Only in sports can it be considered complimentary to call a 14-year-old girl a beast.
That's what happened when St. Anthony's ninth-grader Lauren Bunici cracked the halfway point of the women's freshman race in the Strong Island Sprints regatta Sunday at St. Anthony's. With Bone Crusher's "Never Scared" blaring in her headphones and teammate Emily Nichols yelling "Beast it out," the soft-spoken Bunici went all-out. She pulled herself from third place down the stretch to win the 2,000-meter race.
"She calls me 'The Beast' because she thinks I'm really good," Bunici said of her pal and pseudo coxswain. The numbers agree. She finished in 8:08, three seconds ahead of second place and three seconds better than her previous best.
"It's a power-endurance thing," coach Liz Koenig said. "If they go out too strong, they'll get oxygen deprivation and struggle. What Lauren did well was pace herself and then push it at the end."
Friends Academy's Nina Vascotto owned the women's senior circuit, winning the varsity race with a personal-best of 7:28.8. That, after dominating the novice bracket last year as a freshman.
"She's only been rowing for a year and she's faster than a lot of seniors," her coach Jason Moskowitz said.
"It wasn't so much about winning as it was getting under a 7:30," said Vascotto, who finished ahead of Manhasset's Ali Margherio (7:30.2). "When I finished I was like, 'Oh, my God, I'm tired' . . . It's exciting at first, then you calm down and realize you don't feel well."
Winter regattas are held indoors and performed on Erg simulators, machines that work the same muscles as rowing but can be more strenuous than oars.
Manhasset sophomore Chris Soyak was taken to the hospital with dehydration after placing second in the men's novice race and St. Anthony's Gavin Piccione received oxygen for more than a half-hour from on-site EMS workers.
"On a boat, you have teammates to pick you up if you're [tiring]," Manhasset coach Hugo Guardado said. "Here, you're on your own and you see your numbers, so everyone pushes themselves to the max."
Liam Collins of Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) won the men's varsity race (6:32.4) and Max Deem (Long Island Rowing Club) took the novice race in 7:07.7. St. John the Baptist teammates Chris Cordillo (3:48.3) and Mike Vanchieri (3:59.7) placed first and second in the men's coxswain 1,000.