With bowed heads and quiet resolve, 35 teammates trailored their boats and headed to Camden, NJ this week to join 2,100 athletes from across the country for the most rigorous regatta of the summer, USRowing’s Club Nationals.
Still coping with the loss of teammate Tyler Madoff, who went missing off the coast of Hawaii on July 4, the team had decided to participate in the event in their friend's honor.
“The last thing Tyler would have wanted was to be your anchor. Rather, let him be your sail,” exhorted Guy Monseair, Pelham Community Rowing Association junior head coach, voice cracking with emotion and tears in his eyes.
For the week leading up to nationals, Tyler’s team felt conflicted about resuming training as usual, about returning to thoughts of winning, about what tense to use when speaking of their friend. The search for Tyler was still underway, but hope was fading daily.
The July 8 pre-regatta club meeting was meant to set the tone for the fierce competition that lay ahead. But that Sunday was also the day they had all come to dread. It was time to begin accepting the unacceptable—the day to begin using the past tense—unimaginable for a group of high school athletes when speaking about a 15-year old teammate with both an outsize zest for life and passion for rowing that touched them all.
And sail they did, in shirts that honored Tyler, and notably, in the brand new, sleek Vespoli V1 8+ crew shell that the athletes had fundraised for at a team ergathon this past March. The boat had come to the event without a name, but, silently, organically, one and all had come to think of it as the “Tyler”. A fitting way as any for a crew to honor a fellow rower.
Both boys’ and girls’ varsity crews asked to row the boat at Club Nationals, in equal parts to both honor and draw inspiration from their lost crew mate.
The girls rowed the “Tyler” to a commanding victory in the championship’s blue ribbon event, the Junior A 8+, having dominated the preceding heats and semi-finals. With thoughts of their teammate the wind in their sails, they finished a full ten seconds ahead of second-place Community Rowing, Inc. of Boston (a massive margin in championship events), ending CRI’s 4-year winning streak. Tyler’s team, Pelham Community Rowing Association (PCRA), was the first New York State club to win the prestigious event in Club Nationals history.
“Watching our team cross the finish line in what had been CRI’s event for so long, in that boat with that name, was extremely emotional for us all,” said Claire Hughes, mother of the crew’s coxswain and Tyler’s good friend, Maeve
The following day, four of the same rowers went on to claim the girls’ quadrupple sculls championship event, setting a new USRowing Championship record in the process. Two more boatmates took bronze in the junior A double sculls event. The team’s showing as a whole was by far the most successful Club Nationals campaign in PCRA’s history.
Following the Championship 8+ victory, the team gathered for its own private medal ceremony in front of the new, gleaming white winning boat where team captains Nina Byers (Bronxville), Yasmine Hemida (Mamaroneck) and Jake Marshall (Pelham), unofficially christened the boat the “Tyler”.
The team is confident that their friend’s buoyant spirit will live on each time the shell takes to the water and every time a new rower asks why it’s called the “Tyler.”
ABOUT PELHAM COMMUNITY ROWING ASSOCIATION (PCRA)
PCRA is the only community rowing program in all of Westchester and currently draws students from more than 10 area high schools including Harrison. PCRA rows out of Glen Island State Park on the 1964 Olympic Time Trial Course that they share with the New York Athletic Club. PCRA offers a complete spectrum of programming from Learn To Row, Novice, Junior and Varsity competitive teams for teens, to their enthusiastic Master’s Programs for rowing adults.