The Mountain Lakes Crew Club training on Lake Hopatcong.
One of the more beautiful sights to see on Lake Hopatcong is the Mountain Lakes Crew Club practicing in the early morning. The water has cooled off, there is mist in the air and the lake is as calm as glass. If you listen closely you may hear coach Rob Welsh giving directions his teams:
“Let’s take it off, full pressure, twenty strokes per minute… Both hands on the oar now, up the pressure. Ready all, row! Sit up straight. Eyes front. Perfect timing among ports and starboards.”
LHN&R:When did the lake practices start this summer?
Welsh: Practices kicked of on Aug. 20th. Since then, we’ve been getting out on the lake in the mornings before the wind and the boat traffic pick up.
LHN&R: What times are practices once school starts?
Welsh: The boys practice from 3:30 – 5:15pm. The girls go from 5pm – 6:45pm. The team also practices at the lake on Saturday mornings.
LHN&R: Your website lists the upcoming events including a “Learn to Row Community Event” on Sept. 15. Tell us a little bit about that.
Coach Rob Welsh
Welsh: At least once a season, we will invite all interested students injunior high or high school to come out and give rowing a try. Our team name is Mountain Lakes but our competitive racing squad is open to all high school kids in the region. Here is a chance for them to check it out and see if it’s something they’d enjoy.
LHN&R: What other schools do your athletes come from?
Welsh: Delbarton , Randolph, Oak Knoll, Mendham, Lenape,
Villa and Morris Knolls. Some of our participants live right on the lake and take their boats or Jetskis to practice!
LHN&R: How many students do you have in the club this fall?
Welsh: We have 22 boys, ages 13 – 18, and 15 girls, ages 13 – 18.
“If your quads are burning, you are doing something right!”
LHN&R: What is training like? (How much time do the kids spend on the water vs. dry-land training, what kind of dry-land training do they do?
Welsh: Most days, the kids row on the lake, rowing between 4 and 7 miles per session. If the weather isn’t cooperating, we will train on land and, using land-based rowing machines called ergometers or running distances between 2 and 5 miles.
LHN&R: What kind of training do you encourage your athletes to do on their own (weight training, running, etc)?
Welsh: Rowing is a cardio-based activity. All exercise is good exercise in my book, but I encourage the kids to jog to build up their endurance as well as wall-sits, push-ups, and other exercises to strengthen their core.
“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect!”
LHN&R: On your website you talk about practicing in the tanks at West Point over the winter – explain that, please (just what is a tank?)
Welsh: West Point maintains indoor rowing tanks that simulate the rowing motion in a boat. We travel up there a few times in the offseason to work on technique and teach the basics to beginners before they go out on the lake.
LHN&R: What are your expectations for the upcoming season?
Welsh: Competitively, the kids are extremely motivated and set high goals such as competing at the national championships next June. I prefer to take things one step at a time. Hopefully, we can get as many kids as possible rowing in fast boats every day and having some fun. The rest will take care of itself.
LHN&R: How did the teams do last season?
Welsh: The team won several medals last spring at regional competitions in Long Island, South Jersey, and Princeton. The boys varsity four eventually earned the right to compete at the national championships against teams from as far away as Florida, California, and Oregon. They placed 16th.
“Keep the oar handle in your fingertips and suspend your bodyweight, like you are hanging on a bar.”
LHN&R: What do you do at the team bonding dinners/lunches?
Welsh: The team bonding events give the kids a chance to hang out with each other in a non-competitive setting. Kids come from all different schools. So this is a chance to meet new people and make an entirely new set of lifelong friends.
LHN&R: Do you think the recent Olympic games in London increased the public’s awareness of rowing?
Welsh: There can occasionally be a spike in interest in the sport after the Olympics. The Americans have a large, well-organized national team and often bring home multiple medals. I remind the kids that most of the rowers they see on television started out just like they did; rowing in boats in junior programs like ours.
Our team has doubled in size since last winter and continues to grow. Several of our upperclassmen have drawn recruiting interest from Division I programs this fall. This year we plan to compete against national powerhouse programs from rowing hotbeds like Princeton, Philadelphia, and Connecticut.
And finally, in addition to good rowers, we are blessed with talented coxswains. Smaller individuals like Emily Oram and Rose Kostak can steer 50-foot long, $30,000 boats, launching and landing up to 8 kids at a time, all with a rudder the size of a credit card. They do all this everyday despite not being old enough to drive!
The MLCC’s fall calendar includes:
Saturday September 15 – Learn to Row Community event at Lake Hopatcong, Lee’s County Park Marina on Howard Boulevard in Mount Arlington.
Sunday Sept 30 – Kings Head Schuylkill Regatta – Bridgeport, PA
Sunday October 7 – Head of the Christina Regatta – Wilmington, DE
Sat Oct 13 – Head of the Passaic – Lyndhurst, NJ
Oct 20 & 21 – Head of the Charles Regatta * – Boston, MA (if bids accepted)
Sunday Oct 28 – Head of the Schuylkill Regatta – Philadelphia, PA
Saturday November 3 – Long Island Frostbite – Oyster Bay, NY
Visit the Mountain Lakes Crew Club website for more information.