FM’s dark horse spring sports team: Rowing

By early March, the Hornet Stadium’s turf has typically been frozen over by a thick layer of icy snow, with the fields underneath coming to the end of their months long hibernation. The start of spring sports in mid-March marks the revival of this icy front, with a plethora of students making their return to the turf as lacrosse players, track and field stars, or all-section shortstops. 

For Fayetteville-Manlius High School, the spring sports season is historically an exhilarating time. FM lacrosse rosters have long been highlighted by multiple NCAA commits, the baseball team has seen recent success with a run to the state championship last year, and the track and field program is renowned across the country.

There’s one team at Fayetteville-Manlius; however, that doesn’t call Hornet Stadium home. They represent the Hornets on the icy waters of their home turf: Onondaga Lake. The Fayetteville-Manlius rowing team is the high school’s youngest team, founded in the spring of 2004 and based out of the James A. Ten Eyck Memorial Boathouse in Liverpool. Despite their historic national championship run last year, the team hasn’t seemed to garner the same attention as some of FM’s other spring athletic programs. Perhaps, it is the farther distance to the team’s home turf, the lack of knowledge of the sport, or the fact that the team is the only athletic program at FM not funded by the school’s athletic department that is the cause for this. 

Regardless, the team remains electric and motivated by their recent successes, hoping to continue building momentum for the program. Senior Mary Feck has been on the rowing team, or “crew” as the sport is affectionately called by the athletes, since her freshman year and was selected as a co-captain to lead this year’s star-studded roster. Mary said, “I think that the club aspect of rowing makes it very different from the other sports at FM. None of our practicing happens on school grounds, even our pre-season winter training happens off-site. We have to do a lot of fundraising to help run the club. But I think that all of this just adds to the closeness of the team.” As they are required to sustain their program, the team has the added responsibility of hosting various fundraisers throughout the winter in the lead up to their season, with the culminating fundraiser being the annual FM Rowing Garage Sale in mid-April. This extra layer required for the team’s success demands a unique aspect of heightened teamwork among the athletes, making the positive team dynamic a defining part of this squad.

Mary attributes much of the team’s recent success and last year’s historic season to this added sense of unity and appreciation for each other. “We have become a very close-knit group,” she said. “A large amount of our success (is due) to our relationships off the water. If you’re cohesive on land, your unity in the boat is even better.” The girls varsity team is led by Feck, as well as senior rower Mara McBride, juniors Ava Dardis and Margaret Osterhaudt, senior coxswains Grace Metnick and Benedita “Bean” Figueira, among others, while being coached by David Cusano, head girls’ team coach since 2007. The boys’ varsity team is highlighted by seniors Connor Goepfert, Noah Cadwell, coxswain Cody Pinsky, and junior Mark Carguello, with Coach Meredith Andrews (who has been involved with the program since 2016) leading the team. Last season marked tremendous results for both teams, with the girls varsity 4+, junior 4+, and boys junior 4+ boats all placing in the top-15 nationally.

The team hopes to prove this season that last year’s success was not just a fluke, and they have the talent to repeat history. Feck said, “I’m really looking forward to getting back on the water with my team. We’re all excited to defend our title!” For the rowing team, preparations for their spring season begin in early January with winter training– training on rowing machines known as “ergs,” and lifting weights in preparation for the start of the true spring season in March. Once the weather begins to cooperate, typically in early April, the team makes it out on to the water to run their spring sprints, in preparation for the series of races, regattas, that follow in late April and into May.

“Our first race is on April 29th in Saratoga! The whole team is really looking forward to it. Next, we’ll race at our own boathouse for the central section championships before heading back to Saratoga for states. We finish off the season at home again in the CHARGERS junior invitational. Nationals this year will be held in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and we’re all hoping to go,” said Mary. With only four or five regattas a year, the team has only a few chances to prove themselves, augmenting a great amount of pressure on these athletes. 

Feck hopes to soak in every moment of her senior season. She reflected on the emotion of last year’s state championship win, “Last year was truly an amazing and historic season. We were all optimistic going into states, but we definitely were not going in thinking it would be an easy race. Even as we crossed the finish line on the water, none of us knew if we had won. It was only when we made it back to the dock, absolutely exhausted, that we learned of our win. We were ecstatic.”

The team begins their trek to return to the National Championship later this month in Saratoga where they will set the tone for the rest of their season. For students and spring sports fans interested in supporting the crew squad this year, the first local opportunity will be May 6th on their homefront in Liverpool for the Central New York Championships. Feck recommends Long Branch Park for the best viewing of the boats passing by. This is a team that will be exciting to watch as the season develops, and a group that is sure to turn a lot of heads as the spring progresses.

Members of the FM girls' eight person rowing team row in the water.
Members of the FM girls’ eight person boat in competition. (Provided by Benedita Figueira)
A distant shot shows several boats competing in competition passing under a bridge.
FM rowing team in competition (Provided by Benedita Figueira)