Crew team races in Head of the Charles Regatta


Adeliina Parikka

Seniors Lisa Popkov, Avery Kelley, Liz Whitehead, Leila Mamedova and junior Tamar Landesman race through the Eliot Bridge.

Jake Zucker, Staff Writer

The air around the Charles River was electric with excitement as visitors from all over the world crowded onto bridges to watch boats full of strong men and women race past. The Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR) was finally up and running, and the 225,000 who had come to the Boston area were eager to watch rowers from all over the world. The high school’s crew team participated in this world-renowned regatta.

The HOCR started in 1965, and it is the largest two-day regatta in the world. The race includes rowers from youth to Olympian level, and competition to race is fierce.

The crew team is a tight-knit community that works hard to do well in the HOCR. Their preparations for their Oct. 21 race started last season.

This year, a boys 8+ (boat of eight and a coxswain) finished in 40th place. Racing were seniors Caleb Barer, IK Agba, Tomer Kushner, Luc Jamous, Arman Marchiel and Conor Ross; juniors Arik Stolyarov and Kyle Makalusky; and sophomore Hugo Harington. The girls team had their top finish on record this year, as their 4+ (boat of four and a coxswain) finished seventh overall in the youth girls 4+ race. Seniors Lisa Popkov, Avery Kelley, Liz Whitehead, Leila Mamedova and junior Tamar Landesman competed.

Boats get the chance to race by finishing in the top half of their race the previous year or by getting selected in a lottery. Boys team captain IK Agba said that the top boat for the boys team managed to qualify this year, guaranteeing their entry in next year’s race.

“We raced an 8+ last year, and it didn’t qualify, so this year we just qualified, and we’re really happy about that,” Agba said.

Girls captain Liz Whitehead said that the chance to participate in the regatta is important to her.

I love the Head of the Charles Regatta because it makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself,” Whitehead said. “Knowing that I am racing against girls my age from England, Israel, Australia, Canada and all over the world gives the race a great sense of camaraderie to me.”

According to Agba, he has rowed since the spring of his freshman year, and now he practices with his team for 18 hours every week. The rowing community is one aspect of the team that Agba is especially fond of.

Jake Zucker

“These guys are my boys, that’s what I like about crew,” Agba said. “We’re a family now.”

The selection process for the HOCR is a focus of the practice time for fall crew.

“Selection for the boats begins in mid-September and continues up until about two weeks before the race itself,” Whitehead said. “We complete erg tests, and the coaches watch our performance on the water to determine what combination of people might best be able to move a boat.”

According to Whitehead, once the lineup for the boat is selected, the rowers separate from the main group.

“We do practice pieces and specific drills to improve on whatever our boat most struggles with on a given day and get direct feedback from the coaches and some video review,” Whitehead said.

Girls team captain Lisa Popkov said that practices occur at times that force the athletes to wake up early to go rowing in the cold weather.

Tina Little

“It takes a lot of grit, blistery hands and mental toughness,” Popkov said. “When most people are curled up in their beds early on a cold and rainy Saturday morning, our team is on the river, getting in practice hours.”

Crew is a sport that demands dedication, and Popkov said that her team works long, hard hours to be as successful as they are.

“Perseverance builds character, and I am lucky to say that my team has some of the hardest workers I have ever met,” Popkov said. “We don’t contribute, we commit.”