Weekly Feature

2017-05-18 / Sports

McCrone looking to kickstart Orchard Park rowing program


Nicole Roberts (left) and her daughter, Madeline, (right) are pictured her after Madeline’s Novice 8-plus boat won at the John Bennett Regatta May 8. Roberts is one of four Orchard Park residents on the boat. Nicole Roberts (left) and her daughter, Madeline, (right) are pictured her after Madeline’s Novice 8-plus boat won at the John Bennett Regatta May 8. Roberts is one of four Orchard Park residents on the boat. A love for rowing has always been in Joe McCrone’s family. His great-grandfather – Michael Byrne – was the first president of the West Side Rowing Club and he spent his childhood in or on the water. He currently rows as a master at West Side Rowing Club. Now, he’s looking to expand the sport into his community – Orchard Park.

McCrone’s goal is to eventually have a team made up of Orchard Park residents compete at the West Side Rowing Club, under the Orchard Park banner. The team wouldn’t necessarily be a varsity sport run out of the high school, but a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity. It would essentially be a club sport.

“The long-term vision is OP has its own name on a boat,” McCrone said. “We have our own team, our own logo. So the kids feel a sense of ownership when they’re riding for their hometown.”

The idea of starting an Orchard Park team came to Mc- Crone last fall. The first step in the process was to start raising awareness. West Side leadership met with members of the Orchard Park athletic staff to further educate them about the sport. The district ended up buying 10 rowing machines from West Side (called ergs) and putting them in the middle school. Education is a key step to the process because rowing is not a sport many people know much about.

“It’s hard because not a lot of people know about rowing,” McCrone said. “It’s not one of those classic high school sports like football or baseball. It takes a little more of an effort to educate and make kids aware of it.”

The next step will be getting kids into the water. The optimal age to start is between 12 and 18. Kids can start off with some camps at West Side to learn the sport. Then the athlete can move from novice to JV to varsity. Step three is to have an Orchard Park boat.

“The first step is awareness then education,” McCrone said. “We want the kids to see the benefit of rowing. Then you get the kids in the boat and you educate kids from there. Right now we want to make the kids aware. Once we have enough critical mass, we can talk about having a dedicated team.”

While there isn’t much of an Orchard Park presence at West Side yet, there are some residents competing. Madeline Roberts, Caitlin Summers, Kennedy Cullen and Ally Krantz were all members of a Women’s Novice 8+ boat out of West Side that took first at the John Bennett Regatta May 8 and then won the state championship in Saratoga the next weekend. This is the type of experience McCrone is looking to spread to Orchard Park kids.

To further help the cause, McCrone has enlisted the help of former Olympian and current Orchard Park resident Tom Murray. The St. Joe’s graduate rowed for Team USA in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was an alternate for the 2000 Sydney games. He’s on the board of directors at West Side and is eager to help grow the sport any way he can.

“I’m here to support Joe in whatever he needs. Clearly, I have a lot of experience,” Murray said. “Rowing is a passion of mine, so any way I can help the sport or get more people involved in it, I’m happy to do. Joe is really the driver behind the organizational piece and the marketing piece to get Orchard Park up and rowing.”

Rowing has always been a part of McCrone’s life, and he’s looking to extend that opportunity to the next generation of athletes. It’s a sport whose lessons he truly believes in.

“Rowing has always been in our family with my great-grandfather being the first president at West Side,” McCrone said. “My older brother rowed for Amherst in the early 70s when they had a team. I used to go to regattas to watch him compete as a kid.

“I grew up on the water; it’s always been a big part of my life. It’s a great sport that teaches a lot of life lessons. It’s the ultimate team sport; there are no heroes or superstars. Everyone has to do their part or they won’t be successful. It’s a lot of commitment and discipline.”

email: tnigrelli@beenews.com

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