MAHOPAC, N.Y. - More than two dozen parents and kids gathered on the shores of Lake Mahopac on East Lake Boulevard on a Saturday morning last month to learn about a new sport that might be coming to town and the school district.
Town and school officials are gauging the public’s interest in the sport of rowing—sometimes known as crew—and are considering developing a rowing program for the Recreation Department, as well as for the high school.
“We have been working with the school district for the past two years about possibly running a [rowing] program,” said Jim Gilchrist, director of the town’s Recreation and Parks Department. “The demo today is to show the school board, athletic department and the rec committee what it would be like to have crew on Lake Mahopac.
“We are kicking around the idea on the town’s end to have a crew program as a feeder program for the school,” Gilchrist continued. “The high school is looking at this as a possible idea for a sport.”
School board Trustee Mike Mongon, who is director of Overpeck County Park in Bergen County in New Jersey, arranged the demonstration on Lake Mahopac. Several row teams, including Columbia University, use the Bergen County park’s river as a practice site. It’s where Mongon met Clemens Reinke, one of the premier crew coaches in the region. Reinke runs the Bergen County Rowing Academy and is a coach at Bergen Catholic High School. Reinke came to Mahopac with three of his rowers, and several boats and rowing machines, to explain the sport to the uninitiated.
“It is so exciting that you all are interested in rowing,” Reinke told the crowd. “You have a beautiful lake for it. High school rowing is a wonderful sport to add to the sports you already have. It’s a good sport for the entire body—you use everything. I understand that this might be for the entire community, which is great because it is good for adults, too.”
Mongon said he liked the sport because it requires a “different and unique set of skills” other than what’s required in sports such as baseball, football and soccer. He credited a parent, Kevin Dwyer, with leading the movement to bring the sport to the town of Carmel and the Mahopac and Carmel school districts.
“Well, we knew we had the property here [at Lake Mahopac] and we thought it would be a good idea.” Dwyer said. “There really aren’t any crew teams from Arlington down to New Rochelle. It’s a sport that hasn’t really been tapped into.
“I went to the school board with the idea and they’ve supported it right from the beginning,” he added. “We have a good opportunity and hope we capitalize on it.”
Gilchrist said that if the town offers a crew program, it would be open to all the kids in both Carmel hamlet and Mahopac.
“We’d do it at a younger age level and let it feed into the high schools,” he explained. “Lake Mahopac would be a practice location and the meets would be out on the Hudson. Lake Mahopac would just be for practice because it’s not big enough [for meets].”
School Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo attended the demonstration and said he was excited about the possibility of a crew team at Mahopac High School.
“This has been talked about for many years but never took any wings,” he said. “Kevin Dwyer has been talking about it with Jimmy [Gilchrist] and [athletic director] John Augusta. They sat me down and said, ‘Look, we are a lake community and there is no reason why we can’t look into it, do a little fact-finding and gauge what the interest is.’
“There are a lot of moving parts that go into it,” he added. “It won’t happen overnight, but this is a starting point. It’s all about partnership [with the town], so we are very excited about it.”
The students seemed excited about it as well, watching intently as Reinke spoke about the sport.
“I want to join a crew team,” said eighth-grader Madison McCabe, “mostly because my friend is doing it up in Arlington, so I thought I would try it, too. She said she loves it and I think it would be fun. Maybe my friend and I would be able to do something together eventually.”
McCabe was there with two of her classmates, who also expressed enthusiasm for rowing.
“I’m excited to do it because I would like to build up my strength,” said Emma Morretta. “I’d be excited to be on another team where you work together with other people.”
Isabell Valle said she liked the idea of rowing because she already likes being on the water.
“I like being on boats anyway so this is perfect,” she said. “I had heard of [crew] in different towns, so I was curious,” she said.