Thursday, 27 June 2024 15:09

Saratoga Rowers Compete in Youth National Championships

Rower Christian Penny poses with his dad Chris after winning a silver medal at the USRowing Youth National Championships in Sarasota, Florida this month. Photo provided by Chris Penny. Rower Christian Penny poses with his dad Chris after winning a silver medal at the USRowing Youth National Championships in Sarasota, Florida this month. Photo provided by Chris Penny.

Homeschooler Wins Silver Medal

SARASOTA, FLORIDA — Despite not having the advantages of a public school athletic program, Mohawk Homeschool Rowing Association’s Christian Penny captured a silver medal in the Men’s U17 1x at the USRowing Youth National Championships in Florida earlier this month.

Christian, who lives in Saratoga Springs, was coached by his father Chris Penny at the event.

“Based on his times,” Chris said, “we were pretty confident or hopeful that he would make it to the grand finals.”

In the finals, Christian finished with a time of 07:38.46, about 7 seconds behind first.

Chris, who is also board president of the Mohawk Homeschool Rowing Association, said it’s important for homeschoolers to “have an athletic outlet that isn’t just recreation, where you can compete at a pretty high level.”

The association doesn’t have the funding or resources of public school rowing teams, and thus subsists on dues and private fundraising efforts. 

“Homeschoolers are sort of a different breed,” Chris said. “Our resources are relatively limited.” 



But none of that has stopped Christian from becoming a successful rower. He took up the sport in fifth grade and hopes to continue through college. He placed first in the Men’s U17 Single event at the New York State Rowing Championships, which allowed him to qualify for the Youth National Championships in Florida.

Girls and Boys Teams Successful

The Saratoga Rowing Association (SRA) also competed at nationals, with six teams qualifying for the event in Florida.

“After having watched the group qualify in person at the State Championships, I can attest that this group was on a clear mission to not only achieve top results with the most senior boats, but qualify and contend with a strong deep program,” SRA’s Co-Executive Director Eric Catalano told Saratoga TODAY.

The U16 girls team finished 9th in the country in the eights division.

Team members included Emilia Acquavella (coxswain), Sophie Sampanthar (seat 8/stroke), Caroline Jackson (seat 7), Isabella “Pisa” Bonitatibus (seat 6), Meghan Kempf (seat 5), Sabrina Maglienti (seat 4), Rylie Sheldon (seat 3) Katie Oke (seat 2), and Catherine Fedoroff (seat 1/bow).

The team is coached by Ronnie Cantrell, who recently accepted an offer to become the men’s freshman rowing coach at the University of Virginia. 

Other SRA achievements included top 10 finishes with the senior boys eight and the senior girls eight.   

“We, the greater community, are so proud of the work and effort the youth rowers put into this sport, and were thrilled to see those efforts rewarded with strong performances at the national level,” Catalano said.

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