Niskayuna Rowing makes change in leadership

The Niskayuna High School Rowing teams prepare for the state championships. Photo by Bill Cain.The Niskayuna High School Rowing teams prepare for the state championships. Photo by Bill Cain.

— Days after an accident during a “learn to row” program resulted in an 11-year-old girl requiring surgery at Albany Medical Center, Niskayuna Rowing accepted the resignation of then-executive director Molly Grygiel and soon after approved Stacey Apfelbaum as the group’s new day-to-day leader.

All parties involved said the switch was not made because of the incident. Grygiel still had the Niskayuna Rowing board’s support, according to the organization’s president, Dave Davenport, and the veteran director left to take a post as an assistant coach with the Union College women’s rowing team.

In her new role, Grygiel will actually coach with her Niskayuna Rowing successor’s husband, Burt Apfelbaum. In a voicemail, Grygiel said she left her position with Niskayuna Rowing because she wanted to coach at a higher level and continue to challenge herself.

“It was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up,” said Grygiel, whose son, Chris, is still coaching with Niskayuna Rowing as an assistant.

“That’s really it,” Molly Grygiel said later. “It’s not that interesting.”

The Niskayuna Rowing program is composed of Niskayuna students and operates as a club governed by a board of directors that works in conjunction with the school district in limited circumstances. Niskayuna Athletic Director Larry Gillooley said the school was alerted of the switch from Grygiel to Apfelbaum, and that his impression, too, was that the switch had more to do with Grygiel wanting to move on than her being pressured to leave.

“What I take is that it was a promotion for her, going from high school to college,” Gillooley said.

Members of the Niskayuna Rowing team carry boats to the water during an April 21 practice in Niskayuna. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

Members of the Niskayuna Rowing team carry boats to the water during an April 21 practice in Niskayuna. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

Davenport said Grygiel resigned at Niskayuna Rowing’s Sept. 2 board meeting, several days after the Aug. 28 accident on the Mohawk River occurred when a young girl fell out of an overcrowded motorboat and was subsequently hit by the craft. The boat’s driver, William Lore of Niskayuna, was charged with misdemeanor reckless operation of a vessel and issued a ticket to appear in court, police said.

Niskayuna Rowing’s president said he was glad that Grygiel had not traveled too far to find her next coaching destination.

“We’re certainly happy to see she got a great opportunity to stay in the local rowing community,” Davenport said.

Grygiel, who coached Niskayuna’s modified teams besides serving as executive director, is the second high-profile official to leave Niskayuna Rowing in the past several months. In May, Mike Gilbert was relieved of his post as the boys’ coach days after one of his quads won a national championship.

Stacey Apfelbaum joined Niskayuna Rowing a year ago to coach the organization’s varsity girls’ competitors. Locally, she previously coached with Shaker Crew.

“Her experience, her expertise and knowledge of rowing is a tremendous asset to us,” Davenport said. “Her approach to coaching and thoughtfulness of the value of rowing, the whole student-athlete perspective, is very valuable to us.”

The fall season for Niskayuna Rowing has already started with practices, and the group’s rowers begin competing next weekend.

Apfelbaum said she is excited to begin leading the program after its athletes’ wildly successful past year on the water.

“Both the boys and the girls had a really successful spring and summer, and we’re looking forward to the fall,” Apfelbaum said.

Reach Gazette sportswriter Michael Kelly at 395-3109,, or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

About the Author

Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly is a sports reporter for Your Clifton Park and Your Niskayuna, weekly print publications of The Daily Gazette. Kelly grew up in Clifton Park and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2006. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Kelly's work has been honored by the New York News Publishers Association, the New York State Associated Press Association, and the Associated Press Sports Editors. His work has previously been featured in The (Amsterdam) Recorder, The Saratogian, and Albany Times Union.