By Marc Raimondi
Monique Carter played basketball and softball growing up. Vanessa Meyerhoefer was firmly entrenched in soccer. Simone D’Abreu wasn’t really into sports.
So when those three Queens natives tell people they have athletic scholarships to college for crew, they get about the same reaction.
“What?” Carter said people ask. “They have that here?”
Not only does New York City have crew, or rowing, it’s a growing sport without a lot of people noticing. Meyerhoefer, a graduate of Archbishop Molloy, will be competing in crew at Lehigh this year; D’Abreu, who just graduated from the Queens HS of Teaching, will row at Smith College; and Carter, a Flushing HS grad, is a sophomore member of the Michigan State crew team.
The three teens, who train with the nonprofit Row New York program at Flushing Meadows Park, were part of the New York City women’s open rowing team which won the silver medal in the Four event at the Empire State Games last month in Whitney Point, N.Y. Flushing’s Charlotte Rendon and Jamaica Estates native Madalyn Lesman were also a part of the medal-winning group.
“It’s kind of happening under the radar,” said Previn Chandraratna, the coach of the Empires team and an administrator with Row New York.
The entire women’s open rowing squad was made up of Row New York current members or alums. Chandraratna, who is originally from California, never rowed before he walked on to the crew team at Columbia University. He understands there’s very little rowing tradition in New York City, but says it could be a positive in some ways.
“There are advantages,” he said. “They have no preconceptions about what rowing is. It can be a snooty sport in other places.”
Chandraratna met D’Abreu when the coach went to Queens HS of Teaching to talk to students about Row New York. Ironically, Carter and D’Abreu are neighbors in Hollis and D’Abreu had no idea Carter was involved in rowing — yet another example of how little known the sport is.
Meyerhoefer was sick of soccer after eight years playing and quit the JV team at Molloy after her sophomore season. She and her dad researched crew online and they found Row New York.
“I fell in love,” said Meyerhoefer, who lives in Bellerose Manor, “and I haven’t touched a soccer ball since. It got me more fit and it got me into an incredible college.”
Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at [email protected]sledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.