By Melanie Cane
RowAmerica Rye, a highly competitive junior rowing program, went live on March 18. If you’re an early riser, walker or runner, you’ve see the bunches of vigorous teens arriving at 668 Milton Road, next to the Boat Basin, most mornings just after 5. The alacrity with which they get their rowing shells in the water is astounding. So is the speed with which they’ve attracted regional and national attention.
Their first team was comprised of 16 high school-age boys, coached by Pierrick Absolonne and Mathis Jessen. Their 8 + 1 boat placed 2nd in the Northeast Regional Championships and was one out of 22 in the country to qualify for the Youth Nationals. Nine seniors, as well as Jessen, graduated from that nascent team, and most went on to Division 1 colleges.
This year’s elite team, which Absolonne is coaching, is comprised of ten rowers, three of whom are new, including Rye High School students Hutch Bryant and Aaron Na. The other team members hail from Greenwich High, King Low Heywood, Stepinac, Rye Brook, Mamaroneck, and Bronxville. Absolonne, a world-class rower who has been rowing for 32 years and is a certified Level III US Rowing coach, says the team’s goal is to establish themselves as national contenders.
The mission of the Junior Program is to enable all interested young people to reach their maximum potential in recreational or competitive rowing. RowAmerica Rye develops and trains highly skilled rowers, through outstanding coaching, a top-of-the line facility, and classes. “Our programs encourage young athletes to excel by emphasizing a positive team experience, consistent expectations, and the best possible life lessons through sport,” notes Absolonne.
In keeping with their mission, RowAmerica Rye offers classes to beginner and intermediate rowers in seventh and eighth grade. Currently, there are 32 members.
Director Laura Rauchfuss, who captained two Johns Hopkins University teams and won berths on four U.S. National teams, explains that classes are broken down into three areas: technique, navigation/safety, and competition/performance. In her classes, Rauchfuss emphasizes that rowing is a self-motivating sport. “The more you put in, the more you get out.” She said that training year-round is imperative. “Speed is everything, and to consistently achieve it, you have to row inside as well as outside.”
Absolonne adds, “It takes an incredible level of commitment, perseverance and maturity to achieve this level of performance, and proficiency.” Prior to joining RowAmerica Rye, Absolonne was head coach of Greenwich Crew’s Junior Boys program, and led his crews to multiple victories in the Northeast as well as the club’s first Men’s Youth 8+ and a berth in the Youth National Championships.
The transformation of the old Shongut marine facility on Milton Harbor into a full-fledged and custom-outfitted boathouse is close to completion. Once finished, it will boast 30 Ergonomic machines, treadmills, cross-training machines, weights, lockers, showers, offices, and a flex room for stretching, videos and tutoring.
Rauchfuss says, “We are lucky to be available to as many people as possible. Ultimately, we’d like to be available to everyone, including masters.”
In addition to a competitive team of elite rowers, RowAmerica Rye offers a broad range of group youth programs, private lessons, and adult classes all year long.
To find out more about RowAmerica Rye, visit firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203-820-3492.