Neither the Kearny boys’ or girls’ crew teams might have anticipated a trip to nationals were in their future when they first started practicing for this season. But after finishing in second place at the Lightweight 4+ event at the Garden State Scholastic Championship Regatta on April 30, both Kardinals teams are heading to the nationals.
The National Scholastic Rowing Association of America Regatta is set for Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-28, at the Cooper River in Camden County Park.
“They are delighted, they are super-excited. I think everyone is surprised that we made it,” boys’ head coach Lissette Gomez said. “We might not have been expected to before the season, but here we are.”
“It’s a big deal for us,” said girls’ head coach Dave Paszkiewicz. “The seniors especially, they had given their blood for four years and finally it’s paying off.”
For Paszkiewicz, who has been coaching for more than 30 years, the berth, Kearny’s first since 2017, was especially rewarding due to the struggles they had gone through in recent years.
“I was hoping that we’d be able to pull something off because these seniors have been with me for four years and these have been four very, very lean years (for the program),” Paszkiewicz said. “These kids because they had been with me for four years and hadn’t had a successful season.”
Paszkiewicz’s Lightweight 4+ team is headlined by two seniors. Jacqueline Narucki serves as the coxswain, who steers from the back end of the boat. Next to Narucki is senior Julia Sikorski, who serves as the “stroke” a position, which Paszkiewicz likens to the quarterback.
Freshman Vanessa Salgado, a first-time rower, is at the bow (No. 1) position on the front end of the boat. Sofia Faleiro is in the No. 2 position and freshman Emelia Sikorski is in the 3 spot.
Kearny’s quintet took second in the Women’s Lightweight 4+ final with a time of 6:31.16, beating Nutley for the second qualifying spot alongside champion Egg Harbor.
“We thought we had a chance (to qualify),” Paszkiewicz said. “Things came together for us pretty early. When we competed in South Jersey at the Lake Lenape Sprint and won one of the races there, we knew we had a pretty good shot at qualifying.”
Just a few minutes after the girls punched their ticket to nationals, the boys did the same in the Men’s Lightweight 4+ with a time of 5:29.46, which edged out Seton Hall Prep by less than half a second for the last qualifying spot.
Atlantic City finished in first at 5:25.82.
For the boys, Adam Ramadan serves as the coxswain with Angelo Lucero as the stroke. Matthew Branco and Samuel Francisco are in the center of the boat with Jack Logue serving as the Bow.
Gomez was especially proud of what her team accomplished, knowing they row for a very short time during the year. During the winter season, Logue and Francisco play hockey, Ramadan wrestles and Lucero is a swimmer.
“We have a very short season where we come in the spring. They play other sports in other seasons, but in the spring they do crew,” Gomez said. “We don’t really have the opportunity to train all year round like other high schools and other teams do.”
On the girls side, Salgado plays soccer, the Sikorski sisters swim and Narucki plays hockey.
Before the nationals, Kearny will face neighbors Nutley and Belleville in the “Battle for the Boathouse” this Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Passaic River. One week later, Kearny travels to Philadelphia for the Stotesbury Cup, which in terms of quantity of teams is the largest event in North America according to Paszkiewicz.
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)