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LI rowing enthusiasts test skills at indoor regatta

Coach Victoria Greco, right, of The Knox School

Coach Victoria Greco, right, of The Knox School in St. James, looks on as Hie Bui, 16, of St. James competes on a rowing machine at an indoor regatta at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School in Riverhead on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. Credit: Ed Betz

Youths and rowing enthusiasts tested their mettle and stamina as the crowd roared and money was raised for a Riverhead Catholic high school’s program Saturday.

The first Erg for Mercy Indoor Regatta at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School drew 59 entrants from six rowing clubs and schools around Long Island. From midmorning through early afternoon, high school freshman, lightweight varsity, collegiate and masters levels competed. Erg is short for ergometer, an indoor rower.

Money raised will benefit Bishop McGann’s rowing program — paying for boats and other equipment for the boys and girls teams.

Head coach Bryan Kwasnik, 31, said the competition gave young rowers a chance to push their limits. “Rowing is physically and mentally challenging,” Kwasnik said. “When they go to this event, they can focus their intensity and see how far they can test themselves.”

The intensity showed when some winners raised their fists and screamed in jubilation to cheers of family and teammates, while other participants got hugs and tips for improvement from coaches and friends.

Cassie Strobel, 15, a sophomore and rowing team member at Bishop McGann, finished second in the novice competition. She said she is “in love with the sport” and joining the rowing team has been an amazing experience.

Madison Piccirillo, 18, of Southampton and a freshman at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, was all smiles after she and her friend Meredith Domaleski, 18, of Cutchogue won medals in the women’s relay races.

Piccirillo teamed with Domaleski on Bishop McGann’s team last year when they qualified for the Scholastic Rowing Association of America’s national regatta in Princeton, New Jersey. For Piccirillo, being home and meeting coaches and friends was the best part of the day.

“We know most of the team, all the coaches, and even recognize some people and the coaches from other teams,” Piccirillo said. “I missed everyone . . . training is a lot different in college, but it’s fun.”

Domaleski, now a freshman at Manhattan College in the Bronx, said mindset was the key to rowing. “It’s all mental,” she said. “It’s usually in the race where you think, ‘I can’t do it,’ but then I just keep pushing . . . and it’s also great to have someone racing next to you so it motivates you to keep going.”

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