Senior Ben Morosse said the Conestoga High School Crew Club had gone through a slow period for the past three years, but as a result of this season's races, the crew club is now on a winning streak that's qualified them for this month's prestigious Henley Royal Regatta at England's Henley-on-Thames.
"It's a really intense style of racing – head to head, two boats on course at the same time," Morosse, the men's varsity captain, said. "It's a very up close and personal kind of racing. I think it's really good for the team, and we're all looking forward to it."
The student athletes from the two quads and one double of Conestoga's Crew Club consist of men's varsity members Morosse, Nick Nalbone, Mike DiLucca and Cuyler Hamilton, women's varsity members Meagan Hudson, Rebecca Simonetti, Maddy Tessier-Kay, Anne Graf and double members Nicole DeStefano and Captain Ali Siegele.
Known as the "Stoga Henley 10," these students will row rigorously on the River Thames against competitors for the chance to take home The Rayner Cup in the double scull event at the Henley Women's Regatta from June 15 to June 17, The Bea Langridge Trophy in the quadruple scull event (Conestoga's women's varsity took this home in 2006) and the Fawley Challenge Cup in the men's quadruple scull event.
After taking part in the Henley Women's Regatta, Conestoga's women's varsity quad has the opportunity to propel their oars in the Henley Royal for the Junior Women's Quadruple Sculls Cup.
DiLucca's father, Mark DiLucca, said the Crew Club receives its financial support through donations, fundraising events and rowers' dues, but because of the sudden opportunity for the team to compete at the Henley Regattas, the club set a goal to raise $50,000 to offset the costs for the crew to travel, lodging, food and boat rental to compete in the races in England.
To date, the club raised a little more than $11,000 from donors and a beef and beer fundraiser held earlier this month at the Bachelors Barge Club on Philadelphia's Boathouse Row, and the club continues to accept donations through the Club's PayPal account on its website.
The women's varsity team is currently in England for their races, and the men's team departs Sunday, taking their own oars with them overseas.
DiLucca said the travel was made possible via the contributions of generous community members, friends and family.
"The parents really do dedicate themselves to the success of these teams," DiLucca said. "There's enormous support from [Conestoga High School] to support all athletes, not just varsity, but also club sports."
DiLucca and Morosse said the students set team and personal goals in the beginning of the season, which included going to Henley.
As the team continued to excel in critical races toward the end of the season, DiLucca said it became apparent that Henley would be a reality.
The Stoga Henley 10, alongside their other talented Conestoga peers, placed in second place twice in the Women's Youth double and third in the Men's Youth quadruple races in the U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals the weekend of June 9 in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
"I, being a parent with this organization for four years, cannot be more proud of the students, parents and board of directors, because there are so many achievements the crew provided its students both on and off the water," DiLucca said.
Morosse also expressed his appreciation for Conestoga High School and the surrounding community's continued support of the Crew Club as the men's varsity quad trains twice a day at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. for 12 to 15 miles of rowing all this week for the Henley regattas and the Schuylkill Navy Regatta in Philadelphia this Saturday, June 16.
The recent Conestoga High grad added that he hoped the Henley races would inspire high standards and goals among the lower class student members.