Last year, Andover Boys Crew overcame a rocky start to the season, eventually rowing to a B1 first-place finish at Interschols (NEIRA) Championships at the last race of the year, avenging its sixth place finish from the previous season with a season best time of 4:20.1.
Despite the B2 boat starting the season with four straight wins, the B1 boat struggled to perform, suffering a frustrating string of second place finishes.
With a 1-3 record four races into the season, B1 embarked on a winning streak when Head Coach Stewart MacDonald altered the lineups of the Varsity boats and added a bucket seat into the B1 boat, meaning that rowers in seats four and five both rowed starboard instead of one port and one starboard.
The team unfortunately lost valuable rowers such as Grant Bitler ’14, Cooper Hurley ’14, Rome Arnold ’14, Chandler Washburn ’16 and B1 coxswain Jake Rauh ’14. The team’s dedicated Co-Captains Marc Sevastopoulo ’15 and Ben Hawley ’15, however, are more than capable of leading Andover on a quest for another championship.
“Across all four grades of rowers, the goal is to take home as many gold medals as possible at the end of the season. The [NEIRA] team trophy is especially important to us, because it shows Andover’s capacity to introduce kids to the sport, develop them as rowers, and send them to the championship. We’ve won that trophy six out of the last eight years, and that’s something that every single member of the program can be proud of,” said Sevastopoulo.
In addition, Rob Irvin ’15, Nick Faulkner ’16, Dylan Norris ’16 and Jake Taylor ’16 are returning Varsity rowers who will be essential to the boats’ success. These rowers have the experience and ability to make for a strong season.
This season will be MacDonald’s second year of coaching at Andover, but his experience reaches far beyond prep school. At 5’5”, MacDonald was a gifted coxswain, as he led a pair in the 1968 Summer Olympics as well as the 1972 Olympics, where he coxed in the four event for the United States Olympic Rowing team.
MacDonald has had equal success as a coach. Perhaps one of his greatest achievements in his coaching career was helping the U.S. win the silver medal in the coxed four, coxless four, and eights events in the 1984 Olympics.
The team has been impressed by MacDonald’s extensive knowledge of the sport and precision to exact each rower’s technique on the water.
The team hopes to defend last year’s first place finish at NEIRA and will strive to beat its viable rivals, such as Kent and Phillips Exeter Academy. B1 and B2 will also look out for the ambitious teams that finished close on Andover’s tail last year, such as Boston College High, the reigning B2 New England Champions, and Brunswick.
Exeter always gives Andover Boys Crew a tough fight all the way through the finish line and has proved itself to be a difficult team to beat. In Andover’s first race against Exeter last season, B2 finished victorious, while B1 came in second out of seven teams to Exeter. Later in the season, however, B1 solidified a first place finish against the previously undefeated Exeter boat and Tabor.
Every year, the team typically kicks off the season with a race against Kent, which has historically resulted in a loss for Andover. This year, however, the team will be much more prepared thanks to a preseason trip.
Head Coach Dale Hurley of the girls team and MacDonald brought along 18 rowers from both the boys and girls team to spend a week on the river in Oak Ridge, TN. It was a beneficial experience for the rowers, as the river was exclusively built to promote rowing. The coaches focused on improving the rowers’ technique after months off the water. The athletes did fast pieces alongside each other on the 2000-Meter race course to build power and strength.
Armed with confidence and strength, the Boys are eager to take on Simsbury, Glastonbury and Essex at home on April 4 as good preparation for Kent the following weekend.
“As seniors, we want to do something that we can be proud of even after we graduate,” said Sevastopoulo.