Parents, children share passion for rowing
By NED CAMPBELL
NISKAYUNA — For the Meade kids, not rowing has never been an option.
“It’s not even like a choice…” said Hannah, 13, whose four siblings and parents all row.
“It is a choice,” her sister, Mackenzie, 16, interrupted. “It’s just that we don’t want to make a different one. There’s no reason to.”
The sisters, as well as Hannah’s twin, Emily, were preparing to represent Niskayuna High School in the Head of the Mohawk rowing regatta, an annual convergence that counted 112 boat entries from around the state Saturday.
The Meade girls were eager to defend their home turf … er, surf.
“I like that it’s a home race,” said Hannah, wearing a Princeton Rowing hat. “That makes it so much easier because we row the course every day, so we know it really well.”
“You’ve got to perform well here because there’s no reason not to,” Mackenzie said.
From 9:30 a.m. to about 2 p.m., rowers raced over a 2.6-mile course on the Mohawk River, starting at Freemans Bridge Road and ending near the Aqueduct boathouse. The regatta was hosted by the Aqueduct Rowing Club and Niskayuna Rowers.
The Meade girls weren’t the only members of a rowing family at the regatta. Chris Wolfe of Niskayuna was there with his son, Derek, 14, who was preparing to row in the Freshman 8 race that afternoon.
Chris Wolfe started rowing about eight years ago after seeing his kids do it. His oldest son, Nicholas, 21, has rowed since he was in eighth grade at Niskayuna, and Aiden, 18, rowed until he was a junior.
“When you’re a parent, you spend all day at these events, and you can see the last 30, 45 seconds of a race and that’s the event,” Chris Wolfe said as a light drizzle fell Saturday morning. “And usually it’s raining, right? Unless it’s May. So after a while, seeing that there are adults doing it, you figure, [why not] do more than just watch?”
Wolfe, who rowed as a single in the master’s race that morning, said his kids keep him on his toes. Derek, for example, has told him he needs to work on his posture because he tends to slouch while rowing.
“The kids, when they get coached all the time, every movement gets critiqued and improved,” he said. “The first time I went out with my oldest, he gave me six things to work on, so I’ve got six things to fix? No, these are the first six things.”
Molly Grygiel started rowing after becoming a winter training coach for her two sons’ Niskayuna rowing team five years ago. Grygiel, a triathlete and cyclist, had to study the stroke to learn which muscles needed to be developed.
“And just from doing that I figured it out, and then I went on the river and taught myself how to row,” she said.
She’s the program director for Niskayuna Rowing now. Her oldest son, Christopher, 20, is an assistant coach for the Niskayuna varsity girls rowing team. He and his younger brother, Bobby, 14, each rowed Saturday.
“Rowing is definitely a family affair,” Christopher Grygiel said.
But that doesn’t mean he’s jumping at the chance to row with his mom.
“We’d probably kill each other,” he said with a straight face. “Don’t get me wrong, we get along great, but rowing with family members — some people do it, some people don’t.”
Having to hear the same person who tells you to clean your room telling you to row faster can be agitating, he explained. They do work together in coaching, however.
“We both give each other advice on how to handle things,” he said. “She has the perspective of age, and I would say my perspective is that I’m closer to the rowers in that I’m younger, and I can sort of play devil’s advocate to her and explain how they see things.”
Rowing, he said, is his sport of choice because it’s taught him to be disciplined.
“It can be a very monotonous sport at times, but it teaches you how to delay gratification and sort of pursue things,” he said, “because a lot of practices aren’t fun, but races are.”
As for the Meade family, to say rowing is in their blood is an understatement. All five kids are rowers, including 10-year-old Collin, and their parents, Scott and Kate, met at the Albany Rowing Center in the summer of 1995, when he was her learn-to-row coach. Kate Meade was at the regatta as a spectator, while her husband, who coaches for Niskayuna Rowing, was tallying results.
Their marriage can be traced to her first day of rowing, when she was one of eight trying to get out of a boat.
“I guess when I got out of the boat I lost my balance and I touched his knee, and he said he knew right then,” she said. “That’s the story he tells.”