Rye High Rowing
Garnets are Wire-to-Wire National Champions.
By Mitch Silver
The Rye High Lightweight Four + Coxswain crew — silver medalists in two different national competitions a year ago — are now the heavyweights in their chosen field. A month ago, the boat of stroke John Dailey, Timothy Rudolph-Math, Jimmy Cronin, Jack Hartman, and cox Zach Szabo won the Scholastic Rowing Association of America gold medal by a ten-second margin over second-place Fox Chapel School from the Pittsburgh area. Then, two weeks ago, they traveled to Sarasota, Florida, and defeated a much wider field that included the best club crews in the country. And they did it with open water to spare.
The same five who came so close to glory in 2016 as sophomores and juniors triumphed this year with the three juniors sandwiched between senior Szabo calling out the beats from the bow and classmate Dailey locking the others into those beats from the stern.
Garnet Head Coach Stan Nelson was with them with every stroke of their oars as they first repeated as New York State champions before vanquishing their high school rivals from around the country in the waters off Camden, New Jersey. Then they made their way to the Nathan Benderson Aquatic Center outside Sarasota for the premier junior rowing event in the United States. Over 1,500 rowers competed in more than 350 crews at this special purpose-built facility — all vying for national titles in 18 boat classes.
Not only were the five boys, their coaches, and families present for the time trials June 9, so were Clara Sutherland, Jillian Breen, and their folks. Sutherland/Breen competed in the Girls’ Lightweight 2x competition. It meant the two Garnets would scull their craft over the water with oars in each hand.
One difference between the two national rowing competitions is the length of the course.
The SRAAs are competed over 1,500 meters, and the US Rowing Youth Nationals extend to 2,000 meters. Jimmy Cronin explained what the longer distance means for race tactics. “The start and finish are pretty much all-out if the race is close, but you have a longer ‘settle’ in the middle.” Zach Szabo added, “We usually go 34 beats a minute when we’re moving well in the heart of the race.”
With 12 boats moving on from the time trials into the semis, Sutherland/Breen came in 22nd. They would compete Sunday morning in the D Final, where they came in fifth. An hour later, the boys would top 19 other lightweight teams in their time trials, covering the water in 6:25.803, nearly five seconds ahead of the second fastest boat from Newport, California.
The first semifinal, which went off at 3:30 in the afternoon that same day, saw Rye take a lead and never look back. They finished over seven seconds ahead of another California boat, this one from Long Beach. In the other semifinal, Newport rowed a strong race. Their winning time came within a second or so of equaling Rye’s, so it looked to set up a competitive final on Sunday morning.
With rainy weather all weekend, the officials tried to send the boats off as fast as possible during a dry patch Sunday morning. And they did, except for the Men’s Lightweight Youth Final 4+, Rye High’s race. First, Long Beach false started and had to be recalled after stroking furiously for 200 meters off the line. On the restart, the boat from the St. Andrew club claimed to have an equipment malfunction, and the start was delayed once more.
Were the Garnets worried? “No, we started singing ‘Poisoned Love’ as we headed back to the starting line,” Jack Hartman remembered, smiling at the thought. “The other crews looked at us like we were nuts.”
Maybe not nuts, but the Rye High boat was fast. The veteran team got off the line fast, rowing at 45 beats per minute to get their shell out in front. From the 250-meter mark on, they built their lead while under-stroking the competition. Even the announcer on the live US Rowing YouTube channel noticed. “Look at that crew from Rye High School in New York. That’s some of the most graceful rowing we’ve seen all weekend,” he said. “I was up at their campus a few weeks ago. It’s beautiful too.”
After the race’s halfway mark, the competition was for the silver medal. In fact, the Garnets were never behind for a second all weekend, winning the final wire-to-wire in 6:39.978, a full boat length ahead of the boys from Newport.
The gang broke up after that winning effort, with Dailey and Szabo heading to college and Coach Nelson looking for another stroke and coxswain. “I’ve been blessed,” he said afterwards. “A group like this doesn’t come around very often.”
But when they do, it’s magic.
Just past the finish line in Florida, junior Tim Rudolph-Math gives it the “We’re #1” gesture.
Cox Zach Szabo and the crew show off their U.S. Rowing Youth Nationals trophy.
The Garnets savoring their Scholastic Rowing Association of American championship.
Clara Sutherland and Jillian Breen scull in the Lightweight Doubles.
Coach Stan Nelson, Jack Hartman, John Dailey, Zach Szabo, Tim Rudolph-Math, and Jimmy Cronin celebrate Rye’s State victory.