Tag Archives: US Rowing

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.

Max Meyer-Bosse Rows His Boat

Lizzie Youngling is not the only Westporter competing for a world rowing title.

She’ll be joined at the Under-23 international championships in Linz, Austria later this month by fellow Staples High School Class of 2011 grad — and Saugatuck Rowing Club teammate — Max Meyer-Bosse.

Max will represent the US in the men’s 8+.

Max Meyer-Bosse

Max Meyer-Bosse

He started rowing at Saugatuck in 7th grade, and it quickly became his passion. In the summers after junior and senior years of high school, he raced for the US Junior National team in Prague and London.

A rising junior economics major at Harvard, he rowed under legendary coach Harry Parker.

“The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had because of rowing have shaped me into the person I am today,” Max says.

Like Lizzie, Max must raise all of his training and travel costs. He is a quarter of the way to his $4,500 goal. Click here to help Max represent US Rowing in Austria.

Lizzy Youngling Races To World Rowing Championships

In 2011, Staples senior Lizzy Youngling was recruited by the University of Virginia. It’s the #1 women’s rowing school in the country — but virtually no one at Staples heard of her achievement.

Now Lizzy is headed to Austria. She’ll represent the US in double sculls at the Under-23 World Championships.

Once again, hardly anyone in town has noticed.

“Rowing is not an easy sport to watch,” Lizzy admits. “Spectators only see one section of the race.”

But it could be the toughest sport on the planet.* And Westport boasts an athlete with a chance to win an international title in it.

Lizzy Youngling

Lizzy Youngling

Yet Lizzy did not take to rowing like, um, a duck to water. As a child she watched her mother row (“I sat on the launch eating animal crackers,” Lizzy cracks). She thought it looked “incredibly graceful” — but when she got in a boat to try, she “wanted to die.”

In the summer of 2007 she took an introductory class at the Saugatuck Rowing Club. She was so good, she skipped novice competition and went straight to varsity. But she still didn’t care for the sport, and spent the next 2 years riding horses at the Fairfield County Hunt Club.

As a Staples junior, Lizzy went out for track. But shin splints ended that career 2 weeks after it began. Her rowing friends said they loved their new coach. Lizzy returned to the club.

Her career soon raced ahead.

She rowed on a boat that took 2nd at Nationals. That earned her an invitation to the Junior National Team selection camp. She snagged an alternate spot to travel with the Worlds team to Prague. The day before they left, an injury elevated her to a spot in the quads boat — which she helped to a 7th place finish overall.

The next year Lizzy won Nationals, then finished 4th at the World Championships in London (missing a bronze medal by 0.4 seconds).

And — as a freshman — UVa won the NCAA Division I championship.

Lizzy Youngling (2nd from left) at the Junior World Championship heats in 2011. (Copyright www.row2k.com)

Lizzy Youngling (2nd from left) at the Junior World Championship heats in 2011. (Copyright http://www.row2k.com)

Last summer was not as successful — she fractured a rib and had mono — but she came back stronger than ever. Right now Lizzy is training in Princeton. The Under-23 World Championships begin July 24.

At last, Lizzy loves rowing.

“You have to work so hard, but it pays off in the end,” she explains.

“The camaraderie is amazing. Your teammates totally understand your bad days, and they’re with you on the good ones.

“And winning! It’s the greatest feeling in the world. You can’t race too much because of the toll on your body, so when you do win, it really means a lot.”

Lizzy Youngling: strong and confident.

Lizzy Youngling: strong and confident.

Success in rowing demands “lots of patience, time and energy,” Lizzy says. It helps to be tall, too — she’s 6-1. (“Finally my height pays off,” she laughs).

Though Westport boasts the very successful Saugatuck Rowing Club, the sport’s profile here is not particularly high.

At Staples, she says, it’s considered “the place for people who don’t fit in with other sports.” But rowers might be the best athletes around. “It’s amazing to see these little middle school kids suddenly morph into muscular, powerful people,” Lizzy says.

In her senior spring, Lizzy left Saugatuck Rowing for the GMS Center in New Milford. The national team head coach is there, and Lake Lillinonah boasts a rare 12,000-meter straight course.

Lizzy has come far from last summer, when the day she returned to training after her 2-month layoff she could barely run 20 minutes.

Her current challenges are both physical — she thinks she and teammate Leigh Archer can finish in the top 6 at the World Championship — and financial. Because “no one follows us, and US Rowing has no money,” Lizzy and Leigh must raise $12,000 to compete.

For Lizzy Youngling, that’s just one more race to win.

(Click here to contribute to Lizzy’s US Rowing fundraising campaign.)

*Depending on whether you consider mixed martial arts a “sport.”