CBA head coach Scott Belford celebrates with his team as he holds up the Senior 4 trophy won for the first time in the school program’s history. The Colts enjoyed their most successful campaign last year and are hoping to maintain that excellence this season.
CBA head coach Scott Belford celebrates with his team as he holds up the Senior 4 trophy won for the first time in the school program’s history. The Colts enjoyed their most successful campaign last year and are hoping to maintain that excellence this season.

The Christian Brothers Academy crew program had been consistently building itself up to the point where it was finally able to flex its muscles last year.

Scott Belford, who has coached the Lincroft school program since its inception in 2004, is hoping his team will maintain its impressive physique moving forward. 

“We’ve been trending in the right direction for a while,” Belford said. “We don’t do a lot of losing, but we hadn’t really cracked through until last year with the kind of year we had.”

High school crew is a year-round sport, with competitive events held during the fall and spring seasons sandwiched around extensive training sessions in the winter. Last year, the Colts Senior 4 boat won 212 of the 218 races it entered, and the losses were all to club teams.

CBA is considered a mid-level program due to its enrollment, so its main events are the Senior 4, in which all grade levels can row, the Junior 4 (which cannot include seniors) and the Lightweight 4.

Last May, for the first time in program history, CBA won the Senior 4 race at the prestigious Stotesbury Cup in Philadelphia. 

“That’s our biggest competition,” Belford said. “Most of the events have 60 or 70 teams, and it’s tough making it to the finals, much less win it. We made that Senior 4 final probably six out of the last 10 years and come in with a couple silvers but never won it until last year.”

CBA also won its fourth Lightweight 4 title in six years at Stotesbury, and is one of just two teams to have won that trophy in the past decade.

Another breakthrough accomplishment was winning the Under-seventeen 8 and Under-seventeen 4 at the Canadian Henley. It was one of the rare times CBA competed in an 8-man boat.

“That’s one of those events you can go entire career without winning,” Belford said. “The competition is brutal. It’s all clubs, a lot of the clubs draw from all over the place. We raced a club from Boston that has kids come in from California. Winning the 8 was a big surprise on our end. We knew we had a shot in the 4, but to come home with both of those titles was something special.”

The Colts have also enjoyed stellar success in Boston’s renowned Head of the Charles held in the fall. It is not easy to qualify, but CBA will be back in three events this year by virtue of last season’s efforts.

“That’s probably the largest regatta in the world,” Belford said. “The youth events are capped at 85 entries. If you finish in the top half the year before, you’re guaranteed a spot the next year. If you don’t finish in the top half, you go into an enormous lottery and it could be years before you get another entry.”

CBA has no such worries, as its 4 crew finished 14th. It was the Colts’ third straight Top-15 finish. Belford also entered a boat from the Monmouth Rowing Club that he runs in the summer, and with four Colts rowing, it placed 40th to also qualify for this year. The Charles also debuted a Cox quad (a sculling boat with a coxswain), and CBA finished 21st out of 45 to guarantee itself a 2019 spot.

Last year’s success came after CBA graduated 14 rowers in 2018 who all went on to compete at Division I colleges. It looked like a rebuilding year.

“We thought we might take some lumps for a year, and the opposite happened,” Belford said. “We had a whole ton of kids step up. We had a sophomore class out of nowhere became dominant quick. It all came together.”

CBA returns three stellar juniors in Jack Paterno, Connor Prior and James Murrer.

“Those are the three guys who are really gonna lead the way this year,” Belford said. “After that there’s a list of five guys the staff is looking at to fill that last spot in the Senior 4 boat.”

What makes CBA’s efforts so impressive is that it succeeds without the benefits other programs have. The Colts roster is usually from 20 to 25, while some of its competitors have more than 100 rowers along with actual boathouses.

“We don’t have a boathouse, we don’t even have a dock,” said Belford, whose team practices on the Shrewsbury River. “We beach launch, which is pretty uncommon for the sport of rowing.” 

Success, however, is not uncommon at all for CBA.