ACHS Girls' Crew Team Wins National Championship

The Scholastic Rowing Association Regatta win comes as the crowning achievement of the girls' team season. Atlantic City High School Girls Crew Coach Sean Duffey said the team has had a few challenging seasons, but bounced back in recent years.

ACHS Girls' Crew Team Wins National Championship

ATLANTIC CITY — The Atlantic City High School girls' crew team won the Scholastic Rowing Association National Championship on Saturday, May 25, 2024, in Pennsauken, New Jersey.

The win was the crowning achievement of the girls’ season. Atlantic City High School Girls Crew Head Coach Sean Duffey said the team has had a few challenging seasons but bounced back in recent years. They won the Junior 8 category (for students who are 17 years old and younger), which is highly competitive.

Collage of Girls Crew Team Won National Championship May 25, 2024

“This is a huge win for our program,” said Duffey. “I don’t think ACHS crew has ever had such a diverse team that has won.”  Duffey said. “This boat is made up of girls from all different cultural backgrounds and have all grown up in different ways. However, they are all alike in the aspect that they want to train really hard for each other and win.”

Coxwain Tasnova Tayeba, who essentially functions as the boat captain, said the team knew they had a good chance of winning a medal. They started off slow, but halfway through the race, they pushed themselves to the limit. "The whole team wanted to empty the tank because it was our last race of the season," Tayeba said. Anna Tran and Lauren Fox, who were also members of the winning team, agreed.

"We were down and in the middle of the race, we just kicked in," Tran said. "We had a rough start. We had a great back half of the race, and we ended up winning by a couple of seconds," said Fox. Fox said she was surprised by the win, but not shocked. "We set out to do this on the first day of training and kept it in mind at every practice," Fox said. "We knew what was at stake. We wanted to prove something."

The team began turning heads this season, thanks, in part, to a new equipment investment made by the Board of Education, which included six brand new Vespoli High Performance Series racing boats, new sweats and new oars. The presentation of the new equipment was made on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, during a 3:30 p.m. ceremony at the Atlantic City Boathouse.

Board of Education Unveils New boats for Crew

The boats are among the most advanced and innovative in the rowing industry, according to the company's website. They are designed to reduce drag and increase speed. They feature a carbon fiber hull, a wing rigger system, a bow-mounted fin and custom paintwork. The oars are lighter and more durable than the ones the team used before. The district had not purchased new crew equipment in more than a decade.

New Vespoli Boat for ACHS

Duffey said removing the worry of equipment failure was a big help to the team. “As a coach it was significantly easier to manage practice and races as we were not repairing the equipment of the older worn-out boats daily,” Duffey said. “I was able to rig the boats and oars the way I needed to and never have to question if anything is off a little or has changed.”

Still, the team had seen recent success. They won the Atlantic County High School Rowing Championships last year on Lake Lenape in Mays Landing and finished the season ranked No. 2 in The Press Elite 11, behind Holy Spirit. 

“Last year our administrative team talked about what we could do to enhance our programs, not just our academic programs, our sports programs as well,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. La’Quetta S. Small said at the new boat unveiling ceremony. “This year we dedicated a certain amount of money to enhance and to improve our facilities as well as our athletic department and, using those resources, we were able to purchase six new boats for our crew team as well as the uniforms that the students have.” 

Duffey said the girls crew team had not won a national championship since 1996. “That was also in the Junior 8 category,” Duffey said. “The number of alumni reaching out has been incredible, showing how much Viking Pride they all still have.” Duffey said assistant coach Joy Cress, a member of the first Lady Viking Crew Team in 1976, had tears coming down her eyes as they won. He added, “Multiple alumni have sent text messages, called, and wrote messages to us through social media congratulating the team. A few of the rowers from the 96 boat even sent some congrats.”

“Awesome for the 8 girls and coxwain,” said Sarah Elizabeth on social media. “Strong rowers, new boats and oars have put ACHS, Atlantic City High School Crew Team on the map again. It takes a village. Great job ladies.” Eric Share also gave accolades. “Super amazing,” Share said. “Everyone should be so Proud and so happy.” #VikingPride.

According to Duffey, one of the best aspects of the weekend was the number of college coaches that congratulated the girls on their win and expressed interest in having them join their programs in the future. “Rowing in college can help these young ladies both financially, and become better prepared for their future,” Duffey said. “It is a special boat and was fun to watch all season. We are forever grateful for the ongoing support this administration has had for all sports, especially rowing.”

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