It wasn’t just an international championship won Sunday by the Y Quad-Cities Rowers in the junior division of the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup.
It wasn’t just that it was won at the historic Henley Regatta on the Thames River in England.
What topped it all off for the Y Quad-Cities Rowers, who are based out of the Bass Street Y Sylvan Boat House in Moline, was the title was an international first.
“There’s never been an overseas winner,” said the team’s coach, Dr. Peter Sharis, who noted this regatta has been going on since 1839. “This was a first. Definitely a very impressive win for our team.”
The team of Caroline Sharis, Delaney Evans, Emma Mask and Taylor English beat the Marlow Rowing Club for the victory. Caroline Sharis just graduated from Pleasant Valley while the other three girls will be juniors at PV. Jamie Whalen is the assistant coach.
The opposition led early in the 1 5/16th-mile race Sunday. But with the Y Quad-Cities Rowers, it’s often just a matter of time.
Sunday was no exception. By the time the race was over, the Q-C team had pulled away for a seemingly easy 4 1/2-length win. In the quarterfinal, the Y Quad-Cities Rowers beat the local favorite, the Henley Boat Club, coming from behind for the win there, too.
In the semifinals in the quadruple sculls junior girls event, which is the only event of 23 in the regatta for high school girls, the Q-C crew set a meet record by three seconds, defeating the Laytmer Upper School.
While you often hear of the importance of a good start and a good close in racing, this team was all about the middle.
In Sunday’s championship, after trailing early, the Quad-Cities rowers started to take over in the middle portion of the race and were in total control well before it ended.
“We were really focusing on a strong middle,” said Caroline Sharis, who rows in the stroke or lead position in the four-person boat. “That’s where all of our endurance, training and coaching really comes in. That was our strongest portion of the race. We also had some good sprints, but that’s where more of our endurance and fitness really show through.
“It’s always been our super goal to come in here and lay down the hammer and really take it home.”
It’s hard to call the success a surprise since the team won the national title by 11 seconds this year in California after a strong season in the United States. It was the fifth straight national title in that event for the club.
But it’s definitely special for Caroline, who was making her second appearance at the international race. The last time, after she had completed her freshman year at PV, the Q-C team was edged in the semifinals by the eventual winner.
“Henley is definitely unlike any other race we go to,” she said, noting many races might have six boats across while Henley is just two boats racing side by side. “It’s really intense. Side-by-side racing where you only have one crew that you have to beat, so it’s very personal.”
And you better have a good girl in the bow, or you are in trouble, Caroline said.
“Our bow woman, Delaney Evans, did a great job steering because on either side of the boat are the wooden booms," Caroline said. "You can’t steer close into those. Otherwise, your race is over.”
The win was sweet for Caroline. “It’s just incredible,” she said, noting it was a testimony to all the support and coaching that they had.
But it may have been even sweeter for her dad, the coach.
“It was remarkable. They faced the hometown rowing club, the British national champions, in the second round, and they were an extremely fast crew,” he said. “They actually fell behind by two boat lengths and had an incredible comeback, which was great to see. Then had to come from behind in the semifinal round. So they showed a lot of poise to do that.”
The Q-C team was in England a week and a half before the four days of racing started. They used the time to get acclimated to the Thames. By Monday afternoon, they had returned home.
Harvard-bound Caroline, who will row there, had things in perspective. After months of training six mornings a week on the Mississippi plus two afternoons of strength training, she was ready for a little summer fun.
“Most of us are excited to get back home,” she said, “and enjoy a little bit of the summer."