The Syosset High School boys junior varsity rowing team wasn’t rowing gently down the stream. Instead, they were paddling vigorously, determined to capture the New York State title.
While Saratoga Springs might be known for horses, this was no ordinary weekend trip upstate. Rather, this was the opportunity of a lifetime for a group of rowers who have been attempting to do the unthinkable for quite some time.
“We’re small in size and we worked really hard throughout the fall and winter season,” coach Kevin Kelley said. “We had a really strong run to make it to the finals. It’s not an easy feat to accomplish.”
When it came time for the state title battle, the Braves were ready for the challenge ahead. The four-boy boat did exactly what they needed to in order to win it all, defeating Fayetteville-Manlius High School by more than 2 seconds.
“Being a champion rower is rarely about having the best times or improving yourself as an individual,” junior William Messenger said. “It’s about everyone in a boat improving as one. The people that I row with are the most dedicated people I know, spending every hour, every day working towards our goal. In the end, the best reward is showing up to the start line and knowing that we’ve worked harder than every single other crew there.”
But that’s not all. The Syosset girls varsity lightweight (130 pounds and under) group finished eighth of nine teams in their division. In a boat featuring kids from the high school, as well as Jericho High School, it was a combination of juniors and seniors who attempted to do all they could to wrap up the season.
“Everyone is working towards the same goal. In this sport, the win is for the whole boat, not just you,” senior Faith Liang, who’s on the girls lightweight team, said. “You row as hard as you can for the person next to you, and you know they’d do the same for you. There is no such thing as a championship rower without a championship team to back them up.”
The team’s varsity pair, featuring senior Thalia Feeney and junior Emily Huang, finished last in their race. While they didn’t win big, getting to the state tournament is just as big of an accomplishment.
The boys team that won the state title advanced to nationals in Ohio, where they finished fifth in their heat. While they didn’t advance to the finals, the season as a whole was certainly a major accomplishment.
“It was very exciting,” Kelley said. “I had confidence they would get the job done. It was like putting the cherry on top of the ice cream.”