SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – If you row in your final fall regatta on Fish Creek and it’s a time trial-style head race called the Head of the Fish and it rains throughout the day and you are as wet as a fish, if you win your respective category it only makes sense that you go home with a fish head.
For the more than 100 winners over the weekend, a fast time covering the 2.3 mile course from above the Stafford Bridge and finishing a few hundred yards in front of the Route 9P Bridge, you will be awarded with the most interesting trophy in sports – a mounted fish head.
It is a goal, for some it is a dream and for some, it kind of freaks them out.
“I think it’s a big part of it, but I also think for the fall this is our shortest race that we do and after this we go into winter training,” Greenwich Crew (Connecticut) lightweight rower Rachel Korzendorfer said. “This gives us a really good taste of spring racing and helps give us a lot of momentum to get through winter.
“It’s a really fun race to see how fast you can go and what we can do. We all go in with a mentality ‘We want these fish heads,’ we want as many as we can get.”
She was joined at the awards table at the Saratoga Rowing Association Regatta Center with other teammates who claimed first place and a fish head trophy in the girls fourth varsity eight.
“We had a team goal that we really wanted to in all of our categories get fish heads and then for our boat specifically the 4V last year that we raced came in fifth,” Rower Perry Barth said. “It was our goal to really medal and get a fish head.
“It was talked about a lot, but we weren’t over confident. We went into it we were very nervous about what our placing could be, even when we finished, it was a good race but we didn’t think we got first. So finding that out was really exciting.”
There was also a look of surprise for Barth as she held the fish head and found it was probably swimming near Pulaski just a few weeks ago before being caught and used for a stew or dish and the head made available for trophy mounting.
“That was a little discerning, I’m not going to lie,” Barth said. “I kind of thought that maybe it was a fake fish, but then I was like ‘The detail in his mouth is really impressive,’ and then I was like ‘Maybe it’s not fake?” That’s why I asked.
I was a little repulsed, but it’s growing on me. It kind of looks like a grandma.
This year the trophies were again made by SRA freshman girls coach Alida Durrant with help from her team. Each fish head is cleaned, baked, cleaned again, dipped in lacquer and then painted and adorned with its own unique decoration for its category. Sometimes it’s spectacles for the master’s division, bushy eyebrows for men’s events and when painted, red paint as lipstick is always a hit.
The girls second varsity quad category was captured by Saratoga Rowing’s fourth entry into the event, earning three of the four rowers their first-ever fish head.
“We were a late entry because our coach wanted to get us out in a second race and we were just put in as a ‘D’ boat because we were late,” Bethlehem High School rower Meghan Smith said. “We were just trying to go out and have a good race and see what happened.”
This was the first time rowing as a quartet with eight oars in the quad for Smith, Mikayla Lahr, Kathryn Cuneo and Maggie Preller.
“We started off with a high start and then we lengthened out for the first 1,000 or 1,200 by the end we brought it up (strokes per minute) for our sprint,” Holy Names student Mikayla Lahr said. “At the end of the race I think everyone felt pretty good about it, we felt that we did the best we could do for just rowing together for the first time.”
To the winners go the spoils – a mounted fish head.
“This was our first fish head, so that was pretty exciting,” Smith said. “It has a little fish next to it, we get two fish for the 2V.”