Rower Noah Kasman recalls the night he joined Oswego State Crew.
“[Matt Stufano and I] started talking about crew, and I asked when the next meeting was,” Kasman said. “As soon as I said that, everyone around me started telling me to come the next day to join the team. I always look back and smile because it gave me this overwhelming feeling that crew is a big welcoming family.”
Oswego State crew is a 30-year-old club of dedicated student-athletes. Each semester, 70 to 90 rowers and coxswains of varying experience train together, strengthening both their skills and their relationships.
The executive board of Crew Club consists of 13 students. The four captains, Kailey Brigande, Claire Wajda, Garrett Edick and Grey Ankenman, place rowers into boat lineups and manage practices. During land practices at Lee Hall, rowers work on indoor rowing machines called ergs to improve their form and technique. This is then applied in boats during early morning water practices at Fairhaven Marina.
“I ran for captain because I could see the potential the team has to get better and grow to be great and I thought I could help,” Wajda says.
Captains work closely with coach Mike Piro, a graduate student who dedicated four years to the team as an undergraduate.
“When asked to coach this semester, I felt obligated to be a part of it still,” Piro said. “Being able to raise this team to a level higher than it was when I came in as a freshman is really rewarding.”
Matt Stufano, the club’s president, is responsible for running meetings and focusing the board. Vice President Sarah Balseiro coordinates fundraisers and community service and acts as liaison to the U.S. Rowing Association. The board includes Treasurer Katia D’Arcy, Secretary Jaclyn Shyptycki, Safety Officer Kelly Doering, Dockmaster Amanda McKnight and Social Chairs Aaron Cassidy and Shanna Fuld.
“The people I work with basically every day make it possible for the team to function properly,” Stufano said of his executive board. “They deserve so much credit.”
As a club sport, crew is student-funded. A portion of the team’s budget comes from the Student Association and the rest is collected from dues and fundraising. Team expenses include race registrations, travel fees and expensive equipment: an eight-man boat can cost $40,000.
The RowStrong Regatta on Oct. 11 enabled Oswego State to race master level rowers through a 5,000-meter course. Oswego State finished in third place, only four minutes behind the first place finisher.
“I get so excited to share the sport with others and I love it when I see them enjoying themselves when they row,” Brigande said. “To me, that’s really rewarding.”
The team’s U.S. Rowing membership allows Oswego State to compete at the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta on Oct. 24, which Stufano refers to as, “the most competitive regatta [the team] has been to in four years.” The Head of the Fish Regatta on Oct. 31 accommodates rowers of all experience levels from over 150 clubs. Oswego State hopes to race eight boats.
Piro said the team is preparing for these races by, “getting everyone rowing, and teaching the novice rowers to love the sport.”
Teamwork is the universally accepted key to rowing.
“On a crew team you all have to sync together as a unit,” Ankenman said. “There’s a bond you get from working together in such close proximity with all those people.”
“When I joined freshman year, the older team members made me feel like I belonged somewhere,” club member Jen Labas said. “Most of my friends and best memories are from crew.”
Common passion for rowing enables a unified team.
“We wake up crazy early, blurry-eyed, and when we meet we are able to smile and actually enjoy each other’s company,” Edick said. “I don’t even enjoy my family at five in the morning. The team shares one mind. We are all in it for each other”
Ultimately, this fierce camaraderie drives Oswego State’s crew.
“It’s the most amazing group of people,” Edick said. “They have made all that college work worth it 10 times over. That’s why I’ve stayed.”