By John Burton |
RUMSON — The sport of crew, long a part of Boston and Philadelphia culture, has become a tradition in Rumson with the eighth annual boat race and collegiate regatta on Sept. 23.
This year’s race brought rowing stalwarts like Drexel and Villanova universities and the Army team from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, along with the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, to the Two River area. Men’s and women’s varsity and junior varsity teams from these schools took their sculls and racing shells to the Navesink River.
Mayor John Ekdahl said the sport has garnered enough support over the last decade to have the Borough Council endorse a plan to eventually construct a boathouse.
The borough received a state Green Acres open space grant to cover half the cost of a property located next to the borough’s Victory Park. The borough has contributed the remaining half needed for the property, approximately $500,000, according to Ekdahl.
“It’s a perfect location,” for the facility, right on the Navesink River, the mayor said. The borough recreation department and the Rumson Fair Haven Rowing organization and its booster club will work on fundraising to construct a “Philadelphia-style” boathouse, with all the requirements to train a top-level team, Ekdahl said.
The event’s primary sponsor this year was Morgan Stanley financial services. “This year we really upped our game,” said Robyn Etzler, president of the Rumson Fair Haven Rowing Parent Booster Club which organizes the event, explaining the group’s efforts to increase public awareness and secure additional community financial support for the event.
The booster club works to provide year-round support for the Rumson Fair Haven rowing program for ninth-to-12th grade youth. This year the club got local food vendors to set up tables and sell their goods at the borough’s Victory Park, River Road. The boosters also had children-oriented tables at the park, providing activities for younger ones, as well as an “Art in the Park” display featuring area students’ artistic efforts.
The club also conducted a fundraiser this year allowing families and businesses to show their support by purchasing miniature oars, which were attached to signs announcing the supporters. Those signs were on display on poles along River Road throughout the two towns. “That brought more awareness,” said Etzler, whose two daughters, Rachel and Elizabeth, participate in the rowing program.
The Rumson Boat Race is a 501(c)3, not-for-profit organization that provides financial support to the Rumson Fair Haven Rowing Team.
The teams raced on the warm, crystal-clear morning approximately 2,500-meters on the Navesink’s still waters from the area of rock star Jon Bon Jovi’s riverfront home on Middletown’s Navesink River Road to right by the Oceanic Bridge which connects Middletown’s Locust section to Rumson.
Good vantage spots to watch the races are few. To give people a better view, organizers were streaming the competition on its Facebook page, Etzler said.
“It’s a growing sport in New Jersey,” said Linda Edwards, whose husband, Dan Edwards, is head coach for the Rumson Fair Haven Rowing program, and whose daughter, Kate, now rows for Drexel University, Philadelphia. Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School’s women’s varsity team won its first state championship last April.
“I think it’s the camaraderie, the teamwork,” that young athletes find attractive about the sport, Edwards offered. “It really is the ultimate team sport,” she said.
The program has had a number of local students win college scholarships over the last few years, Ekdahl pointed out.
An evening celebration, a benefit reception, was held last Friday night at the private home of Rumson resident Allan Trent, where participating rowers and coaches mingled with residents and the sport enthusiasts. Area homeowners provided hospitality to the team members for the night’s stay. “It’s become kind of a hallmark of the event,” Ekdahl said of the tradition.
The day’s competition, which is solely for bragging rights, had Drexel winning the women’s second varsity race, with a time of 10:08.4 minutes; Army won the men’s second varsity race, completing the leg in 8:58.1 minutes; Drexel won the women’s varsity in 10:54.5 minutes; and Drexel took the men’s varsity race with a time of 8:49.2.
Drexel was awarded the event’s Governor’s Cup; Army received the Rumson’s Mayor’s Cup and Drexel’s women were awarded the Fair Haven’s Mayor’s Cup.
This article was first published in the Sept. 28 – Oct. 5, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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