Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 24
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
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STERLING SILVER: Members of the Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) women’s open four celebrate after taking second in the USRowing Youth National Championships last Sunday. Pictured, from left, are cox Liz Abraham, coach Sean McCourt, Jennifer Hu, Laura Kuhlman, Jamie Friscia, Rachel Sartor, and Megan McCourt.

Hard Work Pays Off at National Regatta As MJRC Women’s Open 4 Finishes 2nd

Bill Alden

Sean McCourt was cautiously optimistic about the prospects of his Mercer Junior Rowing Club (MJRC) women’s open four as it headed into the USRowing Youth National Championships last week.

“I thought things were clicking but all the boats there are fast,” said MJRC head coach McCourt.

“They are all regional champs or medal winners so you don’t know where you stand until you line up.”

The MJRC boat, which included Rachel Sartor, Laura Kuhlman, Jamie Friscia, Jennifer Hu, and coxswain Liz Abraham sacrificed a lot to gain speed in the four weeks leading up to the competition near Cincinnati, Ohio.

The boat’s three seniors, Sartor, Kuhlman, and Hu, skipped proms and struggled through final exams to set the tone of intensity as the whole crew put in 110 percent energy and effort towards the nationals.

That effort paid early dividends as the MJRC four won its opening heat last Thursday by nearly two seconds to book a spot in the grand final, leaving McCourt knowing he had something special on his hands.

“I thought that as the tougher of the two heats,” recalled McCourt. “As soon as we won that, it became more real that we could compete with the top boats.”

In the grand final, the MJRC crew stuck to their race plan. “We didn’t change anything, we talked about executing our moves,” said McCourt. “They are really driven kids. They work really well together and they want to do well.”

Cox Abraham was determined to help drive the boat hard. “We knew it was going to be a tough race and we’d have to get out and dominate the race from the get go,” said Abraham. “My voice was cracking at the end but I just kept on screaming.”

The boat gave its supporters plenty to shout about, ending up second behind local rival Peddie, which also trains on Mercer Lake out of the Finn M.W. Casperson Rowing Center.

Princeton-bound Jen Hu liked the way the boat fought to the finish as it edged third-place Winsor Crew by 0.36.

“We just pulled with determination and focus,” said Hu. “I didn’t believe Liz when she said we just had 50 more to go.”

For McCourt, seeing his rowers on the medal stand was an unbelievable feeling.

“It’s huge,” asserted McCourt. “It is the first time we have medaled in four years. Every time you go out there, you want to win a medal. It is a big reward for the kids.”

MJRC produced some other rewarding efforts at the competition as its men’s lightweight four won the petit final to place seventh overall while the men’s heavyweight four was eighth and the women’s lightweight four took 11th.

“I am really proud of all of the kids,” said McCourt. “Most high school athletes are worried about doing well in the county or state but these kids are competing in a truly national competition. There are boats from the west, south, and all points between.”

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