New Crew SRQ, based at New College, welcomes students from nearby universities and rows out of Nathan Benderson Park.

Student Launches Sarasota’s First Intercollegiate Rowing Team

From Patch.com, April 13, 2021

SARASOTA, FL — Longtime Sarasota resident Toni Ginsberg-Klemmt fell in love with rowing in middle school.

By the time she got to New College of Florida after graduating high school, she was surprised that the sport had no presence at local college and universities, not even at the club level.

After all, “Sarasota is the rowing capital of the United States. Colleges all over the United States and the world come to Nathan Benderson Park,” she said. “We’ve hosted the U.S. national team and Olympic trials here, national championships, world championships. For me, it made no sense that there is no collegiate sport in Sarasota.”

So, the 21-year-old New College student, now in her third year at the college, where she studies applied physics, decided to create an intercollegiate rowing club that welcomes students from four local colleges: New College, USF, State College of Florida, and Ringling College of Art and Design.

She has high hopes for the club, which has more than 30 rowers on its roster already.

“Just the fact that rowing is huge in Sarasota, I believe over time it shouldn’t be too difficult to build this culture at the collegiate level,” she said.

The four colleges have partnered in other ways, forming the Cross College Alliance in 2014 as a way to offer students the opportunity to take classes on all campuses and share other resources.

Still, Ginsberg-Klemmt would like to see more collaboration between the colleges, especially when it comes to club sports, like rowing, and other activities.

“It’s very strange to me that we’re all within five minutes of we other and we don’t interact with each other. This is what I want to change as we build this intercollegiate sport here in Sarasota,” she said.

She began fundraising for New Crew SRQ in September 2019. Between donations and assistance from her parents, she purchased older used boats from Space Coast Rowing in Melbourne.

Earlier in the pandemic, with many activities on hold, she focused on refurbishing the boats. Her father taught her how to tig weld, which is welding aluminum, and they also updated the boats’ rigging.

“They’re very old boats. They’ve been very much used and loved and definitely needed some TLC to be fully functioning,” Ginsberg-Klemmt said.

They also built boat racks to store the boats.

“We had absolutely nothing. We were starting from scratch,” she said.

In recent weeks, New College has formally partnered with Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, which manages Nathan Benderson Park, to allow the club to operate at the park. The college pays a $6,000 fee for access to the park’s Hudson boats, flatwater wakeless coaching launches, rowing machines and other training equipment.

“We’re basically rowing with equipment used in the Olympic trials,” Ginsberg-Klemmt said.

She’s hopeful this partnership will lead to the club’s continued growth.

“We’re out there to have fun and enjoy the beauty of rowing. We want to build up our rowing family and have it more known,” she said. “People don’t know that we exist, so we need to spread the word that we are here.”

Students interested in learning more about New Crew SRQ should reach out to the club through its Facebook page.