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The Valley Regional rowing crew has swelled in size over the past three seasons as an independent program. This year was no exception as the Warriors featured a roster of 44 student-athletes. (Photo courtesy of Tracy LeMay )
The Valley Regional girls’ varsity first boat of four turned in a time of 5:40.6 at the Connecticut Public Schools Rowing Association Championship regatta to take second place in the girls’ four-boat final this year. Pictured are Aurora Coursey, Emma Carey, Head Coach John Laundon, coxswain Courtlin Sicignano, and senior captains Emily Hutchinson and Tessa LeMay. (Photo courtesy of Tracy LeMay )
The Warriors’ third four-boat of Katie Morrisey, Celia Robbins, coxswain Kyra Brennan, Iris Chirinos, and Ryce LIbby claimed third place at states with a time of 6:16.4. (Photo courtesy of Tracy LeMay )
Valley’s boys’ novice boat of Kaleb Sicignano, Ian Mackenzie, Selvin Gimenez Fuentes, Zachary Kirla, and coxswain Allison Conroy (not pictured) had a respectable showing at the CPSRA regatta, posting a third-place finish behind a time of 6:11.0. (Photo courtesy of Tracy LeMay )
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The Valley Regional rowing crew continued to gain recognition with both added enrollment and increasing skills in 2019. This marked the Warriors’ third year as a full-fledged independent program and that resulted in some solid results throughout a somewhat tumultuous season on the water.
Valley’s continued improvement was no more apparent than at the Connecticut Public Schools Rowing Association’s (CPSRA) championship regatta at Lake Waramaug on May 19. Last year, the girls’ first varsity boat came in third place overall, which was a place better than its fourth-place foray in 2017. This year, the first boat of senior captains Emily Hutchinson, Tessa LeMay, junior Emma Carey, sophomore Aurora Coursey, and senior coxswain Courtlin Sicignano claimed second place with a time of 5:40.6, finishing not too far behind Lyme-Old Lyme’s first-place time of 5:34.3.
Head Coach John Laundon was impressed, not just at the Warriors’ first boat taking second place at states, but also how much the group improved its time from earlier in the season.
“Our first boat’s second-place finish at states was big,” said Coach Laundon. “We significantly reduced our time against Old Lyme from earlier in the season in that race. That was pretty significant.”
Both of Valley’s team captains LeMay and Hutchinson represented in the first boat all year, and they performed well with the oars in their hands as well as on solid ground helping to lead the team.
“Both of them were great, and they did a really good job as captains. They were my in-between for the team and the coaches. They also sought out suggestions and advice from the team and passed that on to the coaches,” said Laundon. “They were always helpful on a daily basis, and after a race, I would ask them if they wanted to say something to the team, and they often would have something to say.”
Also showing themselves to be valuable contributors on the squad were junior Emma Carey and freshman Emily Kateley, who earned Valley’s Trudy and Fred Emerson Warrior Award for displaying all the qualities of a good team player.
Other boats also medalled at the CPSRA regatta including the girls’ third boat, the girls’ novice boat, and the boys’ novice boat. The girls’ third boat of sophomore Katie Morrissey, sophomore Celia Robbins, junior Iris Chirinos, sophomore Ryce Libby, and sophomore coxswain Kyra Brennan earned third place with a time of 6:16.4. The all-freshmen girls’ novice boat of Lindsey Valentino, Lauren Valentino, Alexis Massey, Caroline Hutchinson, and coxswain Madeline Jacaruso also claimed third place with a time of 6:45.1, while the boys’ novice boat of senior Selvin Gimenez Fuentes, freshmen Kaleb Sicignano, Ian Mackenzie, and Zachary Kirla, and junior coxswain Allison Conroy took third place with a time of 6:11.0.
One issue the Warriors had to manage this year was volatility in their lineups. While the constant shuffling in the boats could be tough, it was ultimately because many rowers were constantly improving through practice and training. The team was mostly anchored by its upperclass-athletes, but there were quite a few newcomers to the bunch.
“We had a young team even with our seven or eight seniors. We had 15 or so freshmen, and those kids are improving every day,” Laundon said. “With some of these kids the learning curve is quick, and they might get better quicker than some other kids who have already been rowing. Halfway through the season we had lower boats beating higher boats, so we were constantly changing our boats.”
The Warriors’ crew was also recognized with an installation in the Valley Regional High School cafeteria this year. The installation was a way to show some love to the outgoing seniors, who helped make Valley crew what it has become over the past three seasons.
Even with Valley’s recent success, crew is still a program in its fledgling stages. That means that the squad is building a tradition, and many novice rowers and coxswains are trying their hand at the sport of rowing. That makes it very hard for Coach Laundon to plan for each season, but it also means that there’s plenty of competition for spots in each boat all year.
“Each year is different. I have no idea what will happen in the spring until I get a better idea in the winter workouts,” Laundon said. “There’s some promoting from people at Winthrop, but not a lot. It’s more people coming in and seeing us do our program that draws them in.”
Coach Laundon likes to keep everything wide open for the crew. Year by year, there are no guaranteed positions on his roster. Continuing to hold a spot in a boat means an athlete must prove their ability to row at a high level, or someone else who’s better prepared can slide into that spot.
“I take every season as a completely new one, nothing is guaranteed. Anybody can be in that first boat. I want everybody on the team to know that they are candidates for any of the boats, depending on how they perform in the spring,” Laundon said. “There can be some kid who’s never rowed before and can get themselves in great shape and show up and be a superstar. I think it’s important for everyone on the team to know that, so they train hard in the offseason.”
As for the future, Laundon has a hard time predicting what may come next season. There are plenty of people interested in rowing for the crew, but how each team will ultimately turn out depends on how hard they work and how well they jell.
“I’m definitely optimisic for next year,. I think it could be an even better year. I think the kids are really starting to understand that work it takes in the offseason” Coach Laundon said. “We’re trying to get all the kids to do something in winter, summer, and fall. I encourage them to do other sports that aerobic besides rowing like if they want to row in a single foil in the summer. I also think it’s healthy for them to try out in other sports like soccer, lacrosse, track, swimming, and basketball.”
From the Sidelines
The Valley Regional crew roster this year included senior captains Emily Hutchinson and Tessa LeMay; seniors Kimberly Berardis, Allie Gilbert, Selvin Gimenez Fuentes, Lily O’Neil, and Courtlin Sicignano; juniors Emma Carey, Awdrie Carnelli, Iris Chirinos, Allison Conroy, Sean Davis, and Brady Ingram; sophomores Kyra Brennan, Grace Cohen, Kailey Costa, Emma Counter, Aurora Coursey, Evan Driscoll, Zachary Gilbert, Nathaniel Hill, Ryce Libby, Cara Milley, Katherine Morrissey, Jamie Pullin, Celia Robbins, and Natalie Weglarz; and freshmen Shanna Boland, Chase Conrad, Marcella DiPierdomenico, Jordan Harris, Caroline Hutchinson, Madeline Jacaruso, Emily Kateley, Zachary Kirla, Frances Leigus, Ian Mackenzie, Alexis Massey, Isabella Sacks, Kaleb Sicignano, Elizabeth Tulledge, Lauren Valentino, Lindsey Valentino, and Hailey Young.
Head Coach John Laundon’s coaching staff includes assistant coaches Peter Charbonney, Renny Schoonmaker, and Michael Fergueson.
The 2020 Member Directory and Town Guide for Branford, Guilford, North Branford, and Northford has arrived!