Big Red makes history at Head of the Charles

Exeter's girls four boat wins first medal at the renowned rowing competition.

By
Brian Muldoon
October 25, 2021
Phillips Exeter Academy Crew

Edie Fisher '24, Jamie Reidy '24, Jacqueline Luque '22, Matilda Damon '23 and Charlotte Pulkkinen '22 celebrate their second-place medal on the Head of the Charles Regatta awards dais. 

Exeter girls crew made history Sunday at the Head of the Charles Regatta, racing to a second-place finish in the youth girls four championship, the first time Big Red has earned a medal at the famed regatta.

Exeter’s four of Jacqueline Luque ’22 (cox), Charlotte Pulkinnen ’22, Matilda Damon ’23, Jamie Reidy ’24 and Edie Fisher ’24 finished second in a field of 84 crews, covering the 5-kilometer course in 18 minutes, 53.539 seconds — less than a second behind the first-place boat.  

The Head of the Charles is the world’s largest regatta, with a field of hundreds of talented crews that draw thousands of spectators to the banks of Boston’s Charles River.

I’m just so excited for this group. They embraced the philosophy that you get faster for your teammates, were hungry to improve, and always seeking ways to perfect their form."
Coach Sally Morris

“I am beyond excited, happy and proud for the girls four,” said Big Red head coach Sally Morris. “I knew that they rowed well, and that they trained hard and loved to work hard and for each other. What I did not know was how fast they would be with respect to this international regatta, racing against top crews from around the world. My hands were shaking as I saw Phillips Exeter Academy at the head of the pack.”

Luque even received consistent praise of her performance on the live broadcast of the race.

“I’m just so excited for this group. They embraced the philosophy that you get faster for your teammates, were hungry to improve, and always seeking ways to perfect their form," Morris said. "I am so proud.”

The course, which winds through difficult turns and under narrow bridges filled with rowdy spectators, creates a tall task for any coxswain. The regatta is often referred to as the coxswain race. Luque answered the call in expert fashion.

“This crew has a tenacious, humble, intelligent, and confident coxswain in Jacqueline Luque," Morris said. "Jacqueline prepared her mind and soul for this race by careful study of the course, watching videos of previous races, and research into effective calls and strategic hull placement at each critical turn in the course. Without the keen line she executed over a three-mile, winding course, the boat would not have gone this fast.”

The boys four also enjoyed an incredibly strong performance for Big Red as a crew of Ryan Kim ’23 (cox), Weiyi Huang ’23, Haakon Kohler ’23, Alexander Galli ’22 and Justin Rigg '23 rowed to a 17th-place finish in a field of 84 boats with a time of 17:56.389.

The boys eight crew of Juno Cowans ’23 (cox), Ware Guite ’22, Carson Bloom ’22, Charlie Holtz ’23, Shrayes Upadhyayula ’22, Mikey Bean ’22, Andreas Lorgen ’22, Parker Seymour ’23 and Alex Luque ’22 was 53rd with a time of 16:55.002. The girls eight crew of Veruka Salomone ’23, Michelle Park ’22, Emma Lyle ’22, Lucy Weil ’22, Ellie Ana Sperantsas ’24, Jancie Robbins ’23, Hannah Vogel ’23, Vedika Amin ’24, Liza McMahan ’22 and Cindy Su ’23 rounded out Big Red’s effort with a 54th-place finish, crossing the line at 19:41.812.