NISKAYUNA — Niskayuna Rowing girls’ varsity coach and program director Stacey Apfelbaum was recently honored as the New York State Coach of the Year during the 2022 Junior Rowing Coaches Conference held virtually this year in partnership with USRowing.
A coach for more than 30 years, Apfelbaum guided the Niskayuna girls’ double of Heather Schmidt and Jordan Zenner that captured gold medals at the New York State Scholastic Rowing Association championships on Fish Creek, the Stotesbury Cup Regatta in Philadelphia and the Scholastic Rowing Association of America championships in New Jersey. At the USRowing Youth Nationals in Sarasota, an event open to high school and community-based teams, the duo finished second overall.
Last year’s success began off the water, back in the spring during the constantly changing landscape of guidelines issued by various agencies regarding public gatherings related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The biggest indicator of our success was how we handled COVID last winter,” Apfelbaum said. “We kept kids moving, we practiced outside, we did a lot of cross-training. We figured out a way to work within the restrictions that COVID offered. We were able to find ways to keep kids moving together and to continue training in a really positive way.”
Apfelbaum’s program also found success in the boys’ competitions.
The Niskayuna Rowing boys’ double of Adam Conrad and Daniel Kelly took home gold at the SRAAs. The boys’ quad [four rowers, eight oars] finished sixth overall and Cooper Anderson finished seventh in the U17 men’s single.
“You were able to see that kind of success because we worked together. . . . We had more mingling between the boys and the girls this year, which I think helped both sides,” Apfelbaum said.
Three Niskayuna rowers will attend Division I programs next school year with four more rowing in other collegiate programs.
Apfelbaum became the Niskayuna program director in 2014 and took over as the girls’ head coach in 2015.
“This was a really, really good year — probably the best-ever for our program,” Apfelbaum said. “I wasn’t sure if it would happen. Some of it you could see coming, but not all of it. It was all the hard work that the kids did.”