By Lindsay Andarakis
After an accomplished spring run, Port Rowing is gearing up for the new season, aiming to take gold once again.
First-place finishes for three boats at the New York State Championships, a first for Port Rowing, and two additional qualifiers cemented bids for the 2017 National Youth Championships.
State gold medal winners included the men’s freshman four-person boat and the women’s novice four. The women’s varsity pair led the teams with a New York State gold medal and eighth-place finish in the nation overall.
“Coming down the course with my teammates was unforgettable and made all the tough workouts and time spent worth it,” Yuval Philipson, a graduating high school senior, said. “Port Rowing is an amazing program, which is unlike any other sports team. Because it is a club, the athletes all want to be there and work as hard as possible.”
Port Rowing was among the many club teams from throughout New York State that competed in Saratoga Springs this spring. The top two finishers in every event qualify to compete at the national level.
Started in 2010, Port Rowing attracts youths from Paul D. Schreiber High School and Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School, as well as schools in Great Neck, Roslyn, Locust Valley and Manhattan, and Friends Academy. More than 15 communities last year enrolled youths in the program.
Twelve Port Rowing varsity athletes qualified to make the trip to Sarasota, Florida, to compete at the Youth National Championships in June.
The women’s lightweight four-plus, the women’s pair and the men’s varsity four-plus represented Port Rowing. The “four-plus” designation specifies four rowers in the boat in addition to a coxswain, who directs the boat and the rowers.
The women’s lightweight four-plus finished in the top half of the nation overall and competed several times in one day, while the men’s varsity four finished 16th overall.
“We are so proud of our rowers’ determination and drive to compete against the country’s best clubs,” the men’s head coach and director of rowing, Michiel Bartman, said. “Each of our boats had the race of their season.”
A Florida summer storm chased the boats down the 2,000-meter course during the men’s four-person race.
Parents and spectators on the shoreline watched as the water conditions quickly transformed into a sea of whitecaps with thunderclouds overhead, and a heavy rain moving across the finish line.
For younger rowers, the journey to the Youth Nationals started in Saratoga Springs in May. Port Rowing claimed a record three gold medals and seven medals in total.
Many of the graduating seniors will say a bittersweet farewell to Port Rowing and continue their careers at the collegiate level.
Several graduates are committed to row at Ivy League and Division I schools, leaving big shoes to fill for the next season.
Adam Lyman was recruited to row at the University of Pennsylvania, Michael Nachman will row at Dartmouth College, Hannah Jackman will row at George Washington University and Maddie Lavin has signed a letter of intent to the University of North Carolina.
Others will also continue their rowing careers, with Katherine Melkonian at Williams College, Eva Tamkin at Haverford College, Logan Katz at Brandeis University, Tiger Russel-Yeh joining the club team at Michigan State and Brendan McCormack choosing between crew and sailing at George Washington.
The approaching fall season will bring anniversaries for two of the club’s varsity coaches who joined about a year ago, the president of the Port Rowing Board of Directors, Mitch Tamkin, said.
“For us, it’s our second season and we got to prep them coming in … we know our athletes a lot better and we get to build off of what we do in the spring,” Isa Rahman, the head women’s coach, said.
Tamkin said Port Rowing is not in it for money, but getting as many youths from the community and surrounding communities, as well as adults, to row, with a focus on learning how to row correctly, staying safe and having a good time.
“I have so many pictures of all the kids with their medals around them, smiling, with arms around each other. That kind of camaraderie is what our objective is. To have kids really enjoy the sport of rowing, and enjoy being teammates and working together to accomplish a goal,” he added.
The spring season is more of a sprint, with one-mile competitive races, while the fall is focused more on training with three-mile, long distance races.
The varsity rowers practice twice a day with some upcoming competitions in Connecticut and New Jersey.
The fall informational meeting is on Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 7 p.m. in the Lapham Meeting Room at the Port Washington Public Library. Parents and rowers are welcome, as the meeting will discuss important dates and the race schedule.
High school fall practices begin on Aug. 28, and middle school and adaptive teams start practice Sept. 11.