic Rowing Association (PSRA) City Championship Regatta. Competing in its second season on the water, the team earned its way to finals and bid to Nationals.

Despite rowing boats that had been discarded by other local rowing teams, all of the team’s rowers have accomplished far more than ever imagined.

The GVHS freshman girls 8+ team is a true powerhouse. Their boat has achieved two first place finishes during the season, as well as many second and third place finishes. They placed fourth overall at the PSRA City Championship and will represent GVHS – and Pennsylvania – at Nationals on Memorial Day weekend.

The boys’ JV 8+ boat, comprised of mostly sophomores and juniors, had an excellent season. They started the season strong, placing second and then first in the first two regattas despite a mid-race equipment failure during the first race. They made a strong showing at the PSRA finals with the reunion of the core rowers after several unrelated injuries mid-season. They will likely qualify for Nationals and represent GVHS on Memorial Day weekend as well.

The freshman boys went from just finishing the races to placing fourth in the PSRA finals. Despite having only one experienced rower and three athletes who are new to rowing (by all rights, they should have raced in a novice boat), the girls’ JV team has held their own all season.

The Great Valley Crew club program has been successful despite obstacles since the inception of the program in spring 2016.  It began with 14 athletes, only two of whom were girls, during their first season. Now there are 28 athletes, almost half of whom are girls. GV Crew began rowing out of the Upper Merion High School boat house and leasing its equipment. Unfortunately, this spring they were forced to find a new boat house, which is not easy given the limited access to the Schuylkill River. They are now rowing out of a boat house in Wilmington, Delaware, on the Christina River.

With this change in location, they had to buy all of their own equipment, including five rowing shells, two launch boats and outboard motors, oars and cox boxes. The list goes on.  The program is funded by registration fees, fundraising and assistance from Great Valley Community Organization.

The team’s goal is to be competitive as well as inclusive, which requires more boats, more rowers and significant funding. Parents of the athletes have stepped up by driving the rowers to Wilmington four days a week for practice, to the regattas (in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, N.J.), and leading continuous fundraising.

Despite the rigorous schedule for the rowers, the team is committed to supporting their fellow rowers by staying for every race, even though each athlete’s race only lasts a grueling five to eight minutes.  Student athletes have developed community spirit through participation, inclusion, and competition. Those are just a few of the key initiatives that GV Crew continues to develop in this newly created opportunity for Great Valley students.

Crewing offers a competitive, non-contact team sport option that was vitally missing from the school community. These athletes are involved and excel. Rowing also provides the opportunity for non-traditional athletes to get involved in a sport by filling the vital role of coxswain, which incorporates leadership and motivates others with the camaraderie of teamwork.

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