New opportunities abound for middle school students interested in the sport of rowing.
It’s forty-two degrees, and a steady rain beats down on the Fish Creek shoreline, in Saratoga, New York, as the Row New Jersey Middle School team arrives for their 6 a.m. start time. Huddled in the dark, beneath fifty-foot racing shells stacked 3-levels high, they watch the high school lightweight team rig boats for the middle school debut.
The newly fledged Row New Jersey Middle School team is making history on this day as the first middle school program for Row New Jersey, and the first to race for the team.
Established in the spring season of 2019, the Row New Jersey Middle School program was designed as a fun, low-key introduction to the sport of rowing. Middle-schoolers row for an hour and a half, three-days per week to learn the fundamentals, safety, and techniques essential to success at more competitive levels of the sport. “We have been working with two boats that have been progressing well since mid-September,” stated Rowing Director, Robert Welsh. “We thought the time was right to give them a taste of the racing experience.”
Row New Jersey sent 12 middle-schoolers to race at the Head of the Fish Regatta in Saratoga, NY, along-side the Varsity & Junior Varsity teams. The team, aligned in 2 events — the Boys Junior Freshman 8+ (8 rowers and a coxswain), and a Girls Under-15 coxed quad (4 rowers and a coxswain).
Taking to the water, in the soaking rain, the middle-schoolers raced a 2.3-mile head race, typical of the fall racing season. Head races position boats in the water at 10-20 second intervals by boat division. The winner of the race is the crew with the shortest elapsed time through the course. “While taking place on a beautiful, well-supervised course, this regatta still presented impressive competition for our youngsters in their inaugural race”, stated Welsh. “All of our middle-schoolers did a great job steering and pulling together as a team.”
Overall, the performance of the team was solid. The boys 8+, racing in an older Freshman category, placed 7th out of 8 boats. The girls placed an impressive 7th of 12 in their under-15 category. When asked about her experience middle school racer Aoife Timoney said, “We were excited and nervous, but we knew we were going to do well because we practiced a lot. The race was really tiring because we had to put all of our strength into each stroke, but then it felt really good. We didn’t notice the rain because we were too busy with our friends.”
One 8th grade Coxswain, Brian Rauchbach, went on to medal in a high school race later in the day - rounding out the contributions of our middle school students. “We couldn’t be more pleased with how the middle-schoolers have come together as a cohesive team,” stated Welsh.“We are proud of the team’s performance, despite the wet and challenging racing conditions and see great potential with this group of athletes.”
Middle-School Team: Mathew Basta (Boonton Twp), Kalia Cheung (Montville), Brayden Eppedio (Roxbury), Avery Hamilton (Morristown), Claire Hermey (Boonton Twp), Maxton Kilroy (Mendham), Ethan Levy (Morristown), Elena Mora (Boonton Twp), Griff Sanborn (Summit), Sabrina Saunders (Mendham), Aoife Timoney (Basking Ridge), Aidan To (Denville). Rowing with the middle school team Brian Rauchbach (Hopatcong) & Holden Kim (East Hanover).
Row New Jersey (formerly the Mountain Lakes Rowing Club) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation located on Lake Hopatcong and is devoted to developing the strength, character, and confidence of middle school and high school students as well as masters rowers, through the discipline and teamwork of rowing. Rowers and Coxswains come from multiple communities including Summit, Basking Ridge, Boonton, Budd Lake, Califon, Chester, East Hanover, Far Hills, Hackettstown, Hopatcong, Kinnelon, Madison, Mendham, Morristown, Mountain Lakes, Oak Ridge, Randolph, and Roxbury. To learn more about Row New Jersey, the sport of rowing, and carpool opportunities contact Rowing Director, Robert Welsh email@example.com or visit www.rownj.org.