Seven months ago a rowing team in Port Washington was merely the long held pipedream of several local rowing enthusiasts. Fast forward to Saturday, April 30, and a team of nearly 100 students hit the water at the Big Duck Regatta at Flanders for their first foray into competitive rowing, bringing home five golds, two silvers and a bronze.
“It’s like we had done it before,” said Athletic Director Stephanie Joannon.
“It was like we weren’t the rookies,” Joannon added of the team’s wins against schools with well-established rowing programs.
The team’s weekend victories followed months of rigorous training, including two-hour workouts, six days a week. Head Coach Steven Panzik, a former competitive rower and owner of Port Washington-based gym, said the team, composed of a mix of eighth graders through seniors, pushed themselves to move from total beginners to a well-honed team.
“They’re dedicated, working hard,” Panzik said. “They’re doing things they didn’t expect like six-mile runs. When you told the kid at the beginning of the season do a six-mile run, they’d laugh, but they are pushing their limits and realizing what they can accomplish.”
Grueling workouts include running the hilly terrain of the and countless hours on ergometers, indoor rowing machines. “They’ve been working out at Power Ten on the rowing machines, track on rainy days, we’ve got two mile loops,” Panzik said. “It’s strength training, cardiovascular, the training they do is harder than any other sport that they’ll do.”
student Erin Condon juggles volleyball, soccer and other clubs to make room for rowing. Condon’s been on the water as an award-winning sailor for eight years but says rowing is a tougher task. “I love the sport,” she said.
“It’s hard work but if you put in the effort, the rewards are so worth it,” noted Condon, who picked up a gold and silver with her crewmates at the Big Duck.
Teammate Caleb Jenkinson juggles practice and gigs for student band with the six-day training schedule noting that his crew training was harder than varsity lacrosse. As for homework? “It gets done late at night,” he said.
Panzik is joined by assistant coaches Mitch Tamkin and Bo Hansen, who are board members of the non-profit Friends of Port Rowing, which underwrites the program. The board, spearheaded by fellow rowing enthusiast Monika Dorman, spent years trying to add a rowing team to the school’s budget. Ultimately, the group decided to finance the team independently of the district, conducting fundraising appeals and securing all the team’s boats through private donors.
Joannon hopes the district will be able to play a larger role down the road. “We help out in a non-financial role as much as we can,” she said, noting that Schreiber supports the team with meeting space and intramural training time and funded two ergometers through the school budget.
“Maybe down the road we can have a hybrid like Manhasset,” she added.
In the meantime, Friends of Port Rowing continues to fund-raise and has its sights set on finding a permanent home for the team’s boats and training, which is now conducted at the Village Club until it opens for the season in late May. At which point the team will need to move elsewhere.
“There is no rowing club here for adults,” noted Sands Point resident Monika Dorman, who has rowed virtually every day for the past four decades. “Our next step is to find a permanent boathouse, continue to fund the program through the schools and do something for adults. It’s addictive – you feel such joy on the water.”
Friends of Port Rowing board member Mitch Tamkin is also passionate about the sport he was first introduced to as a teen.
“I went to a private school on the Housatonic River that was built specifically for rowing in 1906, and I excelled at that sport and within four months I was rowing against the East Germans and the Russians,” said Tamkin. “What a sport –lacrosse, baseball, soccer, football, that can’t happen.”
“The great thing about rowing is we have kids on this team who have never played a sport before and kids who were playing varsity lacrosse last year, and they’ve come together,” Panzik said of his 96-student team. “It’s kids from music backgrounds and athletic backgrounds, it’s different cliques that maybe never would recognize each other in the hallway that are now teammates working together and pushing each other.”
Next up for the fledging team: the Long Island Junior Rowing Championships at Centre Island Beach in Oyster Bay on May 8.