Crew club impresses on and off the water

Geneseo's Crew Club provides a close-knit, competitive team for both men and women alike.

With new head coach Lisa Cloen and a young team of 46 members showing up for the fall - more than half of which are new members or "novices" - the team said it's looking to build on its long history and lasting relationship with the community.

The team competes in the first few months of the fall semester, comprised of longer 4,000- to 6,000-meter races, and a spring season, which consists of shorter sprint races measuring 2,000 meters. Races are chosen based on proximity to Geneseo, the cost of entering and the other teams attending.

Junior Alyson Michener, who is the current club president, noted the difficulties facing Geneseo in competition against full-fledged varsity programs from larger schools with far more resources at their disposal. Michener said the team's goal is to "be the best we can be," especially in the spring season, which is generally more competitive due to the improvement of the younger members.

With practices at 5 in the morning, workout commitments and a variety of team trips, it is easy to see why sophomore captain Maggie Boquard said she sees the team as her "whole second family," adding that the teammates "see each other at our best and worst times," and for her, she said, that's definitely a good thing.

Like many teams, the best bonding experience comes during an annual spring break trip, complete with two-a-day practices and time to relax in warmer climates. This year, the team will travel to Charleston, S.C.

Separating the crew team from other athletic organizations, the members enjoy a strong relationship with the Geneseo community. Practicing on Conesus Lake makes building connections to residents easy, and those connections have developed into a makeshift fan base.

The Geneseo Crew Web site calls the team a "town and gown effort" while listing the numerous contributions the townspeople have given to the program. Some have gone so far as providing a team to compete in the inaugural race held at Conesus Lake, aptly named the Ancient Mariners.

Perhaps the biggest area of support from the community comes financially, and it's a good thing, too. Michener priced a new racing shell at $20,000 to $40,000. Because of the cost of the sport, the team holds many fundraising activities, including an "ergathon" event taking place this week, where members of the team take turns operating indoor rowing machines for 12 hours straight. The program also holds an annual Crew Recognition Day at the Conesus Lake boathouse in May.

Michener and company said they are "always looking for new members," and experience is not a factor. While novices with more experience increasingly find their way on to the team recently, most members are people who played sports in high school and are looking for a competitive sport without quite the commitment or intensity of a varsity sport.