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For Madison’s girls’ First 8 boat, winning local races isn’t the only goal this year.

That fact is one crew captain Caroline Comey understands.

Granted the girls want to win the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association state title, but after winning it last season the new goal is to win against out-of-state competition.

“Now instead of let’s win one race at a time, we’re focusing on winning at the Stotesbury Cup [in Philadelphia],” she said. “We want to compete at Nationals and in those out-of-state tournaments.”

In 2011, the girls’ crew team broke out with an undefeated regular season and many of the boats earned state titles. The girls’ First 8 boat in particular had a stellar season, and coach Paul Allbright entered the boat into national and regional competitions.

It was there that the girls found the competition they wanted — boats that could push their rowers and provide a challenge.

“We know that we’re faster than a lot of the teams around here,” Comey said. “So we wanted something to train for in this season. Our goal is compete against [out-of-state schools] and we know that we can beat them now.”

Before the team can load up and take their boats to Philadelphia, two weeks remain in the local schedule.

Once again, the Madison girls are among the best in the local crew scene. Madison will compete in the Charlie Butt Regatta on the Potomac River, followed by the state finals the following week on the Occoquan River.

Despite being heavy favorites in some of those races, the Madison girls are trying to stay grounded.

“As much as we look toward Stotesbury and Nationals, we have to take it one race at a time,” Comey said. “We need to stay at the top of our game.”

Staying at the top of the crew scene hasn’t been much of a problem for the First 8.

Allbright said last year’s success motivated the team and helped it realize how strong this year could be.

“We’ve been able to clean some stuff up from a technical standpoint with the boat,” he said. “We had a pretty young boat then and we have just two seniors in it this year. So with another year of rowing they’ll get even better. They understand what sort of speed we have.”

Another driving force behind the First 8 is the competitive spirit the team possesses. Comey said a drive exists between the girls to compete with each other while training.

“We push each other a lot in practice,” she said. “We’re very critical of each other, not pushy, but critical and it helps keep us going. Last year, we didn’t have it as much, but it’s been really fun competing with each other.”

A byproduct of the girls’ success has been a rising level of talent from the boys’ boats this season.

Last season, Allbright said although he had a few stand out boats on the boys’ side, the team as a whole wasn’t as strong the girls’ team.

As the girls are hitting their peak, Allbright said the boys have developed into a strong contender as well. This year, the boys’ First 8 crew has picked up victories and the defending state title novice boat is having another strong season.

“Last year, it was kind of dominated by the women having more success on the women’s side,” he said. “This year we’ve had success in the men’s eight boats, combined with our novice boats. It took them a couple years longer, but they’re just one season behind the girls.”

ralbers@fairfaxtimes.com