On April 24, for the first time since the pandemic shut down athletics, the Berkeley High School (BHS) crew team was able to compete in the Scholastic Regionals against fellow Bay Area high schools. On the day of the regatta, the team launched off the dock with one goal in mind: qualify for Nationals. After an exciting day of races on Lake Merced, the team met its goal with five BHS boats heading to Scholastic Nationals in New Jersey on May 27.
Selena Cortez, a senior in Academic Choice (AC) on the BHS womens varsity team, spoke to the opportunity that Scholastic Regionals presented, saying, “BHS has a reputation for being the underdogs, so Regionals really allowed us to prove ourselves.” With five strong entries in the Women’s Varsity categories, the Women’s Varsity 8+ and Women’s Lightweight 4x placed first in their heats. The Women’s V8+ raced head-to-head with one other team, Saint Ignatius College Preperatory. These two boats repeatedly faced off through the season, and each felt determined to prove themselves in the final race. Cortez, who stroked the eight, spoke to the motivation and intensity of her boat, saying, “We put our all into it. We were head-to-head in the first thousand meters, and then after that we flew away from them. Our sprint was stronger than it had ever been.”
In one of the most exciting moments of the day, the Men’s Varsity 8+ overtook Saint Ignatius in the last five hundred meters of the race to claim first. Jaden Jessup, a senior in AC, revealed the mindset their boat held, saying, “All of us went in with the intention of winning. We really wanted to get the most out of it.”
Along with the successful finish for the Men’s 8+, the Mens Lightweight Varsity 8+ and Mens 2V8+ also qualified for Nationals. Regarding the optimism the team feels for the upcoming regatta, Jessup said, “We are all feeling excited to go to New Jersey and compete with teams from across the country.”
The day’s races were all dedicated to a beloved member of the Varsity Men’s Crew team who tragically passed earlier that week. Kai Mitchell, a junior in Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS) and a varsity rower, spoke about the memorial that was held. “In order to honor him we felt it was only right to row with seven people and leave his seat in the boat open. It was difficult but it was the closure that many of us needed,” he said. To show support, rowers from all teams stood by the water as the boat rowed down. “That hit me pretty hard. I had already gone into that weekend knowing that I was going to cry. Personally I felt like I hadn’t grieved how I should have so [the memorial] was an important step for me,” said Cortez.