By Abby Weingarten
The first multi-school collegiate rowing crew has emerged on the Suncoast, thanks largely to the vision of New College third-year student Antonia “Toni” Ginsberg-Klemmt.
New Crew SRQ—a team that Ginsberg-Klemmt founded in September 2019, which includes students from other area colleges—has now become an official club. This is a partnership between New College and the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates Inc. (SANCA)—the nonprofit organization that operates and manages Nathan Benderson Park for Sarasota County.
An event formalizing the partnership will be held at 2 p.m. Tues. March 9 on the grass field south of the Benderson Family Finish Tower (Regatta Island). Ginsberg-Klemmt (the team’s coach), New College Provost Suzanne Sherman, Ph.D.; and SANCA President/CEO Tomás Herrera-Mishler will be in attendance. The crew’s oar blade will also be unveiled.
“The goal of New Crew SRQ is to create an inclusive rowing culture and a sense of unity among New College students,” Ginsberg-Klemmt said. “New Crew is a flexible rowing program designed to accommodate both scullers and sweep rowers, people who want to compete in regional regattas, as well as people who want to row recreationally. This partnership with SANCA gives our team access to high-quality rowing and coaching equipment that has been used by world-class athletes.”
The New Crew SRQ team provides New College students, staff and alumni of all skill levels the chance to learn and train at the multi-use sports venue (which has hosted numerous national and international championships and regattas since 2017). There are opportunities to compete against other rowing crews at the site, too.
“New Crew SRQ is a great new rowing community growing in Sarasota,” Herrera-Mishler said. “We are proud to partner with New College to host this inclusive rowing program at our best-in-class facility. Rowing is not just about competition. A program like this one opens doors for lifetime fitness, a powerful sense of connection, and personal discipline that can serve these students well for the rest of their lives.”
The rowing club is a “leadership laboratory,” said New Crew SRQ Faculty Adviser Amy Reid, Ph.D. (a New College professor of French and gender studies).
“The New Crew SRQ initiative really reflects what is best about a New College education, where creative, talented and motivated students are encouraged to explore, grow and thrive—to be leaders inside the classroom and in the community,” Reid said. “We are exceptionally fortunate to have the support of SANCA (which has made Sarasota a premier world destination for rowing) and the New College Foundation. Thank you to them for believing in our students.”
New College President Donal O’Shea welcomes the New College-SANCA partnership.
“We are proud to launch a collegiate rowing club in Sarasota and welcome the opportunity to extend greater access to this sport to the local community,” O’Shea said. “Toni has been instrumental in the creation of New Crew SRQ and the establishment of this partnership with SANCA.”
Ginsberg-Klemmt certainly has been. A rower since seventh grade, she wanted to change the fact that there was no crew at New College.
“You can’t be near a world-class rowing facility [Nathan Benderson Park] and not have a collegiate rowing team,” said Ginsberg-Klemmt, who is studying applied physics.
So she founded the team, along with New College student Isaac Mingus, as an Independent Study Project sponsored by Associate Professor of Computer Science David Gillman, Ph.D. She collected donations from GoFundMe, Facebook and her immediate family.
“I raised $2,000 and my parents matched it, so I ended up with $4,000 (enough to fund three carbon-fiber racing shells, each seating four rowers and one coxswain),” she said. “However, the boats had a whole lot of work that needed to be done to them. We basically started out rowing with old, refurbished ‘trash’ equipment. Isaac liked to say we started out as a ‘Trash Panda Rowing Club.’”
Because of Ginsberg-Klemmt’s tenacity, New Crew SRQ was born. The team is primarily for New College affiliates, but it is open to allowing students within the Cross College Alliance (CCA) to participate, including those from the University of South Florida (USF) Sarasota-Manatee, State College of Florida (SCF) and Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD).
On February 29, 2020, in Gainesville, New Crew SRQ took part in its first race—a regatta called “Duel in the Swamp” with students from USF, SCF, the University of Florida (UF), Florida State University (FSU) and the University of Central Florida (UCF). Together, Ginsberg-Klemmt, New College students Ash Howland and Nicole McKenna, as well as UF student Dina Lutz and SCF student Romy Roberts, came in fourth place.
Ginsberg-Klemmt currently invites athletes of all levels to register for New Crew SRQ, as she has been coaching and competing for years. In 2018, for example, she represented Sarasota Crew in the women’s lightweight 8+ at the Youth National Rowing Championships in California, and placed first in the C final, setting her at 13th overall in the nation. She even fixes and refurbishes her own boats by welding and working with epoxy.
“It doesn’t matter what your background is or if you’re having a stressful day, you can just let that out on the water and focus on rowing for one or two hours,” Ginsberg-Klemmt said. “I’m more productive when I go rowing because it helps me manage my time more.”
The sport feeds right into Ginsberg-Klemmt’s academic interests, which are predominantly marine engineering-based. She is fascinated with hydrodynamics and green energy, and has even considered the possibility of what it would take to generate power through rowing.
“In a boat, where everyone’s breaths and heart rates match and are all considered equals, there is no superiority complex of which seat is more important,” she said. “Everyone learns to depend on and support each other by each giving their best at practices and races.”
New Crew SRQ practices will be held from 6:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. Monday through Friday, and from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday at Nathan Benderson Park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota.
Practice times may change due to daylight savings. No experience is necessary. Masks must be worn at all times when on land, on the dock, and around other rowers. All equipment will be disinfected before and after use.
To watch the livestreamed ceremony at Benderson, visit youtube.com/channel/UCeGK7w0jvoIKUaGgGlit59Q.
Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.