Varsity Crew takes to the water for first post-pandemic competition

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Emily Salzhauer, Staff Writer

“Watching our kids come down the racecourse to the finish after three years of not rowing is probably one of the best memories [from the weekend],” Varsity Crew coach Chelsea Ernst said. Last weekend, the school’s Girls and Boys Varsity Crew Team competed in their first and only regatta of the season — New York State Scholastic Championships — in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Girls Varsity had their race on Saturday while Boys Varsity competed on Sunday, but both teams attended both races and cheered on their teammates, Sela Schamroth (11). The majority of the time at the regatta was spent setting up for the race, so the team only spent thirty minutes on the water and seven minutes competing in the race, she said.

Ernst was proud of the team’s performance and their attitude towards the regatta, she said. “We did exceptionally well, and it’s awesome to see how far they’ve come from the beginning this season to the culmination of the season at this race,” she said. “Everybody did amazing.”

The team has lost three consecutive seasons because of the pandemic, which made this past weekend’s regatta that much more special for the team, Ernst said.

For this reason, the majority of the team has never competed in a regatta, Ernst said. That presented challenges for the team at the start of the season, but they learned quickly, she said. “Our team actually has had no prior experience — we had two seniors, and we really relied on them to really step up and show people what to do, how to row, and how to facilitate a race,” she said. “In the short span [of the season], everyone learned how to learn to row and how to race.”

Alec Jackson (10) saw this season as a time for the team to learn after having missed so many seasons of rowing, he said. “This was really a rebuilding year for the team,” he said. “It really actually brought the team together.”

Despite his lack of formal racing experience, Miller Harris (11) was still excited for the regatta, he said. “We’ve only been on the water […] three times before the regatta so that was a big challenge, but given the circumstances, we performed well.” Because this regatta was the team’s only one of the season, Harris hoped to do well in the competition, he said. “We really wanted to put our best foot forward and try our best.”

Alessandra Agopian (9) was proud of the team’s performance at the regatta, she said. “We did well,” she said. “We were only 20 seconds off what we needed to place something.”

Similarly, Jackson was proud of the team’s performance given that this was his first regatta ever. “We actually ended up doing pretty well for a novice crew team.” However, the team still needs to practice some skills, Jackson said. “We have to work on not keeling over, keeping the boat steady on both sides.”

The actual racing part of the regatta was intense, Jackson said. “It was a good six or seven minutes of hardcore rowing. When we hit the start, it was all a blur until the end.”

Co-captain Mekhala Mantravadi (12) stood out to Schamroth at the race, both as a rower and as a teammate, she said. “[Mekhala] is just one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. When we were all freaking out on the boat before the race, she was able to calm us all down and keep things positive,” she said. Schamroth believes that Mantravadi allowed the team to do their best with minimal stress, she said. “She’s an amazing member of the team and we’re going to miss her next year.”

Mantravadi also stood out to Agopian for her ability to help calm their nerves before the race began, Agopian said. “She was like our rock on the team because none of us knew what we were doing,” she said. “She was the only one that had never actually been in a race before, so she was majorly helpful. I don’t know where we would have been without her.”

In addition to Mantravadi, co-captain and boys boat coxon Lauren Ho (12) played a big role in helping the boys team during the regatta, Agopian said. “Lauren was really strong [because] she brought the boys four together.”

The two races the team competed in — Girls Novice Eight and Boys Novice Four — took place on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so the team had free time in the afternoons, Schamroth said. “We were all focused on crew, but we also had an amazing time.”

A highlight of the trip for Schamroth was spending time with her teammates, she said. On Saturday night, the team went out for dinner at a hibachi restaurant and on a trip to Target, where they bought candy and games to play with back at the hotel, sheSchamroth said. “It was just so, so much fun.”

Over the weekend and while waiting for their races at the regatta, Harris enjoyed being with his teammates, he said. “The waiting allowed for a lot of time to get to know a lot of the underclassmen on the team and make a bunch of new friends,” he said. “I now feel close with everyone on the team.”

Jackson also liked bonding with his teammates, he said. “We got to know each other much better and understood each other more, which was a good outcome of the experience.”