Stonington Crew’s fall season brings program closer to state title with every stroke

A boys' varsity boat rows during one of their fall regattas.

A boys' varsity boat rows during one of their fall regattas.

A boys' varsity boat rows during one of their fall regattas.

Story by Jessica Weber, Co-Editor in Chief

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Hard work isn’t a new concept to Stonington High School rowers; they have been practicing since the first day of school. Before that, many participated in a summer program run by John Thornell, who is both a coach and a father of a rower on the team. While rowers from other schools were relaxing on the beach, traveling, or going out to eat on summer weeknights, Stonington Crew rowers were doing what they love most: rowing.

“[It was a] beautiful time. Coach Thornell was so amazing and it has one-hundred-percent helped the four be more comfortable and really jump right in,” co-captain Liz Yarnall said.

Yarnall believes that it was this laid back summer training that helped “the four,” a racing shell that holds four rowers and a coxswain, medal at the Bellringer Regatta on September 16th.

While Liz is looking forward to the athletic aspect of crew, she is also looking forward to taking on a leadership role and bonding with the younger girls on the team. A sense of togetherness is extremely important during this season especially, as the rowers are slightly younger than usual.

While they may be young, the rowers are anything but inexperienced and don’t seem to be a cause for concern for Stonington’s Head Coach Tyler Page.

“For the boys we had a very strong novice team last year that are stepping up into the varsity program,” Coach Tyler explained. “It will take some time for them to get used to the level of competition at the varsity level but the fall season will give the younger rowers a great chance to learn and build the level of fitness required.”

While winning is still a goal of the fall season, it is not the most important factor. Stonington uses the fall crew season, which consists of long head races as opposed to the sprints of the spring season, to gain strength and endurance. These skills are augmented throughout the rest of the year, and help rowers get in shape for the winter training season.

“[The fall season] provides a really good base of muscles and bonding in order to get technique down,” Liz Yarnall explained.

Tyler Stafford, a junior at Stonington High School and co-captain of the boys’ team, gets straight to the point about his goals for the fall season; “We want to gain speed and get momentum.”

Stafford is no stranger to success, and he knows what works. This past season, his boat placed second overall at CPSRAs, Connecticut’s statewide regatta. Through this feat, Stonington Crew was able to make an appearance at Nationals for the second year in a row — an accomplishment not many small public schools can claim. He knows that whatever the team puts in during the fall, they will get out during the spring season.

Ask any rower their goal for the year, and their answer will be the same. Regardless of level or boat, every member of SHS Crew wants the same thing: a State title.

“We want medals at States,” co-captain Yarnall declared.

“Our goal for the [year] is to win a State title for SHS,” Coach Tyler said. “We won in 2015 and came 0.3 seconds away from back to back state titles, so this year the goal is exactly the same.”

Both the girls and boys teams on all levels, novice, JV, and varsity, train relentlessly throughout the year for this collective goal, and the fall season is only the beginning.   

“We have a young team, but a very talented one and we are getting right to work this fall,” Coach Tyler concluded.

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Stonington Crew’s fall season brings program closer to state title with every stroke