Youth Nationals has come and gone, but what a remarkable experience and journey it has been for City Island Rowing. We founded this club just 11 months ago, building it quite literally by hand; one bolt, one plank, one boat, one set of oars at a time, with everyone pitching in - whatever way they knew how. There were no steadfast guarantees - just a determined effort to live up to our mantra of providing our athletes uncompromising opportunities to reach their full competitive potential in the sport of rowing.
Qualifying four boats to Youth Nationals, ALL of which made finals, is a breathtaking accomplishment for any club - let alone a club this young (not just in formation but athlete age and experience too).
This put us in a very rare category of clubs. There are over 1000 clubs in the country, only 163 of which qualified for Youth Nationals. Of that 163 only 1 club in the country qualified more girls' boats than us, and only 3 others matched us. This includes the behemoth and well established teams with hundreds of rowers, compared to our 20. Furthermore it should be remembered that more than half of the girls have been rowing for less than two years, some for just a couple of months!
Our Lightweight Double comprising Jordan Reist and Courtney Sawyer had our best result taking home the BRONZE MEDAL, just being squeaked out of SILVER by 3/10ths of a second.
This was a phenomenal result for the duo, a senior and a sophomore who have worked for this moment, quite literally since they first started rowing. They are proof positive that hard work, discipline, sacrifice, mutual respect and team chemistry have their rewards. A wonderful season long rivalry and respect had developed between our girls and the girls from Essex Rowing. After heats it was obvious that these two crews and the Long Beach crew were the medal contenders and throughout the weekend a special bond was formed, one of quiet acknowledgement and mutual respect. There were huge hugs between crews after racing was completed, emails shared and Instagram / FB accounts followed... who knows who will be future collegiate teammates. This is such a classy sport.
Our other 3 team boats forged their way into the C Final. At first glance these may appear rather modest results, however for each of these crews these were tremendous results - in two instances beating out 6 other crews to get there (as well as all the crews they beat back home to even make it to Nationals in the first place).
repechage. A coach cannot ask for anymore than to see their athletes beaming with pride when they hit the return dock, uncertain if their result would progress them to finals but elated with the row none the less. They had indeed made the C Final, along the way knocking out competition that had beaten them all year long including Row America Rye, Norwalk and Albany. These fine young athletes can look forward to extraordinary success in their future.
By far our "greenest" crew at Nationals was our Lightweight 8+ comprising Enya Doherty (jr), Marissa Copeland (jr), Amanda Scorziello (soph), Marisa Brail (soph), Katrina Kirchgaesser (sr), Tory Huchro (fr), Courtney Sawyer (soph), Jordan Reist (sr) and Maggie Mandarano (jr). Jordan was the only athlete with Nationals experience, Maggie is in her first year of coxing, and Marissa / Amanda / Marisa in their first year of rowing. As recently as March we were unsure if we even had enough athletes to make a Lt8+ at all, let alone have the time to get them fast. But thanks to the patience and leadership of the experienced girls who took the "newbies" under their wing, this crew rose to the challenge claiming a State Championship title along the way and discovering their athletic potential. Every race at Nationals was nerve wracking and tough, yet in every race the girls beat at least one other crew and did what they had to do to avoid elimination, getting better and faster each time. The competition was exceptionally fast, with even our regional competitors relegated to the C Final, but it was so pleasing to close the gap on them since North East regionals - a victory of sorts. The more experienced athletes led by example, both on and off the water showing the newbies that Nationals racing is not just about the effort during that time from start to finish, but a holistic approach to the entire process which includes nutrition, rest, recovery, rolling, stretching, staying out of the sun, sleep and positivity. With 6 returning athletes there is so much potential for this boat in the years to come.
There was also uncertainty, we had expected to compete as a a quad, not a sweep boat, but for one reason or another that was just not working for us. We evaluated our options and decided rather late in the game to switch to the 4+ and immediately knew we had made the right decision, now did we have time to build speed, not just regional speed - but National speed? Moving to the 4+ meant we could also include a coxswain, ensuring that each of our two coxswains had their opportunity to qualify for Nationals and so our boat ended up comprising four seniors; Natalie Knight, Michaela D'Urso, Maggie Stiefvater and Ellie Sawyer as well as sophomore and coxswain, Lindsey DeVore. Sometimes we hit our stride, rhythm and swing and the boat flowed sweetly, other times it was just plain tough. But the girls forged a great bond and worked together to better themselves and whilst they never quite reached their true speed potential in races, they knocked out teams that had beaten them during the regular season (sometimes by very impressive time deltas), with a never say die spirit. The seniors are all off to exceptional colleges (Dartmouth, Georgetown, Dartmouth and Princeton) and Lindsey grew phenomenally as a coxswain.
It took an extraordinary team effort to achieve these results. Our parents have been so tremendously generous and supportive, and the athletes worked hard on their skill sets, strength and fitness... the team chemistry came easily. We were very fortunate and appreciative that Coach Abbie could join us in Florida, doing so much to help with communication and logistics, as well as mentoring athletes - a responsibility she has undertaken all year long.
It has been an extraordinary first year at City Island Rowing and the future looks extremely bright as our young rowers build on all they learned in this breath taking year. They will reach new heights each year as we climb the ladder of both Regional and National speed with a determination to be among the fastest crews in the country across multiple categories. We did it in the light 2x... now who is next?
We are so grateful for the contributions and leadership of our seniors and will follow their collegiate progress closely and with great pride. Similarly we are excited for the new athletes that will be joining us this summer and in the Fall. We look forward to helping them write their own amazing rowing stories.
Curious about City Island Rowing?
We still have a few slots left in our Club Nationals Summer camp as well as in our 1 week skills development camps and Learn to Row programs. Check out our summer page for more information.