Crash can't stop Suffern and its family of rowers
SUFFERN, WHICH SENT TWO BOATS TO NATIONALS, WON HUDSON VALLEY LEAGUE MEDALS SATURDAY DESPITE LOSING ONE BOAT TO A CRASH.
Nancy Haggerty , email@example.com
POUGHKEEPSIE – At 6 Saturday morning, the canopies bearing team names were up, food and drink were set out and, as a steady stream of cars continued into the Marist College boathouse parking lot, fans readied for hours of racing on the Hudson.
The event was the Hudson Valley Rowing League Championship, involving high school teams from Section 1 and Section 9. One team was Suffern High School.
Suffern has had a memorable year. The program, founded in 2009, qualified and sent two boats to Nationals, the boys lightweight 4 (150 pounds per rower or less) and varsity boys 8.
Saturday was the 2016 racing season’s finale – a last hurrah to not only the season but to seniors’ high school racing careers.
Later in the day, those kids – 12 girls and seven boys – would sign their names next to those of other former Suffern rowers on a wall inside a small team trailer.
“They sign the trailer so they’ll always be part of Suffern crew. They can always come back and see themselves," said parent Chuck Lockyer, who created the wall and whose son Danny followed Lockyer’s since-graduated son, Dylan, into crew.
(Photo: Nancy Haggerty/Journal News)
There’s no parent wall to sign but maybe there should be. Lockyer hung out under the Suffern canopy with Steve DeBoer, who was on hand to cheer, although his son, Chip, has graduated.
Comparing crew to other sports, DeBoer said, “Because it’s co-ed, there’s a better sense of teamwork and cooperation. They’re side by side. It’s just an incredible sport. There’s no one on this team who you’d wish wasn’t there. It’s just a joy coming here.”
Not many sports require as much production as rowing, in which larger trailers haul long, narrow racing boats.
Suffern began its program with a $75,000 grant secured by the now-late state Senator Thomas Morahan. That paid for three boats. Pork barrel money, for sure, but no one dressed in blue and white along the Hudson’s banks was looking back and squawking about that $75,000 being government waste.
Since that time, the district has spent its own money building its small fleet. New boats cost anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000, Suffern coach Craig Jacoby said as he piloted a small safety launch on the river.
Jacoby wasn’t a rower while growing up on Long Island’s south shore. And he wasn’t a rower when drafted by Superintendent of Schools Rob MacNaughton to help coach the new team in 2009. His first year basically involved traveling with the team and learning from two other coaches, Jeff Friedrichs and assistant Mike Trainor.
Jacoby knew little at first. While attending Springfield College, he’d attended the famed Head of the Charles Regatta. But the lasting impression for him from that had nothing to do with race strategy and everything to do with the event’s tailgate-party atmosphere.
His first love was football. He was a nose tackle for Springfield who went on to coach football at both the college and high school levels.
Wanting to spend more time with his wife and four children, Jacoby, a Suffern special-ed teacher who lives in Monroe, gave up coaching football this year but not rowing, where he has become a level 2 U.S.-certified coach.
(Photo: Nancy Haggerty/Journal News)
Jacoby is a fan of the sport and a fan of his kids. Rowing isn’t a New York State Public High School Athletic Association sport but it is considered a varsity sport, run under the auspices of the New York State Scholastic Rowing Association.
The NYSPHSAA snub clearly galls Jacoby.
“The kids work as hard every day as any team out there,” he said.
The Suffern program began with modest goals. Expecting 10 kids the first year, it got 25. The next year it had 35. Now it has 33 girls and 33 boys. Those numbers mean many kids won’t race, although Jacoby does his best to get everyone at least some racing time before they graduate.
It’s not an easy sport.
“With every stroke you want to quit. There’s just something that pulls you back,” said senior Chris McNamara, who followed his older brother, Dan, now a Suffern assistant, into rowing.
The commitment is large – fall erging (indoor rowing), weight training three to four days a week beginning in December, with erging picking up in intensity throughout the winter until the season’s start in March.
Kids are tested indoors, rowing 2,000 meters as fast as they can and sometimes as many as 6,000 meters a couple of times a year. (High school races are 1,500 meters.)
Although training on the normally serene Monksville Reservoir in New Jersey, a 20-minute drive from the high school, might seem like a disadvantage since most of Suffern’s races are on rivers, the program has sent kids to varsity or club programs at MIT, UConn, Hamilton, Smith, Drexel, James Madison, Lehigh, Delaware, the University of Tampa and Stevens Tech.
(Photo: Nancy Haggerty/Journal News)
Team closeness is evident with kids often chanting in unison, "We love it. We love it. We can't get enough of it." But the rowers’ backgrounds are varied.
At Suffern, there are kids who were always athletic, among them senior Kaitlyn McCarren of the girls 8 boat, who comes from an ice hockey-playing family and gave up field hockey and lacrosse to focus on rowing; McNamara of the boys 8, who played volleyball and ran indoor track for Suffern; and senior Justin Aronstein of the boys lightweight 4, who gave up swimming after his freshman year to just row.
But then there are also kids who had no other sport. And there are kids with backgrounds in the arts – kids who participate in band or school musicals.
'‘We’re just one big family,” said Aronstein, who's considering rowing for the University of Florida’s club team. “We all share water, food. We’re all friends and it doesn’t matter what group we’re in.”
“There’s no other feeling like being on a crew team. We’re such a family. And there’s nothing with as much adrenaline as being in a race,” said McCarren, who’s thinking of rowing at SUNY-Geneseo.
“The one thing that unites them is crew,” Jacoby said. “I think it’s cool to see kids so different come together.”
“I coached football for 30 years,” he said. “I thought that was the ultimate team sport. This ranks right up there.”
It might also be the ultimate community sport.
Saturday, as early-morning haze yielded to a sun-filled sky, the Hudson remained unusually calm.
“It’s usually like a sea out here, so this is a glorious day,'' said Vassar College coach Marice Love, who is the Hudson Valley Rowing League president.
“You couldn’t ask for better than this,” Jacoby added, noting currents were so rough last year that instead of racing north to south, boats had to go south to north.
But pristine conditions don’t always prevent problems.
Suffern’s boys lightweight 4 boat, led by four-year coxswain Katie Hock, won its division and would go on to win the Grand Final, which meant that Hock, Danny Lockyer, Harrison Munitz, Aronstein and Matt Dain will see their names etched on the championship cup.
(Photo: Nancy Haggerty/Journal News)
But a little more than two hours after the race day started and one stroke into its 1,500-meter race, the boys 8 team ran into trouble. The rudder cable snapped in the hands of sophomore coxswain Hannah Diamond.
“We had this crazy face. We looked at each other,” said McNamara, who termed what occurred “insane.”
The boat swung into the path of another boat, from Warwick High, which T-boned Suffern’s bow, cracking it.
“As soon as it started turning toward the other boats I knew it was not going to end well,” Diamond said.
Jacoby, who had just been speaking about loving racers’ no-quit attitudes, got the news on his radio and raced to the scene.
Race officials decided to have another group of boats race and allow Suffern to row back to the boathouse to get another boat to race.
“It’s all hands on deck. They’re doing us a solid here, allowing us to get another boat,” Jacoby said.
Looking at his downcast team, he yelled, “Forget about it. Get your mind right. We’re going to race.”
Suffern's boys 8 rowing team finished third overall at its final regatta with a borrowed boat after a crash, June 4, 2016. (Video by Nancy Haggerty/Journal News)
Thirty minutes later, at 9:10 a.m., after Jacoby and others had calmed a teary Diamond and retooled foot rests and more in another boat, the team was back on the water with the help of their girls and boys teammates.
“See how everyone was pitching in?” Jacoby said.
Suffern was going to use its girls 8 boat but instead took a loaner from FDR.
“Two coaches offered me boats. Everyone here is really like a family,” Jacoby said.
The boys 8 finished second in its heat and qualified for the Grand Final, where, closest to recreation boats that suddenly appeared on the water, they were slowed by wakes and finished third, using the same FDR boat.
“I’m awfully proud of these guys,” Jacoby said.
Besides the lightweight 4 boys winning its heat and the overall LW 4 title, the boys heavyweight 4 team was third in its division and the girls varsity 4 was third in its division.
(Photo: Nancy haggerty/Journal News)
Diamond, who got up at 3 a.m. to make it to Poughkeepsie to race, was all smiles afterward.
“I was really upset when it snapped. I kind of felt like there was something more I could do. But finishing second, definitely made up for it,” she said.
The comeback was sweet to share.
“My boat is my family. I call them my eight older brothers,” she said.
“These are the things they’ll remember in 20, 30 years,” Jacoby said: “We crashed a boat and came back and won.”
Rockland Scholar-Athlete of the Week: Suffern crew's Katie Hock
This week's Journal News Rockland Scholar-Athlete learned to be a leader in crew and transferred that ability to the marching band.
Name: Katie Hock
School: Suffern High School
Athletic accomplishments: Hock has been the coxswain of the boys lightweight 4+ crew for the last four years for the Mounties. She's helped the Mounties to three straight Rockland County Crew Championships dating back to 2013. She helped the team to a Hudson Valley Rowling League Division B championship last year. Hock helped the Mounties to a fifth-place finish at the state championships last year.
Academic accomplishments: Hock has a 4.1238 GPA. She'll be attending Nazareth College next year and continuing her music studies. She's in the top 10 percent of her class and is ranked 14th overall. She's taken 11 AP classes, including music theory.
School and community involvement: Out of the boat, Hock's been a member of the Suffern marching band for the last five years playing the flute and piccolo. She's the current drum major. Hock's been a member of the Suffern High School Pit Orchestra since 2014. She's been a member of the All County Band since 2010 and been in the area all-state orchestra since 2014.
Getting to know Katie Hock
The Journal News: How's the crew season going so far?
Katie Hock: We got into the water this year a little earlier then usual because the winter wasn't so bad. We have our first race on Sunday so I'm excited about that. It's hosted by Wappingers, Arlington, Rhinebeck and Spackenkill in Poughkeepsie.
TJN: Why did you choose to get into crew?
KH: I've been going to the beach since I was little. My dad (Russ) has his boating license and everything. I've been around the water for a long time. I love being on the water in general. Crew reminds me of that.
TJN: How and when did you become a coxswain?
KH: I started my freshman year. I was just really small, so when you're rowing, you need to be a taller person. They didn't think I'd be big enough to row and keep up with the older members of the team. So, I started as a coxswain and have continued with it.
TJN: Since the coxswain is essentially the boss of the boat, how much do you like bossing the boys around?
KH: It's pretty great. They've come to respect me more for it. It's not like they resent me for it. It's just part of what I do. I still try to work out with them when I can so I think that helps.
TJN: When you were first learning the position, was it hard to gain the boys' respect?
KH: I started in a novice boat, then the coxswain on the varsity boat quit so coach put me in his place. It was really intimidating at first to be with seniors in the boat and I'm this little freshman trying to correct how you're rowing when you've been doing it for four years and I've been doing it for two months. Having to take control of the situation and yell at them and give them direction, that wasn't something I was used to especially since they were older than me. It helped me grow into a leadership position and realize I can take control of situations when I have to.
TJN: Did learning that help you when you became the drum major this school year for the Suffern marching band?
KH: Yeah I think it helped a lot. I used to be really shy throughout middle school. When I came into crew and decided I should be a coxswain, it was nerve-racking at first but I started taking control of the situation and becoming a leader. It helped me become more comfortable with the situation and I was able to transfer it to the marching band.
TJN: What do you want to study next year at Nazareth?
KH: Music therapy. Outside of crew, everything else in my life is music related. After I took an AP psychology course last year, I've always been interested in psychology. Music therapy combines those two fields. I did some research on it and I really like it. I want to work with children.
The Journal News Rockland Scholar-Athlete of the Week program honors students for their academic, athletic and community achievements. Each week a winner is selected from nominees submitted by athletic directors. Only seniors can be nominated, and the award can be won only once. Nominations must be received by 5 p.m. Monday. The presenting sponsor for The Journal News Rockland Scholar-Athlete program is Gary Goldberg Financial Services.
Although training on a reservoir, while others trained on the Hudson, Suffern's crew program dominated locally and regionally.
Most people believe there was no Triple Crown winner this year.
Suffern knows better, even though its achievement has nothing to do with thoroughbred racing.
Suffern's crew teams recently won their third consecutive Eastern New York State Championship, where boys' and girls' finishes are combined. The boys' and girls' squads also won their respective Rockland County titles for a fifth straight year.
With the boys capturing the Hudson Valley Rowing League despite being bumped to the A Division to face six much bigger schools, the program netted local crew's "Triple Crown."
"It was an immense surprise," said senior Dan Khieninson, who teamed with Chip DeBoer to place third in the state boys scholastic lightweight doubles (each rower 150 pounds or lighter for boys, 130 pounds for girls). "As the season progressed, we got better and better."
In taking the HVRL, the boys won the four-plus lightweight and eight-plus races, the latter by less than half a second over 1,500 meters.
"To go against programs that row the Hudson every day and to win, it's such a David-and-Goliath story. We were outmatched by teams by size, not heart," said coach Craig Jacoby, whose rowers train 25 minutes from school on New Jersey's Monksville Reservoir in Ringwood State Park.
Crew doesn't get much attention, partly because it's a club sport in New York. Still, the commitment is every ounce varsity.
Suffern's dry-land practices began in January. In the spring, each boat crew trained four days a week at Ringwood, and on dry land at school the other weekday.
"The kids are driven," Jacoby said.
"It's really the ultimate team sport — and that's coming from a football guy," added Jacoby, Suffern's assistant varsity football coach.
Suffern, whose program began in 2009 with modest expectations, now includes 62 on the high school team and about 30 in the middle school's learn-to-row program. Jeff Friedrichs, who's leaving the area after directing the program since its inception, noted Suffern has sent rowers to MIT, Delaware, Lehigh and other colleges.
Ryann Shadick, a junior whose four-plus lightweight crew went undefeated this season, trains year-round and wants to row in college.
"If you come in first, it's amazing," she said. "If you come in last, you still feel great because you raced your hardest."