SARASOTA, Florida -- Winning its second consecutive SSC Championship this afternoon at Nathan Benderson Park, No. 3 Florida Tech has now tied Barry for most conference titles with seven. The crown also marks the second of head coach Adam Thorstad's career, which began back in the 2006-2007 season, where he guided the Panthers to a second place finish and won his first SSC Coach of the Year award.
"It was great to win one last year after 12 years, and I'm happy that I didn't have to wait for another 12 to win the second one", said head coach Adam Thorstad. "This past week has been a short week and we were trying to recover from SIRA's, but I'm proud of the ladies and the work that they have done this year. This has been one of the best squads I have had the opportunity to coach."
The SSC Women's Rowing Championship is based on a point system determined by an institutions finish in the V8 and V4 regattas, with the varsity eight receiving more points for placement of finish. This year, there were six institutions that competed for this year's points trophy.
Taking the water this morning, the Panther's had one thing in mind, gold, as they ran through their race plans to finish first as a team with 18 points ahead of conference rival Barry (17). The one point differential between both first and second place crews has happened only one other time in the history of the Sunshine State Conference Women's Rowing Championship since its inaugural year back in 1997.
During the time frame from which the SSC Championship began and continuing until the present day, the Panthers have brought home conference titles in 1997, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2017, and 2018.
Heading into today's competition, some might have questioned whether the V4 was capable enough of holding its own during the conference finals at the beginning of the 2018 campaign. However, over the course of the season, they have made major improvements which paid off during the Varsity 4 event. The crew of coxswain Summer Rhodes, Shaula Rey, Taylor Greene, Emily Hall, and Allyson McCarron took home the silver after finishing ahead of Rollins (7:32.38), Nova (7:35.57), Tampa (8:03.09), and Embry-Riddle (8:19.75). The second-place finish gave the Panthers six points to put towards the team's overall total, which put the FIT in a good spot headed into the Varsity 8 event.
Taking a look at the race itself, the Bucs got off to a strong start and held a three-quarter boat-length lead throughout the first 1000-meters. Behind Barry, FIT was even with Rollins through the first 500 but eventually increased to half a boat lead at the 1000-meter mark to edge out the second spot. In the last 500 meters, Barry increased its lead further and held a boat length lead over the Panthers, who also maintained the same distance ahead of Rollins.
With the possibility of a second consecutive conference title on the line, everything rested on the shoulders of coxswain Taylor Stoni, Natalia Arasa Bonavila, Federica Pala, Theresa Gadilhe, Anna Kayser Gallego, Julie McCarthy, Irina Djurovic, Svetlana Ristin and GraysenPensch for what is termed as the premier race inside the Sunshine State Conference. The young yet experienced crew has been impressive this season and continued to be during the finals race, where it edged Barry by 0:00.20 tenths of a second for a photo finish and 2018 SSC Championship Title.
The race started off strong for FIT, as it led at the 250 meter-mark all the way through 750 until Barry increased its rate to bring the shells bow even. From there, both crews remained neck and neck headed into the remaining 500 meters, as the coxswains tested one another in a dead sprint to the finish line at 39 and a half strokes per minute. Across the finish line, the Panthers boat completed the 200-meter buoyed race course with a time of 6:44.20 and grasped 12 points to edge the Buccaneers for the 2018 crown.
When asked about the V8's performance, coach Thorstad said, "The 8 didn't have its best race of the season, but did what it had to do to finish first. However, I am happy with the way this crew has executed throughout the entire year, it has shown much resilience and grit in all of its races."
Upon the completion of today's regattas, No. 3 Florida Tech had four student-athletes named to All-SSC teams. Making the All-Freshman/Novice team, Kayser Gallego represented Florida Tech among six other rowers who were selected inside the conference. The recognition marks the first of the young Panthers career.
Returning to the All-SSC team, Stoni, Arasa Bonavila, and Pala all received their second nomination, first being last year after the team won the 2017 title.
Next, the Panthers will travel to Philadelphia for the Dad Vail Regatta on Friday, May 11-12 held on the Schuylkill River.