Recently I had the pleasure of enjoying an evening with the coaches, parents, families and supporters of the Saratoga Rowing Association, SRA, as they worked hard to raise money for the teams.
And, over the past weekend I joined my husband, on board a start raft (a flat barge type floating structure with a simple folding chair, a bullhorn, 2 life jackets, a white flag and a red flag all used to tell the judges when the boats at the start are aligned, ready for the start of the race), as we aligned the boats at the 15th annual Saratoga Rowing Association 2012 Invitational regatta. Over 900 boats entered, 53 clubs, 46 cities, 9 states, 2 countries and 390 shells raced. All in true form as the rowers sped down the beautifully laid out Fish Creek course off of Saratoga Lake in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Visiting teams set-up on the grounds of Lee’s Trailer Park by crossing over the Saratoga Lake on Route 9-P bridge, on the left side, directly across Fish Creek from the SRA boathouse.
Toronto, Canada’s Branksome Hall rowing team traveled 7 hours to compete. And, E.L. Crossley, the defending Canadian national champions for the past 11 years, participated. Quite a weekend of racing.
SRA dealt with numerous obstacles due to the weather, but the results were well worth the hard work and efforts of the team, the coaches, the referees, the racing officials, the volunteers and the supporters.
Although the wind blew out several races, the competitions held put those rowers to the full test. Fighting against 20 mph winds at times, pushing hard to cross the finish line with bravery and endurance by each competitor as they fought for each and every stroke.
At times the white caps caused fear in many minds but because the officials kept an eagle eye on the conditions and even called off several races Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, there were absolutely no problems to report.
The Connecticut Boat Club, the Greenwich Water Club team, Manhasset and teams throughout the state of New York and far into Canada joined on the six lanes to fight it out against one another and the fierce elements. The wind would not let up all weekend.
The Saratoga Rowing Association won 10 races Sunday afternoon with 6 boats second and 3 finishing in third place. They raced in a total of 69 contests. The boys varsity 4 got stronger as they raced. Their time: 7 min 18.30 seconds – 2,000-meters – their win: more than 14 secs over their competitors.
A gold medal was won by Arik Torkelson, Liam Casey, Luke O’Brien and John Howe, coxswain Rachel Bowen. A big congratulations to the SRA team!
The rowers took a much needed day off Monday and will be back on the water today depending on weather conditions, once again.
All in all everyone involved from the referees, the judges, the supporters and volunteers, a lot of patience and pre-planning served SRA well. It is simply what they do. And they do extremely well. I witnessed the cooperation first had two weeks ago at the SRA 15th annual silent auction celebration to raise funds for the organization.
As the mother of one of the rowers, I appreciate every advantage SRA gives my son. The crowds who turned out over the weekend and at the event two weeks ago prove that this is a fine organization with plenty to be proud of as they head into their spring season.
Two-hundred turned out Thursday night April 19th, 2012 at Longfellow’s Hotel and Restaurant in Saratoga Springs. The organization known as SRA, is a nationally recognized rowing association with a proven record of training youth from eighth grade through their senior year. They compete locally, statewide and nationally. SRA also runs a highly acclaimed masters program for adults twenty-six years and older. Ninety-percent of adult SRA rowers started after their children began with SRA.
A record breaking year,” says Karen Lazar Travis, SRA fundraising coordinator. Everyone who attended Thursday night was in a high-spirited, giving mood which heightened the hopes of varsity coach and SRA executive director, Eric “Cat” Catalano.
“We would like to say that the event was very successful and exceeded our budget,” said Catalano. “The success of this fundraiser makes rowing accessible to anyone who wants to row at SRA,” Catalano went on to say. The final figures on how much was raised Thursday night are still being calculated. At the end of the year all figures will be released publicly for anyone to review since SRA is a not-for-profit run organization.
The festivities began with a 15-year tradition: “The Boat Name Honorees”.
The six boats included The Alcalyn, named for a ten year veteran rower, Tony Stellato. The name combined his three daughters names, Lynda, Casey and Alex Stellato, all SRA alumni.
The Falvo, was named for John Falvo, a long time SRA dock master and board of director member. Falvo’s entire family got involved with rowing, including John’s wife, Julia and their three daughters Sarah, Lisa and Nicole. Nicole Falvo currently coaches.
Another boat was named in honor of Fred Cole, one of the first SRA presidents. “Mr. Cole organized the rowing program and helped to make SRA a more professional organization,” said Catalano. Cole influenced SRA to take on state championship regattas. His family, including his wife Mary and daughters Maria and Meghan, all cheered as Cole accepted his recognition.
A uniquely named boat called the”Vita Inacta Non Moriar”, which translated from Latin into English means, “I will not die a life unlived.” This boat was named after two young rowers Erin Clare Fay and Adam Dane Webb died separately and tragically. Erin died in a car accident and Adam died while hiking in Alaska during the early years of SRA.
The Keith Abler, a magnificent boat named for a magnificent former SRA coach. Keith Abler served as the varsity boys coach for several years. Abler, 39, still looks the part of a tremendous athlete, not an ounce of body fat on his trim frame. Along with his wife, Shanley, they joined the festivities to help commemorate his years of service working with young rowers. The pair/double boat was named for him because, as head coach Catalano said, “Abler did some of his best training in a pair.” Abler was highly dedicated, he held a full time coaching position working twelve to fifteen hours per week while the father of two small children. He trained on his own by rowing, biking and prepping as a tri-athlete. Catalano told the crowd that “Abler made time for what he valued and inspired numerous athletes to do their best.”
Rowing, a sport in which athlete’s race and test their skills against the clock or one another on different bodies of water, depending upon the discipline, pushes each to their limits. The sport, one of the oldest in the Olympics, can be recreational or highly competitive. Fitness plays a tremendous role.
On hand were supporters and members of a variety of boats. Each practices during potentially through three seasons in which rowers pursue good physical development, education, recreation along with a strong dose of competition. All those mentalities came into play Thursday night as supporters reconnected with rowing friends, competed against one another during the live and silent auction, all for the love of a sport they adore.
SRA programs include scholastic, community rowing, a Learn to Row program for potential rowers, a Masters Rowing program as well as an Adaptive Rowing program, which has had nine participants. Catalano said the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation gave a grant to the SRA not-for-profit organization to develop an adaptive rowing program. “Four of those participants trained regularly and three competed at regattas SRA hosted this past fall,” said Catalano.
SRA’s financial review committee identifies each year rowers who need help. That way anyone who wants to row can benefit from the programs. SRA has become what some say is a treasure to the region, for this reason. According to Catalano, the fund raiser made it possible for rowers to pay five hundred dollars per season, not twenty-five hundred dollars it would actually cost. “This fundraiser helps raise twenty-five per cent of the cost of running the boathouse, the facilities and coaching the teams, as well as other quality programs.”
“I’ll dance on a table to get a bid,” John Orsini, the night’s auctioneer, announced with a broad smile to the crowd during bidding on a weekend cabin offering.
Catalano attempted to bid on items but had this to say about defeat, “I personally bid four hundred twenty-five dollars on some of the home made cakes and I lost!”
Michelle Prager, co-food tent coordinator along with a group of women known as the “food tent Moms” carefully surveyed the list of auction items. Prager said their work to feed the rowers comes down to their motto that “it takes a team to feed a team.” The other food tent mothers, including Annie Wakeman and Tracy Bossalini, co-food tent coordinator, all cheered during the boat naming announcements along with SRA President, Joanie Fitzhenry. “I’ve never seen such a dynamic crowd. This is truly a night to remember,” said Fitzhenry.
Silent and live auction items included a kayak rental that went for seventy-five dollars, a White Mountain cabin for a weekend won for one-hundred dollars, tennis lessons that cost one bidder eighty-five dollars. A behind the scenes tour of “Good Morning America” studios, in Times Square to see GMA anchors Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos went for one-hundred fifty dollars. The Crew Spectator basket went for one-hundred fifty dollars as another bidder won an Audi station wagon kit that hit the fifty dollar mark.
As the bidding continued, Coach Keith Alber talked quietly about how he cannot wait until he watches the newly named boat make its way across Saratoga Lake. “I never thought this honor would be bestowed upon me and for that I am grateful,” said Alber with a beaming smile.
UPCOMING SRA CALENDAR OF EVENTS
If you want to Tweet pictures, here is the hash tag for this weekend’s event:
Sectional Championship at Niskayuna – May 5 – 6
New York State Championships at Fish Creek at Saratoga Lake – May 12 – 13
Stotesbury Cup Regatta on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia – May 18 – 19
Junior B/Junior C Championships at Fish Creek at Saratoga Lake – May 19 – 20
SRAA Scholastic Nationals in Camden, New Jersey – May 25 – 26
SRA Senior High School Rowers Banquet – June 5
U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals in Oak Ridge, Tennessee – June 8
Modified League Championships – June 9th