She’d been wobbling on the decision like a novice sculler awash in whitecaps. Gevvie Stone had collected an Olympic silver medal two summers ago in Rio de Janeiro. Now she was a full-time emergency medical resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, sculling whenever she could. Did she want to set aside her scrubs for a couple of years for a third go at Olympus? Or hang up her competitive oars for good?
“It was a long process and I wavered back and forth, at one point deciding that’s it, I’m done. I’ve had a good run, I’m not going to do it,” the Newton native said. “Then I told three people and every time I told them I’d start to cry. Then one of them said, you should just tell someone you’re going to keep rowing and see how you react. So I told someone I was going to keep going and I got so excited I got butterflies again.”
So at the beginning of the year she told her residency director that she was going to make a diversion in the direction of Tokyo and 2020 and got back in her racing shell. And Saturday afternoon the 33-year-old Stone blew away the field to win her record ninth women’s singles crown at the 54th Head Of The Charles Regatta and her fifth in a row.
Stone, who beat US world-teamer Kara Kohler by more than half a minute in 18 minutes 59.687 seconds, likely would have won anyway after taking a lead of nearly seven seconds at Weld Boathouse midway along the 3-mile upstream course. But when Kohler, who was fourth at last month’s world regatta, had a too-close encounter with a men’s lightweight sculler along Dead Man’s Curve heading toward the Cambridge Boat Club, Stone was all by herself for good. “I knew Kara would be fast,” she said. “Unfortunately she had that run-in, which is a bummer because you want your competition to have their best race, too.”
On the men’s side, Ben Davison wasn’t anywhere near such a predictable victor, especially coming out of the 26th starting spot in the 31-man field. But the Washington undergrad, who rowed in the Huskies’ varsity eight here the last two years, powered his way to a five-second triumph over Harvard grad Andrew Campbell, the course recordholder who won the global bronze medal in the lightweight single.
Davison, who rowed with John Graves (third here) in the US double at worlds, could have raced in the Washington eight in Sunday afternoon’s championship event. But since he has the Tokyo Games in mind, coach Mike Callahan gave him the option of competing in the single against a field that included the Rio gold and silver medalists in New Zealand’s Mahe Drysdale, a three-time champion here, and Croatia’s Damir Martin.
“I said, it’s your senior year, you’ve already won the championship eight a couple of years ago,” said Callahan. “Why don’t you try it here? It was great to see him have a statement win.”
The conditions weren’t terribly favorable for someone having to work his way through the field. “We told him, you’re going to have a lot of traffic,” his coach said. “A lot of things have to go your way.”
But Davison, who’d been training on lumpy water in Seattle for the last couple of weeks, wasn’t bothered by the changing winds. “There were a lot of rolls and a lot of bump but honestly I’ve been rowing on Lake Washington for the past two weeks so this was beautiful for me,” he said. “I wasn’t looking for flat water, just being OK with rolling around. So I just stayed on top of it and kept it moving.”
Davison knew he was moving briskly but had no idea how fast he was going. “I felt I could be doing decently well but I had no idea speed-wise,” he said. “I came across the line and Coach yelled at me and gave me a 1. There still were results to come, through, so I found out when I came into the dock.”
In the championship doubles, Nathan Lado and Wesley Vear from the Craftsbury (Vt.) Rowing Center startled the men’s field, beating three-time former champions Tom and Peter Graves by more than five seconds in 17:02.285. On the women’s side Maureen McAuliffe and Lily Keane became the first champions to repeat in 11 years, outracing Jenifer Forbes and Elizabeth Sonshine by more than a second in 18:23.975.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.