PNRA/Mercer Rowers Medal at USRowing Youth National Championships


West Windsor, NJ – Princeton National Rowing Association’s Mercer Rowing Club (PNRA/Mercer) rowers won a silver medal in the Women’s Youth Eight plus coxswain event and a bronze medal in the Women’s Youth Lightweight Eight plus coxswain event at the USRowing Youth National Championships on June 13-15 at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida.  The National Championships featured more than 1700 athletes from 163 clubs and high school rowing programs from 30 states competing in 18 sweep rowing and sculling categories.  All five PNRA/Mercer boats competed in the finals on Sunday in their respective categories.

2015 PNRA Mercer Youth Nationals Medal Winners a

“When Coach Ted (Sobolewski) came to coach Mercer in fall of 2012, he told us our goal is to win a medal in the premier Women’s Youth Eight event, even though we never even had a girl’s open eight crew reach the Grand Final at Nationals,” said team co-captain senior Rena White (Princeton High School) who will be rowing at Stanford University in the fall.  “It seemed like a really lofty goal at the time, but we achieved it within three years.”  In addition to White, the crew included co-captain senior Hayley Bork (Robbinsville High School) who will row at UCLA in the fall, senior Alex Natale (The Hun School) who will row at the University of Virginia in the fall, seniors Kelly Fischer who will row at the University of Notre Dame next year and Badia Shehab who will row at the University of Tennessee in the fall (both from Hopewell Valley Central High School), juniors Kate Hickey (Notre Dame High School) and Caitlin Cleary (Princeton High School), sophomore Katie Lustig (Council Rock North High School) and coxswain senior Kate Edmondson (Westfield High School) who will cox at the University of Miami in the fall.

A thunderstorm on Friday night cancelled races and resulted in a more grueling regatta schedule for the Women’s Youth Eight category:  both the Semifinal and Final races were held on Sunday.  The Grand Final race thrilled the crowd with some spectators shaking their heads in disbelief at the rowers’ endurance and tenacity.  PNRA/Mercer was in fourth and fifth place early in the race but moved into third place behind Saugatuck Rowing Club (Connecticut) and Holy Names Academy (Washington) half-way through the 2000-meter race.  Just before the 1500-meter mark, PNRA/Mercer pulled ahead of Holy Names and continued to gain on Saugatuck through the last 500-meters.  The commentator noted a 42-stroke rate by Saugatuck and momentum from PNRA/Mercer that seemed to lift the bow of the boat out of the water on every stroke.  As the race ended, PNRA/Mercer clinched the silver medal spot, missing the National Championship by less than 1.4 seconds.

The PNRA/Mercer crew has surprised the rowing community with its success despite the small stature of the girls relative to many of the other crews reaching the Grand Final.  The girls credit Coach Sobolewski for teaching them precision in rowing technique and emphasizing strength training and conditioning, all of which were critical to their success in the heat and humidity of Florida in June.

“Coach Ted has instilled a winning attitude in all of us, which is something that I will carry with me in all aspects of my life” says senior Katarina Stough (Princeton High School), the coxswain for the bronze-medal winning Women’s Youth Lightweight  Eight who will cox for Georgetown University next year.  Along with White, Stough is the only five-year veteran on the girls’ team; both started with PNRA/Mercer when they were in eighth grade.

Stough provided leadership for the lightweight crew which included several underclassmen competing at the national level for the first time.  The lightweight crew showed tremendous poise, winning their heat on Friday and going straight to the Semifinal round on Saturday.  In the Grand Final on Sunday, the crew clinched the bronze medal and trailed the silver medal winner by only 0.4 seconds.  Rowers in PNRA/Mercer’s lightweight eight were: senior Hannah Ash (Princeton High School) who will swim for Occidental College in the fall, freshman Sara Hansen and junior Eileen Hu (both from West Windsor- Plainsboro South), juniors Elise Gorberg (West Windsor-Plainsboro North), Jenna Kugel (Montgomery High School), as well as sisters junior Kathryn Miller and sophomore Lauren Miller (Steinert High School) and sophomore Celia Varga (Princeton Day School).

Rounding out the girls’ accomplishments at Youth Nationals, PNRA/Mercer finished 13th in the nation in Women’s Youth Four with coxswain category.  The boat included senior Lauren Colanduoni (Hopewell Valley Central) who will row for the University of Alabama, senior Megan Botsch (Robbinsville High School) who will row for the University of Delaware, junior Rachel Mumau (Millstone Township), freshman Bridget Parker (Princeton High School) and junior coxswain Sydney Holgado (Robbinsville High School).  Sophomore Laila Shehab (Hopewell Valley Central High School) was PNRA/Mercer’s alternate rower for Youth Nationals.

The PNRA/Mercer boys are seeing their own progress under first-year coach Justin Ochal, who was a collegiate teammate of Sobolewski at Northeastern University and shares his coaching philosophy.  PNRA/Mercer finished 11th in the nation in the Men’s Youth Eight with coxswain category and finished 12th in the nation in the Men’s Youth Lightweight Four with coxswain.

The PNRA/Mercer Men’s Youth Eight boat included senior co-captain Elias Abilheira who will row for Cornell University, senior Alex Levine who will row for Princeton University (both from Princeton High School), senior Dan Gleim (West Windsor-Plainsboro South) who will row for Jacksonville University, senior Scott Hanks (The Hun School) who will row for Hobart University, senior Aaron Goodman (Princeton High School) who will row for Northeastern University, junior Kevin Borup (South Brunswick High School), junior John Tanguay (Hopewell Valley Central), sophomores Carter Levine (Princeton High School), coxswain co-captain senior Matt Perez (Robbinsville High School) who will cox for Northeastern University as well as junior Jason Fleurial (Princeton High School) as the alternate rower.  The Men’s Youth Lightweight 4 included senior Mark Hayton (Hopewell Valley Central) who will attend Rutgers University, senior Ron Haines (Hamilton High West) who will row for the University of Delaware, senior Griffin Petri (West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South) who will attend Arizona State University, sophomore Andrew Hickey (Notre Dame High School) and coxswain junior Nikhil Modi (West Windsor Plainsboro South).

About the Princeton National Rowing Association

The Princeton National Rowing Association, a 501(c)3 organization, operates the Finn M.W. Caspersen Rowing Center located on the shores of Mercer Lake, Mercer County Park in West Windsor, New Jersey.  The Princeton National Rowing Association is dedicated to operating a world-class training site for our nation’s elite athletes, providing opportunities for area youth to excel in the sport of rowing and to expand rowing in the area through community-based programs.  PNRA runs the Mercer Junior Rowing Program which provides rowing opportunities for youth from over 30 area schools and the Mercer Masters Rowing Program which provides rowing opportunities for adults.  The center is a home to the USRowing National and Olympic Teams, as well as rowing clubs and schools. PNRA received generous support from University Orthopaedic Associates, Resolute Racing Shells, Swift Racing, Hampton Inn and Residence Inn by Marriott.


For more information, contact Kristopher Grudt, tel: 609-977-1094, or visit