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The History of Crew at Stony Brook University

The Varsity Years

    The beginnings of Stony Brook University's Crew program pre-date the creation of the Stony Brook Campus. The inception of Crew at what was then the State University of New York, Long Island Center took place while the campus was still located in Oyster Bay. 

    According to alumni Pat Crean (1961), the team was founded as a result of a simple letter from Mr. Allan Borghard. Written on July 9th, 1958, the letter suggested the formation of a crew program at what was then simply called "State University", and Borghard offered himself as the team's first coach [1].

Cory Vilaplana
    And from such humble origins came humble beginnings. The team at the time only had one shell, donated by Non-Pariel Rowing on the Harlem River. To complicate things further, the shell was damaged during transport, forcing the team's very first act to be the repair of its only boat [1].

    By spring 1959 the program at Oyster Bay had two crews and one shell. Thanks to a timely donation by Rutgers University Crew, a second shell was added, only to become the only shell after the demise of the team's first. Regardless, the team persevered and on April 4th competed for the first time, a landslide defeat at the hands of St. John's University. Despite the loss, State University approved further collegiate competition and competed yet again, dropping a decision against Iona College. A third match showed the team's potential, as the team finished in a "dead heat" against Clark University. To cap the season, the campus at Oyster Bay began the first annual North Shore Invitational Regatta [1].

    Crew continued to develop as the campus was relocated to Stony Brook. According to archieved articles from the New York Times the team consistently placed in the top 3 at the Metropolitan Championships, often coming as close as a half a length from the win, as it did in 1968 against Iona College [2]. The team peaked in the late 1970's, earning the Metropolitan Championship win in 1976. While the varsity program disbanded by the end of the 1970's due to inadequate means to support, the program raised three to the Stony Brook Athletic Hall of Fame: John Brisson Jr. (1976), Jonathan Cayle (1976), and Denise Logan-Heuser (1977).

A New Chapter...

Bret Harrison

    While the tenure of crew as an official varsity program at Stony Brook ended in the 1970's, the team did not cease to exist for long. Thanks to the efforts of such alumni as Michael Chang (2002), crew re-emerged at Stony Brook in the late 1990's

The Stony Brook Crew program has certainly seen it's share of ups and downs. Maintaining adequate numbers of rowers to remain competitive, hiring and retaining coaches and even such basic things as finding places to row became uncertain. After the 2009-2010 season, the Stony Brook team lost the majority of it's rowers as well as it's e-board.

    Still, the Seawolves refused to go quietly into the night. A new board of inexperienced yet determined rowers banded together and fought to keep the team alive. They saught out and hired three amazing new coaches, they managed to recruit a large number of enthusiastic novice men and women and are currently rowing every morning at 6am on the beautiful water of Stony Brook Harbor.

    The Seawolves have hit a very important point in their history. With an almost exclusively novice team, it is up to these new men and women to take the reigns and begin building this program into what it should be. Someday we hope that the Stony Brook Crew team will become a true Varsity program, one built on dedication, teamwork and the victories those two attributes are sure to achieve.


References:

1. "The History of Stony Brook Crew" The Founders Group, Stony Brook Alumni Association. 

2. "Iona Eight Keeps MET Rowing Title; Scores Half-Length Win Over Stony Brook in Race Here" The New York Times. (link)


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