MOUNT ARLINGTON – The recommended 60-inch drawdown of Lake Hopatcong is almost complete. Traffic on the lake is non-existent, just a few die-hard fishermen in the smallest of boats and a certain group of teenagers oblivious to the controversy surrounding the low level of water in the lake.
For members of the Mountain Lakes Crew Club, who call Lee’s County Park Marina Pavilion in Van Every Cove home, the low water level means just one thing: During their afternoon practice runs on the lake their boats don’t get “waked out” by the big boats.
“The boat traffic on the lake in non-existent,” said boys varsity captain Alan Horst, 17, from Mountain Lakes. “That helps us.”
“We’re not getting waked out. Most of the days are flat, unless it’s windy. And, we’re getting to explore different parts of the lake,” said Justin Beckerman, 17, from Mendham.
The boy’s and girl’s crew clubs, made up of high school students from a dozen or so area towns, has called Lake Hopatcong home since 2007. A two-season sport, the club trains every afternoon in the fall and spring on the lake and competes in both fall and spring regattas up and down the east coast.
“We’re doing pretty well this fall,” said girl’s varsity captain Maddy Endres, 17, from Morristown. “There’s a huge improvement from last season. We’re getting lots of firsts and seconds in our races,” said the Villa Walsh Academy senior.
“We have five races this fall. We just finished the third race,” said Horst. “Our varsity has been doing well, getting seconds in each of the first two regattas.”
Both the boys and the girl’s teams field four boats each race, from varsity to novice.
“We need more people,” said Jack Conlin, 17, from Mountain Lakes. “We try to recruit anyway we can, word of mouth mostly and Facebook,” he said of the 40-member team.
Conlin and Hosrt would also like to see MLCC host its own regatta at Lake Hopatcong. Hosrt believes having a regatta would “generate interest and raise money.”
“We’d have a real home-court advantage,” said Conlin of the unpredictable lake weather.
One new recruit is Alex Hedge, a 16-year-old junior from Morristown High School. Hedge was visiting his grandparents in Connecticut over the summer and started rowing for a club there. He did so well the club tried to convince him to move from New Jersey to Connecticut. But since moving was not an option, they Connecticut club did some research and found the Mountain Lakes Crew Club. Hedge has been a member for only eight weeks but has already made an impact, rowing with the varsity boat.
“A kid like Alex is our muscle,” said three-year coach Rob Welsh.
Welsh, a former elite rower himself, not only guides the team during the season but also helps his athletes secure rowing scholarships to colleges throughout the country. Seniors Endres and Conlin both will be attending college on a rowing scholarship. Endres is headed to Bucknell University where she will team up with another MLCC alumni and Conlin is headed to Cal Berkley to row.
For more information about the MLCC or to join, visit their website at www.mlrowingclub.com.
Members of the boys team during a recent training session.