The endless, if not occasionally frustrating, quest for perfection continued last weekend for Blake Skidmore and the Upper Arlington High School rowing team.
Skidmore is one of a handful of rowers back from last year's team that recorded three top-six finishes -- two for boys boats and one for the girls -- in the Scholastic Rowing Association of America Championships Regatta. No one who guided the boys varsity 8 to third place at the SRAA Championships rowed in that event during the season-opening Cincinnati High School Invitational on April 13 at Harsha Lake, and in that regatta the varsity 8 consisted of all four of the team's seniors -- including coxswain Aurora Scherl -- as well as one junior and four sophomores.
"I see a lot of potential," said Skidmore, a senior along with Austin Martin and Matt Shepard. "They're just not as experienced, but I'll hand it to our young guys. For their age and experience, they're really fast. A lot of it is just the form and technique. A lot of people don't realize the necessary technique. No matter how long you row, you're never going to have a perfect stroke. It's an endless progression of trying to get closer to that perfect stroke, even if you're never going to hit it."
The boys varsity 8, which also included junior Matt Giammar and sophomores Will Holsinger, Peter Spofforth, Aidan Vanek and Thomas Wolfe, did not make the final April 13. The boys team's best finish came from the first novice 8, which placed sixth in 7 minutes, 28.3 seconds.
Other expected top contributors for first-year coach Greg Harvie include junior Peter Johanni and sophomores Nick Blain, Gabe Deak, Ryan Hervey, Jake Kamerer, Ben Rigney-Carroll and Marco Seiber, Alain Welliver and Nate Worrel.
Other coxswains for the boys team, which has 46 rowers in the program, are sophomores Will Gray and Sam Wyzlic.
Harvie was an assistant coach for the Golden Bears last season and took over as head coach last winter when Andy Wimmer stepped down after three seasons.
"I'm interested to see where these young guys will take us," Harvie said. "The sophomores have seen the light in terms of what it takes to make the 'A' boat, not just in terms of coachability and technique, but learning how to work the rowing machines, get better performances and push themselves beyond what they thought they could do. Some of them are still trying to figure that out, and that's OK.
"My goal is to get all of them on the same page. We're definitely in a developmental stage, but it will only make us that much stronger in the future. That doesn't mean I'll downplay anything this season, but we'll see what happens."
Coxswain Joey Boschert, an Oklahoma commit, and Washington recruit Mikayla Messinger help lead a 13-member senior class for the girls team, which got a seventh-place finish from its varsity 8 (7:38.7) on April 13.
Boschert and Messinger were joined on that boat by seniors Elena Moehring and Yoon Seo Lee, juniors Ainsley Dean, Olivia Hench, Calista Hundley and Avery Kelley and sophomore Alana DeVilbiss.
UA's first novice 8 was fourth (7:46.8).
"(The seniors) are sprinkled across the team in different boats," said first-year girls coach Lauren Peck, whose side of the program has 70 rowers. "It will help us go for a more consistent style all across the boats, especially with the really strong novice class we have coming in."
Peck had been an assistant coach at UA since 2016 and is the girls team's third head coach in three seasons, succeeding Lia Snell-Rivalsky last season and Amanda Jones in 2017.
Other varsity rowers for the girls team include seniors Sarah Boehm, Lindsey Hondroulis, Sophie Leanza and Kayva Pamulapati and sophomores Ava Chatlos, Penelope Clark and Lindsey Hjelle.
Juniors Gaia Phillips and June Postalakis, sophomores Caitlin Curran, Gia Kistner and Josie Stewart and freshmen Alaina Thompson and Madeline Webb are the girls team's other coxswains.
"We've been focusing on strengthening technique and transferring that to being faster in the boat and building up our speed, which transfers to the regatta days and strengthening our team as a whole," Messinger said.
Boys lacrosse team honors former captains
The boys lacrosse team's uniforms this season are adorned with patches that say "Family" and "3132" with the Golden Bear logo, in honor of two former players who are fighting brain cancer.
Ned Smith, a 1999 graduate who went on to play at Yale, and Kyle Vesper, a 2011 graduate who played at Denison, wore Nos. 31 and 32, respectively, at UA.
Vesper was the Bears' honorary captain during their 18-0 win over Marysville on April 10 at Wellington.
Coach Kyle Olson said last week that whether Smith, who lives in the Chicago area, will be able to attend a game this season depends on his condition. Olson and Smith were teammates during the 1998 and 1999 seasons.
"They're fighting with everything they've got," Olson said. "The decal is a very small gesture ... but they are big parts of this family. As (longtime UA) coach (Ted) Wolford preached and I preach, 'Once a Golden Bear, always a Golden Bear.' From kindergarteners to alumni living all over the country, they're all a part of it."
The Bears were 8-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Newark on April 16.
UA, which also defeated Pickerington North 17-5 on April 11, will take on Culver (Indiana) Academies on Saturday, April 20, at Ohio State. The game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m., roughly an hour after the Big Ten game between the Buckeyes and Maryland concludes.
According to Olson, this will be the first high school game played at Ohio Stadium.
It also will be Upper Arlington Lacrosse Association Day, as UALA players will have a short game at halftime of the OSU-Maryland contest and will be on the field to greet Buckeyes players.
Girls team rebounds from early loss
After opening its season with a rare loss, the girls lacrosse team averaged 13.7 goals in its next five games -- in which it went unbeaten with one tie.
UA was 6-1-1 overall before playing Olentangy Liberty on April 17 and is 3-0 in the OCC-Central.
After its 42-game winning streak was snapped with an 8-5 loss at DeSales on March 21, the Bears rebounded with wins over Pickerington Central (18-4 on April 4), Northbrook (Illinois) Glenbrook North (13-8 on April 6), Marysville (20-1 on April 9) and Pickerington North (18-0 on April 11) and swept two games in the Hannigan-Galipault Tournament on April 13 at Thomas Worthington, defeating the host Cardinals 12-6 and Hudson 7-5.
Also during that stretch, UA tied host Winnetka (Illinois) New Trier at 8 on April 6. New Trier was ranked 24th nationally by MaxPreps as of April 14.
Sophie Ballou had a team-high 25 goals through eight games. Ellena Schildmeyer had 18 goals and Camryn Callaghan had 13.
UA continues its season Saturday, April 20, at Tremont Elementary against New Albany in a rematch of last year's Division I state championship game, which the Bears won 11-5.