Student Founds Rowing Team and Makes History on Suncoast

Guest Correspondence

Nothing gives me more hope than the energy of young people, their optimism and their willingness to pitch in to improve their communities. No group better exemplifies these traits than New College students.

Just this week, one of our third-year students, Antonia “Toni” Ginsberg-Klemmt, helped make local history.

Back in September 2019, Ginsberg-Klemmt founded New Crew SRQ. This week, it was officially named the first multi-school collegiate rowing crew on the Suncoast.

“The goal of New Crew SRQ is to create an inclusive rowing culture and a sense of unity among New College students,” says Ginsberg-Klemmt, who is also the team’s coach. “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.”

New Crew SRQ represents a community partnership between New College and the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates—the nonprofit organization that operates and manages Nathan Benderson Park for Sarasota County. An event formalizing the partnership was held on Tuesday near the Benderson Family Finish Tower, with Ginsberg-Klemmt; New College Provost Suzanne Sherman, Ph.D.; and SANCA President/CEO Tomás Herrera-Mishler in attendance. The crew’s oar blade was also unveiled.

The New Crew SRQ team provides New College students, staff and alumni of all skill levels the chance to learn and train at a multi-use sports venue that has hosted numerous national and international championships and regattas since 2017. The team will also have opportunities to compete against other rowing crews at the site.

The rowing club is a “leadership laboratory,” says 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 says. “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. Thanks to them for believing in our students.”

Thanks, too, to Ginsberg-Klemmt for seizing the initiative. She has been a rower since seventh grade, and she was not deterred by the absence of crew at New College.

“You can’t be near a world-class rowing facility [Nathan Benderson Park] and not have a collegiate rowing team,” says Ginsberg-Klemmt, who is studying applied physics.

She and another New College student, Isaac Mingus, founded the team 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),” Ginsberg-Klemmt says.

Because of her passion, 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 to participate, including those from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, State College of Florida and Ringling College of Art and Design.

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, Florida State University and the University of Central Florida. 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 invites athletes of all levels to register for New Crew SRQ, as she has been coaching and competing for years. In 2018, 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.

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.

It is thrilling to watch her vision for New Crew SRQ materialize with the support and encouragement of her New College professors and peers, as well as the Sarasota community. It is even more thrilling to imagine how much farther she will go—on the water, in her career and in life—and to realize that she has many peers who share her resourcefulness and ability to make remarkable things happen in their communities. Our future is in good hands.

Dr. Donal O'Shea is president of New College of Florida.

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