Greenwich Crew searching for gold in California during Nationals

Members of the Greenwich Crew Women’s Youth 2x boat Melissa Curtis and Alex Slabbert during a recent practice at the Greenwich Water Club.

Members of the Greenwich Crew Women’s Youth 2x boat Melissa Curtis and Alex Slabbert during a recent practice at the Greenwich Water Club.

The New York Rangers aren’t the only team in the area making a cross-country flight to California for competition in a championship.

The Greenwich Crew women’s team will be sending a team-record three boats to the 2014 U.S. Rowing Youth National Championships in the Golden State.

“This has been the most exciting season since I got here six years ago,” Greenwich Crew head coach Marko Serafimovski said. “Since I got here, we have taken one boat or two. We had six boats with the chance to qualify for Northeast Regionals and three of them did. This year we are taking those three boats to Nationals, so I think we are growing and getting better and better.

Members of the Greenwich Crew Girls Lightweight 8+ boat during a practice leading up to Nationals.

Members of the Greenwich Crew Girls Lightweight 8+ boat during a practice leading up to Nationals.

“The kids have been training really hard for this. It was a long winter, but they trained inside and never let up,” Serafimovski added. “I think they got a little tired at the end of the spring season, but all the hard work is paying off.”

The championships, presented by Rancho Cordova Travel and Tourism, will take place on Lake Natoma, located between Rancho Cordova and Folsom, Calif. The Sacramento State Aquatic Center is hosting the event.

“This is so much fun, knowing that I am going to California and racing for my team,” said rower Megan Slabbert. “This year we had the most athletes qualify for Nationals and I think we can all do really well. I am super excited for the team and I think we’ve grown so much. From sculling events to sweep events, from first boat to the last boat, we have all gone so far this year.”

Greenwich Crew left the Nutmeg State yesterday for its date at Nationals. After the team practices on Lake Natoma today, Greenwich will hit the waters for competition starting tomorrow.

“I have been on this team for three years and I have really seen the team grow so much,” rower Melissa Curtis said. “It’s awesome because it reflects the talent on the team that we have accumulated over the years. We have grown from needing improvement to one of the best teams in the Northeast and that is because of Marko. He’s an amazing coach and we wouldn’t be here today without him.”

“Our chances for doing well in this regatta are really good,” said Serafimovski. “I am hoping that all three boats are in the finals and out of that I hope two of the three get medals. That has never happened at our club before. We are racing good competition and will be on a new race course for us.”

Just to get to this point Greenwich Crew needed some good times at the Northeast Junior District Championships in Lowell, Mass. That’s exactly what the girls team did.

In the women’s single race, Megan Slabbert placed second overall with a time of 7:44.9, less than two seconds off the first place finisher, and beat out 13 other crews. Not to be outdone was the duo of Alex Slabbert and Melissa Curtis, as they competed in the Women’s Youth 2x race and also took the silver, posting a time of 7:01.07. Alex Slabbert and Curtis were also less than two seconds away from the gold.

Lastly, the women’s lightweight 8+ boat comprised of coxswain Paulina Goosens, Brakeley Bryant, Astrid Rydevik, Isabelle Myers, Emma Gilson, Elana Weinstein, Molly Lesser, Jenn Whitehill and Julia Davis also had a stellar afternoon in Massachusetts. They finished third overall netting a time of 6:38.73.

“I am so excited to get to Nationals, just like all the other girls in my boat,” Whitehill said. “We’ve been working since the fall, training and preparing for Nationals. We have improved so much as a boat and we are really excited how much we’ve improved since Regionals to Nationals.”

Throughout the spring season, Greenwich Crew has been racing top competition, whether it’s local teams or regional teams in the Northeast. However, now their rowing is at a whole new level, as the best teams from around the country take to the water on Lake Natoma.

Despite the stiff competition, Serafimovski is confident his team won’t see any surprises, saying that competing in the Northeast region prepares his team for anything they would face at Nationals.

“If you are competing against the teams in the Northeast, it’s easy to tell if you’re in pretty good shape going in Nationals,” Serafimovski said. “With that said, competition will be very tough, with boats from California that are very good and spend all year on their water. That’s their big advantage, but I am still expecting really good racing.”

Greenwich Crew’s Megan Slabbert looks to lead the program when they start competition in the USRowing Youth Nationals on Friday.

Greenwich Crew’s Megan Slabbert looks to lead the program when they start competition in the USRowing Youth Nationals on Friday.

Serafimovski couldn’t be more pleased with all three of the boats that are heading out West.
In the women’s single race, Megan Slabbert has been dominating the competition. She has been rowing singles quite a while now.

“We need to be prepared,” Meghan Slabbert said. “That’s all we need to do. I have been preparing for this trip for a while now and I think I’m ready. I know what I have to do to get a medal. The atmosphere in Nationals for us before was nervous and not as confident. But as many athletes as we have, we will be ready to show that Greenwich is on the map.”

Megan Slabbert has been sculling since her freshman year, but her ability to switch from scull rowing to sweep at a moment’s notice has made her a standout.

“She’s well prepared and is really mentally strong,” said Serafimovski. “Single is a tough discipline to row in because you’re on your own. You can’t rely on anybody else. Every mistake you make is your fault.”

While one Slabbert has been competing in singles, another Slabbert, Alex, is joining Curtis in the Women’s Youth 2x boat. According to Serafimovski, Curtis is the program’s fastest rower and was a member of the Greenwich Crew’s National team last year.

“I am excited to show what we’ve been working for all year,” Curtis said. “I am really hoping that we all make the final. I would love to see everybody get a top six in the country and I think it’s really possible.”
At Nationals last year, Curtis competed in the single boat and finished fourth in the country. She also finished fifth at the Worlds for her age. Although she excelled at singles, Serafimovski moved her into the doubles boat this season.

“So far they’ve been working really well together,” Serafimovski said. “They have been putting in a lot of effort and are really fast. They lost at Regionals by less than two seconds to New Canaan, but I think it was a good wake-up call for them. They were a little too confident. They learned from this and are ready to go and do well at Nationals.”

Greenwich Crew’s biggest entry will be the Women’s Youth Lightweight 8+ boat, a group of mainly sophomores and juniors. Serafimovski is hoping that the boat will be advancing to the final heat.

“That will be a great achievement for them, knowing they have another year or two to go. With that being said, they are still looking for a medal,” Serafimovski said. “They work well together, they work hard and put a lot of hours into getting better and there is a lot of chemistry on the team. They want to do better to help each other out.”

Despite what happens at Nationals, it’s hard to argue the success Greenwich Crew has had since Serafimovski took over the girls program.

“It’s great to see how the woman’s team here has progressed from six years ago to now,” Serafimovski said. “It’s been going uphill right from the start, but it’s not easy. It takes a lot of time, hard work and patience to get where we are right now. At the end of the day, I think it’s obvious that it’s paid off. The motivation that comes from the girls and the coaching staff is at the highest level.”

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