11/13/14 2:45pm
11/13/2014 2:45 PM

It was meant to be a private video shared among parents of local rowers.

Two days later, video footage of last weekend’s Riverhead Snowflake Regatta became a viral YouTube sensation.

The now infamous local video with nearly a half-million views, which exploded after it was shared by sports entertainment website Deadspin, NBC Sports and USA Today among others, was shot and published on YouTube by the mother of a local rower.

“I just happened to be taking video and some of the other parents were like ‘Oh, can you send me that?” explained Mary Kay O’Shaughnessy of Riverhead. “So I posted it and it was not listed. It was not public and I sent it to a few parents.

“I don’t know how it got out there.”

YouTube explains: “Making a video unlisted means that only people who have the link to the video can view it … but it could appear elsewhere on the web if you or anyone who you shared the video with shares it more broadly.”

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The video depicts several mishaps during the annual racing event, including two crew teams stopped in the middle of the course with their boats apparently stuck.

Spectators along the riverwalk can be heard yelling and cursing at the boaters throughout the video.

Ms. O’Shaughnessy admits the video can be a bit misleading, though. At one point, the video shows an eight-women novice team striking a pier, appearing to force a teenage girl overboard as another team passes the rowers by.

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But results show that race featured a staggered start time and the team that struck the pier continued on, and eventually won.

“Not one rower ended up in the water,” Ms. O’Shaughnessy confirmed. “It was very scary, let me tell you, very scary. But they popped back up, not one of them got in the water and they actually won the race.”

And even though websites are making statements like “Riverhead Rowing Sucks!” in headlines, no teams made up of rowers from Riverhead are featured erring in the video.



Ms. O’Shaughnessy, who acknowledged that she licensed the video at the suggestion of others after it went viral, said “it was never my intention to embarrass anybody. Absolutely not.”

“It was for the parents who watched it all happen,” she said. “It was sort of surreal.

“I had some new parents saying, ‘So, this is what happens?” she said. “I said, ‘No, this never happens.’”

One veteran rowing coach who witnessed the races — but asked not to be identified — said these sort of miscues do often happen during novice races.

“This does happen and it’s not a horrible thing,” he said, likening it to foot races where runners stumble over each other.

He said sometimes young rowers can’t hear instructions from their coaches while out on the water, or have trouble seeing over each other, which could make it appear that boats are stuck while the team tries to figured out what to do.

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Ms. O’Shaughnessy said one positive from the video is that it might encourage coaches to address some safety issues within the sport.

“Maybe this can be used as a teaching tool for young kids [to learn] what to do when you get in a situation like that,” she said. “Or, you know, what not to do.”

Ms. O’Shaughnessy said she hopes the video doesn’t cause any trouble for the race organizers at East End Rowing.

“I’m so grateful the Snowflake Regatta is here,” she said. “It’s great for the local kids to go out and row.”

gparpan@timesreview.com

11/10/13 3:07pm
11/10/2013 3:07 PM
BILL LANDON PHOTO | Riverhead High School rowers at the Snowflake Regatta Sunday.

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Riverhead High School rowers at the Snowflake Regatta Sunday.

Hundreds of rowing enthusiasts descend on the Peconic Riverfront in downtown Riverhead Sunday for what has become a fall tradition — the annual Snowflake Regatta hosted by East End Rowing Institute.

Teams from both Riverhead and Bishop McGann-Mercy high schools participated in races along the 3,500 meter course Sunday.

View photos from the event below:

10/06/13 8:00am
10/06/2013 8:00 AM

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | East End Rowing has a new home in downtown Riverhead. Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio joins (from left) East End Rowing co-founder Co Rentmeester, webmaster Dan Jablonski, vice president George Woodhull and president Bill Hale.

If it weren’t for the 27-foot-long, 11-inch-wide racing scull in the front yard, the brown-shingled house at 30 McDermott Ave. in downtown Riverhead probably wouldn’t get more than a passing glance.

But this property isn’t just any abode — it’s the new home of East End Rowing and, after spending more than a decade on a chunk of land in Flanders without a structure to store their equipment, the group and its 35 members are happy to be there.

“There was no indoor anything in Flanders,” said club member Dan Jablonski, who manages East End Rowing’s website. “It was 12 years without a roof, basically. So when [storms] Irene and Sandy came, all the members went down there and had to make sure the boats were tied down and far enough away from the water.”

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | The building also has workout space for its members, including rowing machines.

Fortunately, that sort of hassle is now a thing of the past. In May, East End Rowing entered into a licensing agreement with Riverhead Town that gives the club rent-free use of the McDermott Avenue house. The five-room house was purchased by the town earlier this year for $160,000 and is now the property of the town sewer district, said that district’s superintendent, Michael Reichel.

Mr. Reichel said the town bought the house with the intention of demolishing it to make way for a new pump station, but he does not anticipate that occurring for at least another two years. In the interim, East End Rowing is responsible for paying all utilities at the house, he said.

“There have been so many different locations proposed for the boathouse,” said Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio. “Now, with the sewer district getting this property, it just made sense to put it here.”

This isn’t the first time local government has stepped in to assist the club. A few years ago, East End Rowing was awarded a $90,000 grant from Suffolk County. Part of that money was used to put build a new floating dock on the Peconic River.

“It was just in time because the old wooden ones had given up,” club president Bill Hale said.

The new dock was a plus, but East End Rowing, which was founded in 2001 by Co Rentmeester, Michelle Knox Zaloom, Dan Johnson and Alice and Marty Golden, needed a home base. Club members had hoped to build a boathouse in the form of an addition to the East End Arts building on Riverhead’s East Main Street, but that didn’t pan out, Mr. Hale said.

Now that East End Rowing has a house, Ms. Giglio said town officials are also working on an easement that would allow the town to purchase a pre-fabricated boathouse to put in the home’s backyard. In the meantime, East End Rowing members can store their sculls outside and take a hot shower in the home’s second-floor bathroom after rowing the Peconic River. There are also two rowing machines in an upstairs room, where members can train during the winter.

Club members agree the timing was just right to help firmly establish themselves in downtown Riverhead, which is enjoying a revitalization that East End Rowing hopes to be part of.

“Rowing is exploding across the U.S. right now,” said Mr. Hale. “I think people are finding that they can do it all their life, like golf.”

East End Rowing expects to draw a crowd of at least a thousand people when it hosts its annual Snowflake Regatta on the riverfront Nov. 10. Participation at last year’s event was negatively affected by superstorm Sandy, but 2011’s regatta included 108 entries from 14 rowing clubs.

And when rowers are doing their thing on the Peconic River, Mr. Jablonski said, all eyes are on them.

“Everybody’s got a big old motorboat,” he said. “When you’re rowing a 27-foot-long, 11-inch-wide boat, everyone’s watching you.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

05/14/13 8:00pm
05/14/2013 8:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead rowers Jonathan Schmitt (left) and Ethan Zaweski finished second overall in the Boys Lightweight 150 Double at the state championships last weekend.

The Riverhead High School rowing team won four medals at last weekend’s New York State Scholastic Rowing Championships in Saratoga Springs. The Riverhead team picked up two silver medals and two bronze competing against 73 teams.

Ethan Zaweski and Jonathan Schmitt won silver in the Boys Lightweight 150 Double with a net time of 6 minutes 29.66 seconds. Schmitt won another medal shortly after when he joined Rohan Sment in the Boys Pair race where the duo won bronze. They were sixth overall in 7:01.17. Scholastic teams are sorted separately from the club teams when medals are awarded.

Sment and Schmitt switched to a sweep event at the last moment and medaled despite only four practices in the boat. It was the first medal ever for Riverhead in a senior sweep event at the state championships.

Riverhead students Danny O’Neill and Hunter Bingham, who race for East End Rowing, which is not affiliated with the school team, won a gold medal in the boys Senior Doubles Sculls event, blowing away the competition in 5:46.6. The next closest competitor crossed the finish line in 6:03.69.

[Scroll Below for VIDEOS]

The girls Senior Quadruple Sculls won silver in their event as the second-fastest scholastic boat. The four girls racing for Riverhead were Erin Hesler, Emily Harsch, Samantha Kuepp and Amber Giambone. They were fifth overall in 7:33.44.

The Riverhead Boys Novice Four club of Anthony Ortega, Tristin Krueger, Ivan Stapon and Liam Sment won bronze with Kara Reese of McGann-Mercy as their coxswain. It was the first medal for Riverhead in a sweep event. It was also the first year Riverhead had novice rowers qualify for the state championships.

Riverhead had a fourth-place finish from the freshmen Boys Double team of Bryce McKissick and Nolan Renshaw. There were was no novice or freshmen doubles event at states, so the duo raced in the Senior Lightweight 160 Double event. They were sixth overall in 7:01.68.

McGann-Mercy rowers Julia Halsey and Reese were fifth overall in the Girls Pair, finishing in 8:10.68.

Boys Doubles

Boys Lightweight 150 Double

05/11/13 8:00pm
05/11/2013 8:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead freshmen Nolan Renshaw and Bryce McKissick won gold medals in the novice double Sunday at the Long Island championships.

Riverhead High School freshmen Nolan Renshaw and Bryce McKissick won Long Island championships in the novice double on Sunday. They competed in the Long Island Rowing Championship in Oyster Bay. Riverhead rowers, racing against 40 other rowing programs from 32 cities and four states, also won bronze in the boys novice four (Anthony Ortega, Tristin Krueger, Ivan Stapon and Liam Sment) and the boy’s junior varsity quadruple sculls (Joe Piro, Renshaw, McKissick and Sment). Sment showed strong capability by winning medals in both a sweep (one oar) and sculling (two oars) event.

Finishing out of the medals were Riverhead’s varsity boys double of Ethan Zaweski and Jon Schmitt, the varsity boys quadruple of Schmitt, Zaweski, Rohan Sment and Piro, the girls varsity double of Amber Giambone and Erin Hesler, the girls varsity quadruple of Giambone, Hesler, Emily Harsch and Sam Kuepp, the girls novice quadruple of Emily Masse, Isabella Christiansen, Olivia Fitzgerald and Trinity Pierzchanowski, and the girls novice four of Lauren Mastropaolo, Amanda Kindya (coxswain), Clare Conlan, Isabelle Acosta and Christiansen. Riverhead rower Dallas Cardone was sidelined by an injury.

According to coach Michelle Zaloom, Riverhead’s rowers could have done better if their equipment had been up to par with that of the competition. “Riverhead rowers continue to be handicapped by old boats,” she said. “The fact that we can go out there and win medals in boats that are older than our rowers says a lot about the toughness and strength of our team. Riverhead rowers race with a 40-pound handicap and show a lot of heart.“

Riverhead will send 13 rowers to the New York State Scholastic Rowing Championship scheduled for this weekend in Saratoga Springs.

11/23/12 5:00pm
11/23/2012 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead baseball player Matt Crohan, joined by his parents Stephanie and Ed, signed a Letter of Intent to join Winthrop University.

When the Riverhead baseball team took the field for Senior Day in the spring of 2011, all but one player in the starting lineup was a senior. On the mound, the Blue Waves handed the ball to Matt Crohan, who happened to be the only sophomore on the varsity team that year.

Crohan, a left-hander with a versatile array of pitches, struck out six that day to earn his first varsity win. It was evident back then that Crohan had the potential to be a dominant pitcher for the Blue Waves and a player who could be throwing meaningful pitches beyond high school.

That dream became a reality when Crohan signed a National Letter of Intent this week to play baseball at Winthrop University, a Division I school in South Carolina.

Crohan was one of five Riverhead students to officially sign letters of intent during the early signing period, which ran Nov. 14-21.

Two students signed for lacrosse: Ryan Bitzer with Stony Brook and Sabina Dorr with St. Francis. Bree Ristau signed with the University of Massachusetts for rowing. And Shanice Allen signed with Pace University for basketball.

The students celebrated with brief ceremonies at the high school, where parents and coaches joined them as they signed on the dotted line.

Crohan, who also plays the outfield for Riverhead, can hit 92 mph on his fastball, coach Rob Maccone said.

“Over and above all his athletic abilities, Matt is a great kid and deserves all the recognition he has gotten and will get in the future,” Maccone said. “I’m really going to miss him.”

Crohan was an all-league player as a sophomore and junior. Last season he led the team in strikeouts and batted a team-high .500. He’s also played for a club team based in Dallas, Texas, and was selected to play on a Yankees and Phillies scout tryout team.

“I’m very excited about playing for Winthrop,” Crohan said. “I really like the coaching staff, the team, which is in a building state, and the college itself. And, the weather in South Carolina is awesome.”

Crohan plans to study business management or marketing.

RIVERHEAD SCHOOLS COURTESY PHOTO | Ryan Bitzer signed to play lacrosse at Stony Brook.

Bitzer may better be known as a quarterback at this time of year, as he leads the Blue Waves into the Division II county championship this weekend. But his college sport is lacrosse and he’ll stick close to home to play for one of the rising programs in Division I.

“I really enjoy lacrosse,” said Bitzer, who’s also a standout basketball player. “It’s very physical and uses a combination of skills. I like that.”

An all-county midfielder last spring, Bitzer was the team MVP while leading the Blue Waves to one of their best seasons in years.

“Ryan is a very talented athlete,” said Riverhead coach Vic Guadagnino. “He does the job in the classroom, on the court and out on the field in multiple sports. Not only is he a great athlete, but he is a very special person who is a pleasure to coach.”

Bitzer plans to major in business.

Dorr has been a standout in the Riverhead lacrosse program since its inception when she was a seventh-grader. A midfielder/attack, Dorr was an all-division player last year and Brine National High School all-America selection.

She scored 30 goals with eight assists last year.

RIVERHEAD SCHOOLS COURTESY PHOTO | Sabina Dorr signed to play lacrosse at St. Francis.

Dorr said St. Francis, while the smallest Division I school, is a perfect fit of her.

“When I visited campus, I immediately like the team, the coaches and the university,” she said.

St. Francis coach Gregg Gebhard is a Long Island native.

“Everyone at St. Francis is committed to giving athletes both a great playing experience and a great education,” Dorr said.

Dorr plans to enter the health sciences program with the hopes of becoming a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant.

Ristau, who competes with the East End Rowing Team, is the first Riverhead student to sign with a Division I team for rowing.

Last year at the Scholastic Nationals Ristau placed fourth in singles. She was second at the New York Championships. At UMass, Ristau will compete on a nationally ranked team.

RIVERHEAD SCHOOLS COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead senior Bree Ristau will continue her rowing career next year at UMass after signing a letter of intent last week. Her father, Gary, joined her for the signing ceremony along with (standing, from left) rowing coach Michelle Zaloom with her daughter Anna, guidance counselor Chris Martin, assistant principal Charles Regan and superintendent Nancy Carney.

“I feel like I’ll fit in there perfectly,” she said.

Ristau’s coach, Michelle Zaloom, described her as “intense, tough and fearless.”

“She’s just got the right proportions for a good rower,” Zaloom said. “She’s got the arms, legs, shoulders, lungs and stamina she needs. I think she’s got what it takes to excel at UMass and to eventually qualify to row in the Olympics.”

Ristau plans to major in business.

As part of the Blue Waves’ “big three” last year, Shanice Allen helped lead the girls basketball team on a thrilling ride to the state semifinals. Allen was a huge reason for the Blue Waves’ success as the team won the Long Island championship.

Allen has been an all-league player since eighth grade and is a three-time all-county player. During the county championship win against Hauppauge she surpassed 1,000 career points.

She was second-team all-Long Island.

RIVERHEAD SCHOOLS COURTESY PHOTO | Shanice Allen, joined by her parents Kim and Willie, signed to play basketball at Pace.

“She is one of the top players I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching,” said Riverhead coach David Spinella. “She has a quiet confidence and grace, leads by example and is never a problem.”

Allen plays AAU ball throughout the year and Spinella credited coach Greg Flynn for helping Allen gain exposure.

Allen said she’s excited about playing close to home.

“I’m really happy that my mom and dad will be able to come to my games,” she said. “They’ve always been there for me and it will be nice to have them so close.”

Allen plans to major in biology with a goal of becoming an anesthesiologist.

joew@timesreview.com

06/28/12 1:00pm
06/28/2012 1:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead rowers Dan O'Neill (left) and Erik Divan won first place at the Scholastic Rowing Association of America National Championship.

There’s no escaping one bruising reality for rowers. At the start of every spring season, after spending most of the winter training comfortably indoors, the skin on the palm of their hands is shredded away by the constant pressure of gripping an oar as they pull their boat through the water.

Their hands become bloodied and blistered. Forget gloves; they only lead to hot blisters.

Eventually calluses build on their hands, a natural layer of defense that eases the pain through the rest of the season.

“I couldn’t hold my girlfriend’s hands for the first three weeks of the season,” said Riverhead High School rower Erik Divan. “We have rough hands. We have rower hands.”

It’s one of many sacrifices Divan and teammate Daniel O’Neill make in their sport, where since starting as freshmen they’ve developed into a fierce tandem. Most recently the duo won first place in the lightweight varsity double division of the Scholastic Rowing Association of America National Championship while racing in Cooper River in Camden, N.J. over Memorial Day weekend.

It was the biggest win of their career so far for the pair, who both just completed their junior years at Riverhead.

“Last year we got a silver medal and it was kind of a disappointment,” O’Neill said. “We were expecting to get gold and we really wanted to make it happen this year.”

The competition began May 25 when Divan and O’Neill won the first of three heats to send them into the semifinals the next morning. Needing a top-three finish, they won their semifinal heat to advance into the finals later in the day against five other teams.

Their confidence level was high as they entered the finals after winning the previous two heats without fully exerting themselves.

Before each race they have a ritual where they stretch, warm up with a jog and then stretch some more. During that time they discuss the upcoming race, detailing the strategy they plan to use.

The less they have to communicate during the race, the more it allows them to focus on maintaining their rhythm.

As they prepared for the finals, they talked about the possibility of a team being ahead of them as they got down the final stretch. They decided if that happened, they would go into a “sprint” — a last-resort maneuver.

Divan said the margin for error increases when the rowers go into a sprint and fatigue becomes more and more prevalent. It’s something they often practice, but have rarely had to use in competition.

“We weren’t expecting to use it,” Divan said.

As Divan and O’Neill neared the final 500 meters of the 1,500-meter race, which was a straight shoot down the river, they trailed the team of Jakub Kwasniewski and Anthony Angelucci from St. Joseph Prep.

They had trailed most of the race up to that point and were running out of time.

“We planned on increasing the speed as much as we could at that stage of the race,” O’Neill said. “That’s where a lot of crews tend to fall apart and decrease in speed.”

Using every ounce of energy at their disposal, Divan and O’Neill narrowed the gap, bringing them neck and neck with the boys from St. Joseph.

As they crossed the finish line, O’Neill took a quick peek behind him to find the competition.

“It was not a large amount by any means, but I could tell that we won,” O’Neill said.

The Riverhead team navigated the river in 5 minutes 5.05 seconds. St. Joseph Prep crossed 1/2 second behind them.

“When we finally pulled ahead it was an awesome feeling,” Divan said.

The victory capped the end of the spring season and signaled the start of training for the summer season in the never-ending cycle.

In the three years they’ve been training in rowing, the boys have rarely ever taken more than a day off in a week. The training is year round, many times with multiple workouts in the same day.

It’s a grueling schedule, but one they sought out in their commitment to go as far as possible in the sport. They wanted to be pushed, wanted to be challenged.

Both O’Neill and Divan started their athletic careers as runners. O’Neill also wrestled during the winter.

But rowing was a sport they were always around. O’Neill’s older brother Eddie got into rowing and earned his way onto the team at Cornell University, where his doubles partner Eddie Gould also went. Gould will be going into his senior year at Cornell while O’Neill will be a junior.

For Divan, his father had been encouraging him to try rowing since he was in second grade. For 10 years his father had been rowing, helping him keep in shape to run marathons.

Late in their freshman year, O’Neill approached Divan about rowing together, citing all the success his brother enjoyed.

Divan jumped at the opportunity.

They spent the first year together trying out different coaches and searching for their best fit.

They found their man in Co Rentmeester, who rowed for the Dutch Olympic team in Rome in 1960.

“Co really pushes us hard,” Divan said. “He gets in a boat behind us and screams at us. It gets us better and we are able to compete successfully with schools that have a lot more money than us.”

They train as part of East End Rowing, a small club that has included students from McGann-Mercy and Shoreham-Wading River.

A typical training day for Divan and O’Neill could begin with 18 kilometers of rowing in the morning, varying in intensity. In the afternoon they’ll lift weights at the gym and build up their endurance on the ergometer, the indoor rowing machine that is a crucial part of training.

The boys hoped to compete this year at the Youth Nationals as well, which is typically a higher level of competition. Divan said more teams tend to compete at the Youth Nationals, which attracts teams from the West Coast. Divan said a technicality they overlooked cost them a chance at competing this year. Winning at that regatta will be their goal for the spring season next year.

Until then, they’re busy preparing for the summer season, with races coming up in Canada and New Jersey.

Divan and O’Neill both hope to row in college, possibly together, and the next few months will be key in the recruiting process. The boys have several Ivy League schools on the radar, including Cornell, where O’Neill’s brother competes.

For as far as they’ve come in a relatively short period, they realize there’s always room for improvement. Even Olympians don’t always have a perfect stroke, Divan said.

“The sport itself is cardio, but it’s also incredibly technical,” Divan said. “There are so many pieces to the stroke, so many different styles.”

“Nothing is guaranteed in this sport,” O’Neill added.

Except blistered hands, that is.

joew@timesreview.com

11/15/11 1:59pm
11/15/2011 1:59 PM
Snowflake Regatta

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | A Riverhead rower wears a shirt Sunday made in support of Coach Al Boghard, who founded the club eight years ago. He was 82 years old when he died Tuesday morning.

As the crew teams made their way down the home stretch of the girls junior varsity 4x final at the Snowflake Regatta on the Peconic River in Riverhead Sunday, the team from Riverhead High School was easy to pick out.

They were the squad in the blue t-shirts with the words “Rowing for Coach Al” written across the front.

Al Borghard died Tuesday, two days after participants in the club he founded at Riverhead High competed in the annual regatta in his adopted hometown. He was 82.

Those who knew him well said the Calverton resident was “the father of rowing on Long Island.”

“If you’re in the rowing world, you know Al,” said Michelle Zaloom of Mattituck. “He was tireless in helping high school kids and rowers in general become better.

Fellow Blue Waves coach Ryan Greene said Sunday that Coach Al founded the club at Riverhead High eight years ago. He said the coach meant a lot to the 50 rowers from the school and the shirts Sunday were a way to show their love for the dying coach.

“They wanted to show their solidarity for Coach Al,” he said.

Ms. Zaloom said the coach was previously affiliated with the Sagamore Rowing Association, which operates out of Huntington and Oyster Bay and is Long Island’s oldest community rowing club. A Cold Spring Harbor school district boathouse is named after him. When word spread that he retired and moved to Calverton, it was a no-brainer for East End Rowing to encourage him to become a part of their group.

“When he first got involved with East End Rowing we said our only question for Al should be ‘What do you need?’” Ms. Zaloom said. “We were fortunate to have him around.”

There will be visiting hours for Al Borghard at Alexander Tuthill Funeral Home in Wading River from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. A memorial service is scheduled for noon Saturday, Nov. 26 at North Shore United Methodist Church in Wading River.

His family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Friends of Riverhead Crew, PO Box 136, Calverton, NY 11933.

gparpan@timesreview.com