Stotesbury Cup Regatta

John Knebels
Sports Columnist

The disappointment in his voice was evident.

After St. Joseph’s Preparatory School finished third this weekend in the Stotesbury Cup Regatta’s varsity eight race on the Schuylkill River, a few days of reflection did little to assuage the pit in Lou Lombardi’s stomach.

When nothing else but finishing first is an annual expectation, the fallout can be rather nasty.

“We have a commitment to excellence, and there is nothing wrong with that,” said Lombardi, a senior coxswain who just started rowing in the spring of his freshman year. “It’s the environment you are raised in.

“When you go to (Boathouse Row) and see all the banners with the numbers of the years that we have won, it’s almost as though it’s chronological year after year. There is an atmosphere that is very clear, and even though there is pressure to perform well, it’s a good kind of pressure.”

Having won six of the past 12 Stotesbury Cups, including last year, when the Prep’s varsity eight emerged undefeated before losing in the semifinals at Henley in England, there is really no such thing as being an underdog.

Considering that only three of last year’s varsity eight returned (Lombardi, Dean Hill and John McGrorty), that might not be fair.

To their credit, no one from the Prep is complaining.

“When you have a reputation for winning, those expectations hit you as early as freshman year,” said third-year Prep coach Jim Glavin, a 1965 alum. “It’s actually more of a compliment, but understandably, there is pressure that comes with that.

“In the end, though, if you know that you raced your best race, you have to accept the outcome. If you didn’t win, you have to move to the next challenge and let the past go.”

Lombardi, a product of Huntingdon Valley’s St. Albert the Great Parish, said he and his teammates have benefited from Glavin’s approach.

“Coach tells us that yesterday is yesterday, and today has a different focus,” Lombardi said. “You can’t dwell on anything. It’s a good philosophy.”

Lombardi said he knew the Prep wasn’t going to place first with about 650 meters left because St. Alban’s (Washington, D.C.) was too far ahead. But St. Andrew’s (Del.) was within the Prep’s sight. However, the Prep ultimately finished a few inches behind St. Andrew’s for a disappointing third-place finish.

Hence the long faces for the next few days.

“At the varsity eight level, every crew is talented and exceptional,” Lombardi said. “Sometimes you don’t race your best race, and that’s what happened with us. We did great (in the preliminaries) but didn’t get the job done.”

However, all was not lost. Hardly. The Prep was victorious in the freshman, junior and lightweight races, so the future looks bright.

Plus, the Prep still has plenty of incentive remaining. This weekend along New Jersey’s Cooper River is Nationals.

“We will screw our head on tight and try to win it,” Lombardi said. “I think we have a good chance. For a lot of our team, that was their first Stotes. There was pressure on them because they hadn’t done it before. Now they have that experience and that can only help.”

And looking to the future, little seems to be changing on the horizon.

“I love it when those younger guys do that well,” Lombardi said. “It means that the program is in great hands after we leave here.”

John Knebels can be reached at