Greenwich Crew Flexes Its Muscle at USRowing Youth Nationals
By Paul Silverfarb
Greenwich Crew had itself quite a season. From the start of the season way back in August, both the men’s and women’s crew teams were hard at work, determined to make their presence felt at the 2019 USRowing Youth National Championship meet.
Mission accomplished, as Greenwich Crew sent a record seven boats to the national meet held in Sarasota, Fla. and came home with three medals.
“Qualifying seven boats for Youth Nationals truly showed the depth of Greenwich Crew,” said Director of Rowing Mike Wieneke. “Yes, winning three medals is an amazing feat and something we have never done before. However, those medals were earned through the hard work of every Greenwich Crew member, teammate and coach who push each other every day to get better, to be better.”
The women’s crew from Greenwich was lights out, finishing with four boats that found their way to the medal podium.
“We are very proud of the girls and this year has been the most special year yet for us,” said women’s co-head coach Heidi Hunsberger. “Our girls really showed their depth. Obviously we had the two 8’s, but we also had the two 4’s that competed and they all surpassed all our expectations. All four boats showed incredible sportsmanship and drive over the weekend. They all had a ton of fun. It’s one thing to get the medals, but the most important thing is that the athletes are enjoying it and hungry for more.”
The Greenwich Crew Women’s Lightweight Youth 8+ boat came into the competition with a target on their backs. Last year they won the gold medal for the first time in program history and the pressure was on to repeat this time around.
And they didn’t break. Getting through the time trials with the fourth fastest time, the Lightweight Youth 8+ boat comprised of Lydia Garnett, Brooke Legenzowski, Elle Krywosa, Lillian Johnson, Madelyn Brody, Allison Millspaugh, Darby Loveless, Sophia Gilroy and Harley Marks were solid in the semifinal event and took the top spot with a time of 6:49.0.
During Sunday’s championship race, Greenwich Crew were lights out, defending their championship from last year and posting a top time of 6:40.5 that was just under three seconds faster than the second-place boat.
Not to be outdone was the Women’s Youth 8+ boat. Finishing with the sixth fastest time in trials, the group of Meredith Lundberg, Alexa Zavattaro, Katherine Turk, Olivia Schnur, Ellarie Talgo, Jessica Hooper, Natasha Neitzell, Isabel Wilkowski and Lucy Koven took to the waters on Saturday for semis and placed second in their heat with a time of 6:30.8.
During the grand finals on Sunday, Greenwich’s Youth 8+ boat posted another standout performance, going neck-in-neck with rival Saugatuck Boat Club from Westport and finishing with the silver and a time of 6:26.7. Greenwich Crew ended up being just under three seconds faster than Holy Names Crew from Seattle, Wash.
In addition, the Women’s Fours competed in the B-Finals and ended nationals second. The Women’s Lightweight 4+ boat placed second in the C-Finals.
“We are really fortunate to come from a very competitive area,” said women’s co-head coach Catherine Starr. “I think that really sharpens us up and we are competing every weekend with the fastest teams in the country. It’s always fun to challenge yourself with the nationally-ranked teams, but it’s also fun because those teams area basically in our backyard.”
While the women at Greenwich Crew were lighting up the scoreboard, the men’s team was making history for the boathouse. For the first time in program history, the men’s program scored a medal at the USRowing Youth National Championship meet.
The Men’s Youth 8+ boat comprised of Alexander Chung, Samuel Terry, Duncan Cavanaugh, Quinten Cohen, William Wright, Peter Scott, Anthony Frascella, Matthew Phillips and Michael Steinthal battled in the grand finals and had a race to remember. Not only did they come from sixth place, but Greenwich Crew rowed its fastest race to date and finished the event third overall with a time of 5:49.3.
And for the Greenwich Crew men’s team to medal at Nationals was a major accomplishment, according to men’s head coach Cary Wasserman.
“The Men’s Youth-8+ has the biggest and baddest kids in the country in it,” Wasserman said. “It’s a premier event. They are all fast. We are going against kids that won world championships, junior worlds and are going to go win national championships at the collegiate level and even at the Olympic level. For us to do what we did over the weekend was amazing. They did an awesome job.”
So say that Wasserman was thrilled with the team’s performance would be an understatement, as he was moved to tears when his team got to the dock and saw what they accomplished.
Compared to the other varsity-8 boats that were at the youth national championship, Wasserman said that he thought his group was one of the smallest crews in terms of size and strength. But that didn’t deter both the coach and his athletes.
In both of the team’s time trials, they finished a solid fourth place. Wasserman said it was great because it helped set themselves up for the semis and possibly finals. In those semis, Greenwich started sixth place, but had a race to remember and finished third overall.
“The guys worked so hard all year to work on their fitness and making their boat go as fast as it can,” Wasserman said. “We really peaked at the right time. In the semis we got a photo finish for third with one of our biggest rivals, CRI from Boston and was the same team that beat us by five seconds at the Northeast championships a few weeks back, was great.”
From there, Greenwich Crew was able to advance to the championship race. Wasserman said it was all about resetting and focusing on splits and strokes. Mission accomplished for Greenwich Crew, as they finished with a time of 5:49.3, a couple of seconds quicker than Captial, the same team that won the time trial.
“It was just focusing on having them do the absolute best that we could,” Wasserman said. “Again we started out in sixth and all the way in the back of the field. To come all the way back and take the bronze during a crazy tight race was insane. It was such a close field. We beat CRI for the first time this year. For my guys to come from behind, focus on themselves and row a mature race was amazing. It was the best finish we ever had on the men’s team.”
In addition to the Men’s Youth 8+ boat, the men’s team had two other boats competing at the USRowing Youth National Championship. The Men’s Lightweight 8+ boat had the ninth fastest time at trials and took the sixth fastest time at semis. In the B-Finals, Greenwich took home fifth overall.
The Men’s Youth 4+ boat also fared well competed in the D-Finals after finishing 19th after trials and ended the day with the gold medal in the championship heat.
And for both the men’s and women’s teams for Greenwich Crew, it was all about the hard work and dedication to crew that set this group of athletes apart from the rest. They started gearing up for Nationals back in August, even before the school year started.
“Some of these people that were national champions or medaling have been working for us for over four years,” Starr said. “The hard work started in August, but it also started a long time ago. Watching them develop into a nationally-caliber athlete is one of the most special experiences that we can have as coaches. They have that desire to be great and we get to point them in the right direction. They do so much work themselves and it’s hard work.”
“They have grown so much over the past four years,” Hunsberger added. “I think they come in not knowing what to expect. To see them go from this uncertain place to a national championship is amazing. They work so hard and all the credit goes to them.”
“The first day of practice we sat down and set some pretty robust goals that we have never achieved before,” Wasserman said. “One of them was to medal in the varsity-8 at nationals. These guys have just put in months and months and thousands of hours of really hard works. Nothing that we do is easy. In the winter we are indoors, erging until their arms fall off and training and lifting heavy weights.”
It has been no secret that when Greenwich Crew wants to be a top team, not just on the men’s or women’s side. A goal for the past few years has been that the entire Greenwich Crew program can be the top program in the country.
Although they are not there yet, it is more obvious than ever that the gap between Greenwich Crew and the top programs in the country is certainly closing quickly.
“We want to be the fastest boathouse in the country and that’s been our goal over the past three years,” Wasserman said. “We want to continually push all our athletes and all our coaches and make sure everybody is contributing and pushing hard. I think after this regatta, we were all thinking that we might not be there all the way yet, but we are certainly moving towards making that goal a reality.”
Starr and Hunsberger credits the high level of competition throughout the Greenwich Crew program on the joy that the coaching staff has coaching the athletes.
“The teams like competition and I think we like to push each other,” Starr said. “I think we have a competitive atmosphere within in the coaching staff and I think that resonates with the athletes. We get a lot of support and that is so important for us.”
“It comes down to working hard, supporting each other through the good times and struggles and being all around good rowers, teammates and people,” said Wieneke.