Tag Archives: Sharon Kriz

Saugatuck Rowing’s Success: It’s In The (Fairfield County) Water

Earlier this month, Saugatuck Rowing Club’s junior women won the US youth 8+ championship in California. It was a remarkable 4th straight national title for the local club.

Two other boats medaled: the women’s youth lightweight 4+ earned a silver, and the men’s pair a bronze.

Nine of SRC’s champion rowers are from Westport.

Staples High School senior Kelsey McGinley, at US Rowing’s youth national championship.

Saugatuck Rowing is part of an area-wide hotbed of success. In fact, Rowing Magazine recently profiled 8 clubs on the I-95 corridor from Rye to Westport (and one in New Milford), with the headline “Connecticut Rules.”

The secret to their success, the story says, is “good water, good coaches and great athletes.”

“Fairfield County is an area of excellence,” notes Sharon Kriz, SRC’s director of rowing. “Everyone strives for the best, in everything they do.”

Rowing is a natural extension of that. But simply having “great kids, supportive parents and excellent facilities” is not all.

Since arriving in 2007, Kriz has developed an all-encompassing culture of sportsmanship and leadership. It filters down, from one group of rowers to the next. The boat that captured the 4th national title this month is completely different than the first winners in 2015.

Saugatuck rowers embrace after the youth 8+ national championship race. Behind them, director of rowing Sharon Kriz carries oars,

Alumni return often, to pass along the lessons they’ve learned. All 7 summer staffers are former SRC rowers. Some are still in college. Others plan to be full-time coaches — hopefully, at the handsome Riverside Avenue club.

A mentorship program has moved from the girls to the boys, and now to the parents. Every new rower and adult is pared with an experienced one. The result is twofold, Kriz says: support and relationships.

In a high-powered, hard-driving area like Fairfield County, managing expectations can be hard, Kriz admits.

“We have 60 boys and 60 girls. Not all of them will be star rowers. That’s the nature of a competitive team.

“But if they’re passionate and work hard, they’ll get results. Good communication can alleviate some issues.”

Winning is not the main goal of the club, she says. But it flows from the SRC culture. And, she notes, “You have to learn how to lose in order to win.”

Staples High School senior Isabelle Grosgogeat is coxswain on the national champion boat.

Saugatuck Rowing has plenty to offer, besides top-notch coaching, a clear and cohesive philosophy, and excellent equipment.

The facility itself is a draw. Parents — who come from several towns, besides Westport — can drop off their youngsters, go upstairs and work out themselves.

They can have a drink or meal at the restaurant, or just sit on the patio and gaze at the water. “It’s a special place,” Kriz says proudly.

Of course, the Saugatuck is also a tidal river.

“We’ve learned to adapt,” Kriz says. “Sometimes it’s pretty low. We make the best of it.”

But in the end, Saugatuck Rowing Club’s success — and draw — comes down to the people in the boats. And on land.

“We’ve got a great group of hardworking kids, coaches and support staff,” Kriz says. “I couldn’t be prouder of all of them.”

Director of rowing Sharon Kriz (far right) and junior girls head coach Gordon Getsinger (far left) pose with Saugatuck Rowing Club’s graduating seniors. All wear the logos of the colleges they’ll attend.

Saugatuck Scholar-Athletes Stroke To Success

“06880” seldom runs sports stories. If we did, we’d be inundated by every team and parent in town. Besides, something called the “sports section” of newspapers covers all that.

But I’m always happy to give props to national champions. I’m even happier when those athletes come with a great, non-athletic back story. So here goes.

Last weekend, at the USRowing Youth National Championships in West Windsor, New Jersey, Saugatuck Rowing Club‘s juniors repeated as gold medalists in 2 events — a first for any youth rowing team anywhere. Plus, the men’s youth pair took a bronze.

Saugatuck Rowing Club's women's youth openweight 8+ team celebrates after their national championship win.

Saugatuck Rowing Club’s women’s youth openweight 8+ team celebrates after their national championship win.

Over 400 boats and 1,700 athletes — representing almost 180 rowing clubs from 30 states — competed. Saugatuck’s 50 rowers included nearly 30 from Westport.

The national titles follow other great victories, at the Head of the Charles (with a new course record) and San Diego Crew Classic, and US representation by Staples High School seniors Oliver Bub and Lucas Manning at last year’s World Junior Rowing Championships in Rio de Janeiro.

Sharon Kriz, Oliver Bub and Lucas Manning, after earning a bronze medal at the men's youth pair national championship.

Saugatuck Rowing Club youth director and boys head coach Sharon Kriz, Oliver Bub and Lucas Manning, after earning a bronze medal at the men’s youth pair national championship.

Crew may be the most physically demanding of all sports. Saugatuck’s rowers practice year-round, often 6 to 10 times a week, with sessions before school and doubles on weekends.

Yet many of the local club’s boys and girls carry GPAs of 4.0 and higher. They find time to be Eagle Scouts, president of the National Honor Society, leaders of clubs like Save the Children and Catering for Kindness, chair of the Westport Youth Commission, board members of Safe Rides, volunteers with Builders Beyond Borders, and more.

They’ve received awards of excellence in Latin, and as Advanced Placement Scholars with Distinction.

Graduating seniors from Westport will continue their rowing careers at schools like Boston College, Brown, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown, Hobart, Middlebury, MIT, Penn, Princeton and Tufts.

SRC seniors pose proudly with the shirts of the colleges they'll row for.

SRC seniors pose proudly, wearing gear of the colleges they’ll row for.

All that excellence didn’t just happen, of course. They’ve had great role models — in their families, their schools, and through Saugatuck junior director and boys head coach Sharon Kriz, herself a former US national team competitor and current president of Westport’s Kiwanis Club.

That’s the kind of sports story I love.

And if these talented, well-rounded and very hard-working young rowers have a spare second to read this, here’s hoping they’ll accept our town’s hearty congratulations too.

Members of Saugatuck's women's youth openweight 8+ team boat cheer as the lightweight girls are about to join them on the winners' podium.

Members of Saugatuck’s women’s youth openweight 8+ team boat cheer as the lightweight girls are about to join them on the winners’ podium.

Saugatuck Rowers Race To National Titles

The Saugatuck Rowing Club made big waves last weekend.

The local juniors won 2 gold medals at US Rowing’s Youth National Championships in Sarasota, Florida. It’s only the 2nd time ever that a club won both the lightweight and openweight girls 8 events.

The victory by the girls openweight 8 capped an undefeated year. The crew achieved youth rowing’s Triple Crown, winning the Head of the Charles regatta, San Diego Crew Classic and Youth Nationals.

Girls openweight 8 - Saugatuck Rowing Club

SRC sent a 2nd girls openweight 8 to Florida, a rare qualifying feat. That crew placed 8th overall.

In addition, an openweight girls pair from SRC won a bronze medal. And a lightweight girls 4– composed entirely of 1st-year rowers – won the C final.

Of the 30 female rowers, 20 from Westport won medals. A number return for the 2015-16 season.

... and the national champ lightweight 8 boat.

… and the national champ lightweight 8 boat.

The Saugatuck Rowing Club does not get a lot of press. We see them working — hard — on the river. But around here crew is not exactly a spectator sport.

Congratulations to all — and to SRC junior director Sharon Kriz — on a job well done!

(Westporters on the winning boats include girls varsity 8: Lelia Boley, Grace McGinley, Alison Morrison, Katherine Ratcliffe, Willemijn ten Cate and Nica Wardell; girls varsity lightweight 8: Grace Johnson, Reni Forer, Camila Meyer-Bosse and Imogen Ratcliffe.