The 92nd annual Stotesbury Cup Regatta's was switched from the Schuylkill to the Cooper River in Camden County this weekend due to concerns about inclement weather and a rapid current.
There was a light rain in the early part of Friday's time trials, and rowers experienced temperatures in the low 60s and a strong wind in the afternoon.
"The conditions were really brutal," Germantown Friends School's James Wright said. "It felt like a big gust coming right at you. You got tossed around a little in the boat."
That did not stop Wright from winning the senior single heat by nearly 10 seconds and advancing to Saturday's semifinals. He managed a clocking of 6 minutes, 54.01 seconds.
In other events, St. Joseph's Prep placed third in the boys' senior eight heat in 5:15.51. Ocean City (11th place, 5:21.59), Ridley (16th, 5:32.19), Mainland (17th, 5:34.42), and St. Augustine Prep (18th, 5:35.50) also qualified for the semifinals on the 1,500-meter course,
Mount St. Joseph (3d, 6:32.59), Moorestown (4th, 6:35.58), Holy Spirit (5th, 6:36.14), and Merion Mercy (8th, 6:37.92) were among the top 10 qualifiers for the girls' senior eight semifinals.
"The conditions were rough," Moorestown second-year coach Harry Carroll said. "We're not the biggest crew out there, so the headwind is going to affect us a little more. But our girls were still technically proficient. We're looking forward to Saturday."
Wright, who was part of USRowing's under-19 national team last summer, placed first in the Philadelphia Scholastic Rowing Association (PSRA) city championships two weeks ago and did the same at the Cooper Cup last month.
"He's extremely hard on himself," Germantown Friends coach Aaron Preetam said. "He punishes himself for not achieving perfection."
Preetam, 43, rowed for Shore Regional (N.J.), Rutgers and the Dominican Republic national team from 2003 to 2007.
A U.S. history teacher at Germantown Friends, Preetam established a rowing program at the school in 2015. After being part of the novice double as a freshman and the varsity double as a sophomore, Wright opted for the senior single last year.
"Coach Preetam has been phenomenal, said Wright, who lives near 22nd and Spruce Streets. "I can assure you that I wouldn't be where I am right now were it not for him."
The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder was part of the junior quad for USRowing in the World Rowing Junior Championships last August in Trakai, Lithuania.
He will return to the Chula Vista Elite Training early next month to vie again for a spot on the US Rowing team. This year's World Rowing Junior Championships will be held in Racice, Czech Republic.
"In this sport, a lot comes down to how much time you're willing to put in to improve," said Wright, who will row and study mechanical engineering at Stanford. "Also, I get tremendous support from the people at Germantown Friends and the area rowing community."
Preetam has been a rowing coach for 20 years. He and his wife, Carole, have two children, Graciela, 9, and Bodhi, 4. Of Wright, he said, "He's a good role model for our team and my children."
Stotesbury second-year director Erika McCormick said "there were a lot of logistics involved in moving the race" from the Schuylkill to the Cooper River.
"But, honestly, it's gone very smoothly so far. The teams, rowers, volunteers, parents, and spectators have adjusted well to it."
The regatta features 31 championship events, and organizers call it the largest high school rowing regatta in the world. They said 975 boats from 195 schools in the United States and Canada and more than 5,000 competitors are involved.
Saturday's semifinals are set to start at 8 a.m. Finals begin at approximately 1 p.m.
For complete results and more information, go to www.stotesburycupregatta.com.