Competing in their fallen teammate's honor, the Newton Square (Pa.) Episcopal Academy crew team has emerged as one of the nation's best rowing clubs.
When Paul Pratt died in a one-car accident on May 16, prep teammates Nick Mead, James Konopka, Jack Alden, Guillaume Furey and coxswain Jimmy Larkin didn't know if they wanted to finish the season, as detailed in a fantastic Philadelphia Daily News feature.
"After Paul died, it was hard for them to push their boat off even off the dock,"Episcopal crew coach Molly Konopka told the paper. "But it's a testament to what these kids wanted to do in memory of Paul. We won't forget him. You never forget someone like that."
Ultimately, they chose to race in Pratt's honor, somehow managing to compete on the day after their junior teammate's death in the Stotesbury Cup Regatta along Pennsylvania's Schuylkill River, according to the Daily News feature. They finished third.
A week later, Episcopal won the Scholastic Rowing Association of American National Regatta on the Cooper River in Pennsauken, N.J. They then placed seventh in the USRowing Youth National Championships earlier this month in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
It was a remarkable run under extraordinarily painful circumstances. But Pratt's inspiration of the Episcopal crew team's success began long before his death.
Between his freshman and sophomore years of high school, Pratt severed two fingers and part of a third on his left hand in a wood-splitting accident, according to the Daily News. Originally told he wouldn't row again, he reportedly trained on an indoor rowing machine and made the Churchmen's No. 1 boat during his sophomore season.
"A lot of strength can take you far in this sport," added Konopka. "Rowing is painful. He was OK with the pain. He loved it. He used to say he knew the pain was coming, and he said it made him push harder -- that he could push more when it hurt."
A lesson the Episcopal Academy crew team seems to have taken to heart.