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A-B crew finishes with flourish: Women novices win state title

AB Crew logo

The Arlington-Belmont (AB) team brought home four medals and a championship trophy from this weekend’s Massachusetts Public School Rowing Association’s Fall Championship Regatta in Lowell.

The women’s novice 8 team dominated its races, winning gold in both the women’s novice 8 “A” and “B” races, giving them enough points in the team competition to win first place in the women’s novice category.

Rowers competed in heavy rain and cold on Sunday, and the race was shortened from five kilometers to four as a safety precaution.


“I’m so proud of my rowers,” said novice girls' coach Joanna Coombs. “They worked hard all season and kept it together today under really difficult conditions.”

The women’s novice “A” boat also overcame technical difficulties on its way to victory. As the athletes rowed to the start of the race, their “cox box,” which is the microphone used by the coxswain to communicate with rowers, began cutting out.

“When we started the race the cox box completely died,” said coxswain Grace Ferguson, a sophomore at Arlington High School. “So I was shouting as loud as I could and I was just really hoping everyone remembered the pep talk I gave them before the race.”

AB Crew logo

AHS sophomore Lia Martin, who rowed in the bow seat, which is furthest away from the coxswain, said she could “totally hear” Grace.

“She was really loud,” said Martin who, as bow seat, is responsible for keeping the boat stable and balanced.

With Ferguson shouting at them through the rain, the rowers jumped out to a fast start. As they closed the distance on Duxbury Bay Maritime School, which was seeded in front of AB and started about 15 seconds ahead, Ferguson called for a power 10, which consists of 10 strokes at maximum power.

Full team places 6th

The increase in speed was enough to pass Duxbury. The concentrated effort also kept the rowers in unison, which prevented them from catching a crab when they passed Duxbury, said AHS sophomore Lilian Forney, referring to what happens when a rower loses control of her oar by putting it in the water at a bad angle or out of sync with the rest of her teammates. 

Ferguson called for a second power 10 later in the race to get the athletes focused again and called for a final power 10 to get them over the finish line in first place.

The full AB team placed sixth overall out of the 15 public school clubs participating in the regatta, which has been held every year since 2001 except for 2011, when it was canceled because of an early snowstorm.

The AB men’s novice 8 placed third in their race. Will Ingersoll, a ninth grader at Belmont High School, said things started picking up once they stopped “rushing off the slide,” which happens when rowers throw their weight toward the stern while trying to row fast. Because the stern is facing opposite of where they are going, the effort ultimately slows the boat down.

“Once we fixed the slide, it went well,” Ingersoll added. “It was nice to end the season with a win.”

AB’s fourth medal, a bronze, was won by the women’s varsity 8 “C” boat, which was coxed by AHS sophomore Conna Kelleher and stroked by BHS senior Ava Mulrooney.

Most success

The regatta capped the most successful fall season AB crew has had in several years. The squad of 94 athletes will take a month off before embarking on its winter training season, which consists of weight lifting and indoor erging.

The spring season begins in March with practice at Spy Pond Monday through Friday after school.

AB Crew is a member of the USRowing Association which governs the sport from the high school club level up to the National team, which participate in the Olympics. AB Crew holds a “Learn to Row” camp each summer for students who’d like to join the team but interested athletes can also join during the winter season. 

For more information, visit

Oct. 14, 2019: Arlington-Belmont crew oars home 4 medals at regional regatta

Oct. 8, 2019: Arlington-Belmont crew dominates Textile River Regatta

This news feature was published Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019.

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