By Richard Kaufman
Despite an historic fall season for the Greenwich Crew program, the training never stops. Elsewhere, other teams are working hard to become better, faster and stronger.
Greenwich hopes the winter can help them keep pace and perhaps leapfrog other programs in the spring.
On the men’s side, head varsity coach Robert Montague has his eyes set on the Northeast Regionals which takes place in May. Last year, his squad fell short to the Boston-based team, Community Rowing Incorporated. The Greenwich women, however, placed first. Overall, Greenwich (1,064) finished second to CRI (1,168).
“The reason for that gap is the men’s team. I’ll take the responsibility for that,” said Montague. “This year we made it our goal to make up that little gap. Based on what happened this fall, I’d say we might already be there.”
On Oct. 22, after finishing 40th last year, the men placed a program-best seventh in the youth- eight race at the Head of the Charles regatta, which is regarded as the national championships of fall racing. The boat featured Chris Stich, Peter Scott, Nicholas Matejak, Stanley Mason, Michael Steinthal, Anthony Frascella, Ethan Boone, Trent Polkinghorne and coxswain Summit Gillespie.
The following weekend, the Greenwich men defeated CRI at the 1-Varsity level at the Head of the Fish Regatta in Saratoga, N.Y., and finished just behind CRI in other races.
Montague said he’d rather have his team play the role of the hunter rather than the hunted, and that chasing down CRI, which has been one of the fastest teams over the last five years, is a real possibility come spring.
“We’ve got a real hungry group of guys and we’re up to the challenge. We feel like it’s our year; we’re going to be the guys that take them down,” Montague said.
Montague would like to see his team focus primarily on fitness during the winter months. He likened crew to swimming or cross country running in that there’s some technique involved, but ultimately the fastest competitors win the race.
Junior captain Peter Scott said he’s proud of the fall season and the success the program has achieved.
“We need to continue what we’re doing well right now,” he said. “I think we’ve got a really great team dynamic that makes it all work.”
Senior captain Chris Stich believes a great team dynamic is paramount to success out on the water.
“In rowing, you all have to row the same stroke, you all have to do the same thing every single practice, every single day. Without that chemistry, if someone wants to do their own thing in the boat, you’re never going to succeed because everyone has to be doing the same thing on the same page,” he said.
Stich also credits Montague with changing the culture of the team and ushering in a new attitude that promotes success.
“There’s a different culture on the team; it’s a very competitive nature,” Stich added. “Everyone’s fighting for spots in boats. We’re always putting in a ton of work in practice. We’re always exhausted after practice, but it makes us faster in the end.”
For the women, it’s all about continuing on the same path they left off of in the fall. They were able to capture the points trophy both at the Head of the Riverfront in Hartford, Conn., and the Head of the Fish.
Montague called the women’s program the best in the northeast, and while she appreciates the praise, varsity coach Heidi Hunsberger said there’s always room for improvement.
Hunsberger said her team has done a good job staying hungry and always wanting to become faster.
“I think we have to get stronger. I think we have to get a little bit more muscle on them. In rowing, you talk about explosiveness a lot. So I think we have to get them more explosive and as always work on our mental toughness,” Hunsberger said.
Captain Daisy DeVore echoed those sentiments, saying that when training moves indoors away from the water, the team has to keep the same mentality.
“I think with each regatta, we want more,” DeVore said. “I think in the winter and in the spring we need to keep that. When we go indoors and we’re not on the water, we need to focus on that.”
Captain Camille Boylan also said chemistry is important to her team’s success. “You have to be able to trust the people you’re rowing with,” she said.
Captain Anna White has big aspirations for her squad going forward.
“Our biggest goal is to be the fastest boathouse in the country,” said White. “To do that, we want to get the points trophy again at regionals in May, and then qualify as many boats as we can to youth nationals, which is in June in California.”
All the hard work put into practice may seem strenuous at the time, but in the end the captains and members of the team realize it’s worth it.
“You put in so much work,” Stich said. “After you see impressive results that you worked for together with kids in your boat — they all have the same goal, put in the same work — you all have the same end result that you can be proud of.”
The Greenwich Crew winter program began on Monday with an eye towards the spring.