By AMARIS FORD
LATHAM — “The core of the team is enthusiastic and hard working,” coach Burt Apfelbaum said of the competitive rowing season. For over 40 years, he has helped students thrive to achieve their highest competitive goals.
Apfelbaum had coached the Shaker Crew for 10 years but recently returned. “I was thinking of retiring but saw that Shaker was in desperate need of a coach just over a year ago and decided to help them out,” he said.
Shaker Crew is a club at Shaker Junior and Senior High School, consisting only of high school students. The club is entirely self-funded through dues and fundraising.
“We have a core of college boys who have worked hard all summer. They will be competing in various races throughout the fall,” Apfelbaum said. “The college girls, mostly freshman girls from last year, were competitive.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing my progress from last year,” rower Elizabeth Williamson said of the new competitive season.
During the biggest regattas and depending on the season, Shaker Crew can compete with 30 to 100 teams. “Fall races usually have bigger waves, so in the spring I’ll be racing against 10 other teams, but in the fall maybe 30 at a time,” Williamson said.
“I get a big adrenaline rush during them,” added Williamson. “It’s fun to hang out with my teammates and see the results at the end and see how well we did.”
Williamson, who has been with Shaker Crew for nearly two years, was looking to try a new sport in college. Now, for her, the Shaker Crew feels “like a second family”.
Connor Carey had been rowing since grade seven and is in his fifth year with Shaker Crew. “I fell in love with it,” he said, “and that’s what held me back.”
“It’s very comfortable to be around my team now. We’re all very close,” Williamson said. She is attentive to maintaining team morale by doing her part. “I really help in training. I communicate with my teammates and I help reassemble the boats.
“The whole team is one big family,” Carey said. “It’s the only way to say it. I made some very good friends that I hope to keep all my life.
“It teaches teamwork and leadership,” said Lisa Merolle, former Shaker Crew treasurer and parent of a former rower. “There’s a real camaraderie between the team members, where everyone cheers and encourages each other.”
Once Apfelbaum arrived, Carey said that “he really understood the competitive side of the team.”
Hometown pride was a motivating factor for Apfelbaum’s return to the Shaker Crew. “It’s my hometown. I want to help make it more competitive and give the kids a good experience.
“I would definitely say he knows what he’s doing, and he’s an amazing coach,” Carey said. “I can tell you from experience that it will definitely take you far.”
Apfelbaum has experience in coaching. “I’ve helped a lot of people somewhere on their way to the highest level of rowing,” he said. “I’ve helped two dozen athletes rise to the United States on the junior and senior national team.”
“He’s very motivating,” Williamson said. “If I don’t do my best and he can say so, he pushes me to keep going, and that’s fine. I have built a very strong relationship with him since I met him. I think he is a very good coach. »
Apfelbaum is a veteran of the college rowing scene. “I rowed at Trinity College at the university level for two years, and I rowed four years at Trinity College in Hartford. It’s a good, solid Division III program.
During his competitive years in rowing, he won the singles title at Canadian Henley. “I rowed competitively until I was 34,” he added.
When his competitive rowing career ended, he took up coaching. “I coached at Trinity College for a decade and coached at Albany Rowing Center for a while.”
He has also coached gold medal winning crews at the US National Championships, US Junior National Championships, US National Club Championships, Dad Vail Regatta and New York State Schools Championship.
Most recently, Connor Carey earned first place at the State Championships in the Singles Crew event and traveled to the National Youth Championships in Sarasota, Florida where he placed tenth overall. .
“If you listen to what he has to say and do what he tells you to do, he will get you very far in the long run,” Carey said.
“Rowers had great success during their high school careers, rowing in state and national championships, and many went on to row in college and become coaches themselves,” Lisa Merolle said. She remembers a rower who recently competed in Olympic trials for Team USA.
“A lot of students don’t know rowing exists and once they try it, they fall in love with it,” Merolle said.
“If you want to join, just go to the trials,” Carey encourages anyone interested in rowing. “Go ahead and try it out and see if you like it.”