WESTPORT — Standing together on the steps of town hall, each draped in fine pressed navy blue jackets and white pants, the members of the three time national championship Saugatuck Rowing Club women’s youth 8+ smiled as First Selectman Jim Marpe addressed the gathering of parents and residents.

“In my view,” Marpe said looking out to the crowd. “It is a tremendous achievement.”

Three straight undefeated seasons accompany each of the national titles for a program that has for a number of years gained recognition throughout the country as the best.

“Some of these girls have been rowing year-round for the last four years,” Director of Rowing at the Club Sharon Kriz said. “The race is only 6 1/2 minutes long. But there’s a lot of time and effort year after year that goes into that.”

But the accolades have just proven to be a testament to the girls in the organization and the foundation that the leaders of the team have laid down in their four years, coach Gordon Getsinger said.

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Saugatuck Rowing Club Girls Varsity 8+ crew -

Noelle Amlicke (Westport) — sophomore

Caitlin Esse (New Canaan) — sophomore

Grace McGinley (Westport) — senior. Will attend Stanford University

Sophie Pendrill (Scarsdale) — senior. Will attend University of Texas, Austin

Imogen Ratcliffe (Westport) — senior. Will attend University of California at Berkeley

Willemijn ten Cate (Westport) — senior. Will attend Princeton University

Saugatuck Rowing Club Coaches:

Sharon Kriz, Director of Rowing and Head Coach, Junior Boys

Gordon Getsinger, Head Coach, Junior Girls

Anna Yamamoto, Assistant Coach, Junior Girls

Saugatuck Rowing Club Management:

Suzanne Pullen, General Manager

Howard Winklevoss, Owner (possibly will be attending)

Rowers not able to attend:

Tatiana Chermayeff (Rowayton) — senior. Will attend Harvard University

Kelsey McGinley (Westport) — junior

Charlotte Powers, coxswain (Fairfield) — senior. Will attend University of Michigan

“The kids are very similar to Marines in that,” he said. “They are just willing to go for each other and sacrifice for each other. They’re stronger as a whole than as individuals. They motivated each other tremendously.”

Although winning can create great joy, it can also have several drawbacks for a team of young high school students that can have pressure going into every single competition.

Both Willemijn ten Cate and Grace McGinley have spent the last three years as parts of national title teams, but they both said this last year created the toughest test with expectations being so high.

“We try and tell ourselves we’re the underdog,” Cate said. “But we really aren’t. I think it was the pressure this year that was really what motivated us to succeed.”

Despite the pressure that the team felt in the boat, they were able to do what all great teams do — rise to the occasion and leave their mark.

It takes a different kind of athlete to achieve the accolades that the members of his team have been able to do, Getsinger said.

“There’s a psychology to it, you have to create very tough individuals,” he said. “The nerves are there for them. But we put in so many hours and we try to have this attitude of ‘you train like you race and race like you train.”

The toughness of competition can seem like nothing when it is forged in the bitter cold of rowing in the rain and snow during the offseason.

“We all agree,” McGinley said with a small smirk. “Working out is terrible. But it was the pressure that motivated us.”

Although onlookers often see the finished product — the national championships and notoriety from the town — it is a mental state of mind and preparation that Getsinger said is the biggest contributors for the success and all the things that comes with it.

“Obviously there are a lot talented kids that are good athletes,” he said. “But it’s a lot of years and extra hours that goes beyond what is standard and asked of them.”

Kriz said the time that the girls put into the season and training in the off season is evident in the success, but also in the dedication each member shows to be great.

“The only thing that is going to keep us off the water is thunder and lightening,” she said.

It has been that kind of focus and attention to detail that has propelled the program right out of the waters of Saugatuck and into the stratosphere of youth rowing.

“I love Saugatuck,” McGinley said. “If I could bring the team with me I would.”


ct.com; @aronJohnson_