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Merion Mercy Academy Lightweight 4+ crew heads to Henley

Merion Station >> The Merion Mercy Academy Lightweight 4+ crew, which in the past month has won gold at Stotesbury, Scholastic Nationals and Youth Nationals, headed to England June 18 to compete for the Groton Cup in the world-famous Henley Women’s Regatta June 22-23.
Monday, more than 100 students, parents and alumnae – including members of MMA’s junior four with coxswain which won Henley gold in 2011 – came out to cheer on the Merion Mercy Lightweight 4+ the day before their departure for England.
The MMA Lightweight 4+ boat, consisting of senior coxswain Cece Wendel, junior stroke Phoebe DeVlieger, senior captain and 3 seat Izzie Begley, senior 2 seat Taylor Gregitis, senior bow Erin Welch and senior alternate Sophia Lamb, have proven to be the fastest Lightweight 4+ boat in the United States this spring.
At the Youth Nationals, the Merion Mercy Lightweight 4+ boat was competing against only a handful of high school teams – the vast majority of the competitors were powerful club teams, which traditionally defeat the scholastic squads in national competitions.
This marks the fourth trip to Henley for the Merion Mercy program, which is remarkable considering the MMA crew team consists of only six boats and 36 rowers, 10 of which are freshman.
“These [six] girls going to Henley are just a reminder that dreams do come true,” Merion Mercy crew head coach Mike Brown told the crowd of fans at MMA Monday. “These girls are rested, tested and they’ve never been bested.”
“We definitely had an advantage going into this [spring] season because we’ve been best friends for the past four years, and have had great times together, are so bonded and so close,” said Begley, who will row for Syracuse University in the fall. “To have this experience to cap it all off is amazing. I don’t even see myself as a team captain because everyone [on the team] just steps up and plays their part as much as they’re supposed to.”
Welch, who is headed to Boston University for crew in the fall, said, “I’m so incredibly honored to race in England; these are my five best friends, and to see the crew alumnae here tonight [Monday] is really such an honor. Our program’s pretty young, only 15 years old, but to have the support of [the Monday crowd] is such a great backbone for us. We don’t row for ourselves; we row on the shoulders of those who came here [to MMA] before us and we’re really honored to do that at Henley.”
“I think it’s great to see the support of all our family and friends [Monday],” said Gregitis, who will row for University of North Carolina in the fall. “Even though it’s only five of us going down [the water] in the boat, we always talk about how all the work we put into it, it’s really the entire Merion Mercy family going down there with us, and we’re excited to take that to England with us.”
“It was amazing to win this trifecta this spring, especially because these girls are my best friends,” said Wendel, who will row for the University of Washington crew team in the fall. “The course at Henley is awesome, and it’s a really special place to row.”
DeVlieger, whose sister Maggie competed at Henley for MMA in 2012, said, “Maggie always told me great things about the experience, and how it made her experience at Merion Mercy that much more special. She showed me how important it was to carry [her experience] forward.”
Lamb, who will row for Drexel University in the fall, like DeVlieger has an older sister who rowed for MMA at Henley (Morgan Lamb, 2017).
“All season, I’ve been supporting [the Lightweight 4+] in any way that I can; it’s been amazing to watch their successes, and knowing that any way that I’m helping them out is getting them closer to their goals. We’re all best friends; it’s been great to see what they’re capable of [this spring], and I’m really excited to see what they can do at Henley.”

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