SPS Today: Anniversary Boat Races

Halcyon clinches third Anniversary victory in a row

Tenley Rooney


As formmates Webster Thompson ’16 and Nick Scott-Hearn ’16 approached the Crumpacker Boat House to browse the lineup for the annual Halcyon/Shattuck Boat Races, a familiar voice thundered above the others. Though out of sight, Thompson and Scott-Hearn knew immediately it was their former crew coach, Chip Campbell.

“It brings back all these memories,” recalled Scott-Hearn. “It makes me miss it all. His voice will be ringing in my head for the rest of my days.” Campbell’s voice continued to boom from the docks as he called forward the Halcyon and Shattuck eights to launch for the 148th meeting between the two clubs on June 1. Though Shattuck seems to be the perennial favorite in the matchup, Halcyon has rewritten the script in recent years. They had claimed the Lester C. Dole Cup for two years in a row, prior to this year’s meeting. By afternoon’s end, they would again raise their oars atop the Flagpole, marking them as victors of the majority of Anniversary Weekend races.

The crimson crew came into the weekend with momentum, with both the boys and girls varsity rowers still savoring a successful outing at the New England Interscholastic Rowing Association Championships the week before in Worcester, Mass. The girls first crew claimed its third New England victory in a row, while the boys first boat secured silver. When it comes to club races, the regular-season lineups are splintered, pitting varsity boatmates against each other. Shattuck Neel Banerjee ’19, a four-year rower at the School, enjoys the change on the water.

“This year, I get to row with a lot of the same guys I started with,” Banerjee said of rejoining friends Larson Avery ’20, Ery Kehaya ’20, Eren Keles ’19, and Elena Guild ’19 in the boat. “It’s nostalgic.” Fellow Shattuck Elo Catlin ’19 relishes suiting up on Anniversary Weekend. Like her grandfather, Loring Catlin ’59, she is a first boat Shattuck and also has a seat in the girls varsity first boat. Though unable to row, the elder Catlin, sporting his original Shattuck blazer, secured a position along the shoreline to cheer on his granddaughter and their club.

The boys first Halcyon boat held seven of the eight members of the boys first crew. On the girls side, Shattuck and Halcyon appeared evenly matched, with top oarswomen from the varsity. The spirited racing in the first boat sprint emphasized the competitive matchup. Girls coxswains Mari Nakamura ’19 (Halcyon) and Claire Yoo ’20 (Shattuck) pushed their crews aggressively, swapping 34- to 35-strokes-per-minute rates along the mile-long course. The boats went bow ball to bow ball as they cleared the I-89 overpass with the finish line in sight. Then, Halcyon broke away, gaining open water. Their final time of 5:27 was within 2.7 seconds of the course record set by the Shattuck girls in 2016.

As the first boat Halcyon and Shattuck boys sat down course preparing to spring forward, members of their respective second boats rushed to the shoreline. Within the first 250 meters, both boys boats were side by side, and then Halcyon started to make its move. A lead of two seats soon became half a length. Halcyon crossed the finish line a boat length ahead of Shattuck. Nearby, Annie Lee ’19 and Catherine Reynolds ’19 soaked in the atmosphere of their final Halcyon race together.

“It’s sentimental racing down the course for the last time,” said Lee. “We haven’t thought about that. When we’re rowing well, I think it feels so connected, and everything else shuts down around you. It’s not always like that, but when you can find that sort of sense of peace, it’s pretty amazing.” Among the forms who sent boats out onto the water were 1954, 1969, 1974, 1979, 1994, 1999, and 2014. As the 50th Anniversary crew from the Form of 1969 proved, those connections in the boat rekindle on Anniversary Weekend. Some pursued rowing at Princeton and Harvard, but said those collegiate boats couldn’t compare to the synchronicity the eight SPS oarsmen and their coxswain, Chris Ross ’69, achieved together.

“There’s a very special feeling when you’re all rowing in sync,” explained Charlie Scribner ’69, who rowed in his first year at Princeton. “The boat is planing over the water; there’s not a feeling better in the world. It’s incredible, and I only achieved it here at St. Paul’s.”

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