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L to R: Paige Propp, Natalie Alleva and Kendall Wenzke

Cal's Column: Eustace girls pacing the Drexel Varsity 8 boat

05/12/2017, 10:45pm EDT
By Kevin Callahan, SJSD

Kendall Wenzke, Paige Propp and Natalie Alleva will row in Dad Vail this weekend

For Kendall Wenzke, Paige Propp and Natalie Alleva, they will be rowing for the name across the front of their jersey at the Dad Vail Regatta.

But, they will also be pulling with all their strength and experience with each stroke for the other school inside their uniform, the one also in their hearts.

Wenzke, Propp and Alleva will row on the Drexel University Varsity 8 women’s boat as the Dragons try to win their fifth straight Dad Vail overall team title this weekend on the Schuylkill River.

All three are also from Bishop Eustace Prep School.

“Everyone calls the boat the Eustace Boat or Crusader pride,” Wenzke said. “It’s fun to hear because we do have pride coming from our school and it is pretty amazing to be in this boat with not just one high school teammate but two of them … there is a lot of energy.”

“It is something that people notice and we just love,” Propp said. “When we are in the boat, we yell ‘Eustace!’”

“We are all like ‘Crusader Pride … Bishop Eustace,” Alleva added.

Wenzke is the stroke, Propp is No. 7 and Alleva is in the No.3 seat on the women's Varsity 8 boat – Cara Fry.

Also on the boat from South Jersey are Kylie Magge, a freshman from Holy Spirit, in No. 6, Amanda Reale, a sophomore from Holy Spirit, in No. 2 and Meghan Knecht, a junior from Haddonfield in the bow.

“It is a lot of fun because when our high schools are in town we go cheer each other’s teams,” Alleva said. “It’s crazy.”

Last season, the women's varsity eight rowed the Cara Fry boat to a silver medal at the Dad Vail Regatta.

“There is a lot of pressure that does go into this weekend,” Wenzke said. “There is a lot of build-up and anticipation going into Dad Vails.

“We have never won the overall women’s points trophy so we’ve been working for that over the last nine months,” Wenzke said. “It would be amazing to win both – the overall trophy and the women’s points trophy.”

“I feel like we have an upper hand that we have both a strong men’s and women’s team,” Alleva said.

The Dragons also have the benefit of the Dad Vail being on the Schuylkill River - Drexel’s home course.

“It is exciting because Drexel has a ton of people cheering for you,” Alleva said.

This is the biggest weekend of the season for Drexel as the Colonial Athletic Conference championships are Sunday on the Cooper River, right across from Bishop Eustace.

“It will be on our home course,” Alleva said.

Wenzke, a senior from Mullica Hill, was also a CAA Commissioner's Academic Award recipient last year and was named to the All-CAA Team. She sat stroke in the varsity eight that won silver medals at Dad Vail and the CAA Championships.

She rowed for four years at Bishop Eustace and was a three-time State Champion in the lightweight 8.

Wenzke, the daughter of Heidi and Paul Wenzke, is majoring in business.

Propp, a junior from Cinnaminson, was the CAA Commissioner's Academic Award recipient and was named to the CAA All-Academic Team last year. She also sat in the 7-seat in the varsity eight that won the silver at Dad Vail and at the CAA Championships.

Propp also rowed for all four years of high school, winning the Navy Day Regatta with the varsity four as a senior. She also played left wing for the women’s ice hockey team.

“It is the most exciting race of the year,” Propp said about the Dad Vail. “We have all the parents come out.”

She is the daughter of Kristen and Brian Propp, who played 15 years in the NHL, including with the Flyers from 1979-1990.

“People still recognize it, just random people you meet will say that’s your dad,” said Propp proudly, who is majoring in sport management.

Alleva, a sophomore from Southampton, rowed and played basketball for four years at Bishop Eustace, earning second team all-conference in basketball. She is the daughter of Jennifer and David Alleva. 

Her older sister, Christina, who is also a Bishop Eustace grad, is red shirting this year. Meanwhile, Wenzke’s sister, Makayla, is a senior at Eustace this year and will row at Drexel.

But the Drexel Varsity 8 has the feel of being sisters.

“I rowed with them in high school, but not in the same boat, so it is kind of funny we are all together in the same boat in college,” said Alleva, who is majoring in accounting.

Already this season, the Drexel women's rowing team won its sixth straight Kelly Cup on the Schuylkill River for the city championship.

The Cara Fry boat won the Kelly Cup for the eighth time in nine years with a time of 6:34.03, beating Temple by almost six seconds.

Following the Kelly Cup, the Drexel Rowing program officially dedicated the Cara Fry along with three other shells during a ceremony at the Bachelor's Barge Club on Boathouse Row.

The Dragons could’ve named the Cara Fry the Eustace Boat.

“It is truly amazing, it’s an adrenaline rush that I’ve never felt before,” Wenzke said. “With this my senior year, this is the last time I will row on my home course, so there will be a lot of emotions, especially with the Dad Vails being the most prestigious race for collegians.

“It will be truly an honor representing Drexel and Eustace and the Varsity 8 at the Dad Vails.”

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