The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

Freshmen Girls Row for Gold

Photography//Sandra Vyge

Five freshmen girls–Whitney Vyge, Julie Belk, Helen McLaughlin, Naomi Woidka, and Ava Hans–secured a gold medal in the annual VASRA (Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association) State Regatta on Saturday, May 4, beating out other freshmen in the heat in only their first season of rowing for the school.  

The crew team is no stranger to medaling in large competitions–in the last two seasons alone, boats have placed at States, Nationals, and Stotesbury, one of the country’s largest regattas–but winning gold is a highly laudable feat. After dedicating countless hours of practice to technique, endurance, strength, and race preparation, the girls started to see their improvement manifest on the water. 

“[Throughout the season], we just started winning,” freshman Julie Belk said. “We won the two races leading up to states. We were feeling ourselves.” 

The day of the regatta, rowers packed onto the bus to travel to the Head of the Occoquan, where the team regularly races. Even though a large part of the competition was made up of highly-regarded private school programs, the girls were not as anxious as they were enthusiastic to show the results of their training. 

“We weren’t really that nervous,” Belk said. “It was one heat, so whatever happens, happens.” 

Rushing past the finish line screaming with joy was an exhilarating way to end their first ever season, but the girls were feeling just as much gratitude as they were pride, especially when seeing the beaming face of their coach, Chris Mantyla, who had rowed for Stone Bridge two years prior.

“We want to thank Chris,” freshman Whitney Vyge said. “All of the coaches, too. They definitely pushed us a lot.”

Most of the girls will be returning next season and could not be more excited to step foot in Algonkian Park once again, even in the face of exhaustion from the long days, competitive lineup changes, and intense workouts.

It was one heat, so whatever happens, happens. 

— Julie Belk

“It’s definitely mental,” freshman Phoenix Harvey said. “You’re going to have bad days, and you just have to make up for it.”

When it comes to future athletes, the rowers have nothing but positive advice and encouragement for interested students to join the team. Rowing brought each athlete an immense amount of joy, determination, and passion to continue throughout the rest of high school and beyond. 

“It’s such a time commitment, but it’s so worth it,” Harvey said. “Choose rowing over any sport.”

About the Contributor
Addy Cowley
Addy Cowley, Editor-in-Chief
Addy Cowley is a senior and the "Bulldog Tribune"’s EIC, the president for Cards4Cause, and the secretary of Key Club. She grew up in four countries, where she acquired an obsession for travel and adventure. This past summer, she participated in the Washington Journalism and Media Conference, where she attended seminars preparing her this year. Addy loves to read historical nonfiction, rock climb, paint, and hang out with friends, and can often be found procrastinating on schoolwork or working at her favorite climbing gym.