One-Year Anniversary of Jr. Racer Program!
This spring marks the one-year anniversary of the Junior Racers program at Noank Rowing Club. In getting ready for the new season, I want to take a look back at how we started what we’ve accomplished in our first year.
I began rowing at Noank Rowing Club when I was a 9th grader. I tried rowing because I thought it would be fun to be on the water and that maybe I would get a tan! While I took dance classes since I was four, I had never participated in a sport. So, I thought I would give it a shot. I liked that I could row by myself in a single or with friends in the 4s and 8s. My favorite was rowing bow seat in the boys’ four if one of the guys didn’t show up for practice—man, did we go fast! In college, I coxed at Hofstra where I fell in love with the competitive side of the sport. I enjoyed being out on the water, but I especially enjoyed motivating my crew to become the best we could be.
When I returned to the area in 2014, I approached Coach Kristen about starting a racing program that builds upon what has already been established at NRC. I wanted to give rowers the opportunity to experience the competitive side of the sport while showing youth the beauty of rowing for the sake of rowing. After a bit of brainstorming, we created the Junior Racers program.
In our first season, there were six rowers who competed in their first sprint races. I remember teaching them about starts and thinking to myself, “Oh man, they won’t row above a 26. We are going to get crushed at the start!” I had no idea what would happen at our first sprint race, Cooper Cup, but I knew that the rowers who had been working hard each day at practice loved what they were doing and wanted to improve. Sure enough, both boats came off the water happy with how they rowed and eager to improve their time for the next race.
One of the highlights for me the first season took place at Northeast Regionals. I remember watching the Women’s Varsity 2x coming down the race course. As Abby and Lydia crossed the buoy line into the last 500m stretch of their race, I could hear Abby yelling, “Come on, Lydia, we got this! We are almost there!” They picked up the pace and sprinted (well above a 26, I might add) to finish third in their heat, which meant they would advance to the semi-final race. With Lydia’s high school graduation a few weeks away, it meant the girls (who referred to themselves as “Double Trouble”) would have one more chance to row together.
The fall season marked a few more “firsts” for the Junior Racers. One of the highlights was winning an entry into the Head of the Charles Regatta, the world’s largest two-day rowing event. It was only fitting that senior rowers and best friends Ryan and Gianni would represent the Junior Racers at the race. I was proud of them for their focus and determination in preparing for the challenging course. While I had raced it twice, I had never coached a crew for the Head of the Charles before. I hoped that the young men would appreciate the opportunity and remember the experience for many years to come.
Another highlight of the season was traveling to Philadelphia for the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta. The team visited Boathouse Row and heard stories from Kristen’s earlier rowing days on the Schuylkill. The day ended with a great row by the Men’s Varsity 4x. While it might not seem like much, preparing for that race gave four young men a chance to see what rowing in a competitive team boat is all about.
A lot of people—parents, NRC members, and other rowing enthusiasts—have thanked me over the last year for the opportunities I’ve provided by starting the Junior Racers. What people don’t realize is that I’m thankful to be able to coach the Junior Racers. I get to share something that I love with a group of passionate and dedicated young men and women. I look forward to continuing the tradition of hard work and love for the sport for years to come!
To support the Junior Racers, click here to visit the team's Go Fund Me page.