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GLASTONBURY — When asked to describe the culture of crew, Glastonbury girls rowing coach Jason Post used the word “cult-y” — meaning once someone joins, it’s easy to become obsessed with it. The fourth-year coach can attest to crew's seductive powers.
“All of my friends that I have through high school and college — all of them rowed,” Post said. “I don’t have friends that didn’t row.”
His rowing roots run deep. Post started rowing as a freshman at Glastonbury in 2011 and continued until he graduated. He rowed at UConn for three and a half years before he broke his knee, which kickstarted his coaching career. Once he graduated, he returned to Glastonbury and became the girls head coach.
His brothers rowed. His mother is the president of Glastonbury’s booster club. And Post is the vice president of the Connecticut Public Schools Rowing Association, which includes crews Avon, East Lyme, E.O. Smith, Farmington, Glastonbury, Guilford, Lewis Mills, Lyme-Old Lyme, Middletown, Old Saybrook, Simsbury, Stonington and Valley Regional.
Even in his personal life, his girlfriend hears about rowing incessantly — especially when the couple connects with his friends.
It has consumed him. And not to his surprise, it's resonated with his team the same way. Rowing has captivated hearts and minds of Glastonbury's crews through its culture of acceptance, community and pride, he said. Glastonbury's pride is strengthened by 11 state championships (five combined, four girls and two boys crowns).
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Post wasn’t the tallest or fittest athlete during his high school days. Yet, his parents wanted him to play a sport.
“I couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn with a baseball bat and would get run over in football,” Post said.
He joined rowing because, typically, everyone goes in with no prior experience before high school. He joined because he didn’t have to be athletic to do well.
“A lot of our top athletes that have come through the program were historically not great,” Post said. “They were not great athletes when they tried to play soccer, or basketball or football.”
Since the program was established in 2000, Post said it’s always accepted every student interested in participation. Glastonbury, which competes in both the fall and spring, searches for athletes who have great body control, mental strength and determination. Normal athletic advantages like strength and stature can be advantageous in any sport but Post said they quickly become useless in rowing. It’s called “crew” for a reason.
Post calls it the ultimate team sport.
“You can be the biggest and the strongest but when you have eight people rowing — if you're not all rowing together synchronized — you’re not going to be effective,” said Post, whose fall crew opens competition Saturday at the Riverfront Boathouse in Glastonbury with the Guardian Chase. “You’re not going to do as well. A boat is only as fast as the slowest person in the boat.”
Post carves out time before and after his practices to allow for team bonding. The boys and girls teams also have pasta parties, bingo nights together. Post hopes to one day have joint practices in which girls and boys crews row together.
“One team” is their motto. They're even of one mind.
“We all think in sync at this point,” senior Olivia Comenale said. “If JP [Jason Post] says something, we’re all thinking the same thing.”
Comenale and her co-captains Stella Curcio and Ikma Inusah emphasized rowing's sense of community. They lead a group of 29 varsity and 25 novice girls. The team leaders talked about being part of something bigger than themselves. Inusah said she joined because crew was so pervasive at Glastonbury. Rowing athletes were in her classes.
Curcio recalled the crew garb all in the hallways at school. It’s a lifestyle, she said.
“When you walk around school with your 'merch,' you’re part of the crew people,” Curcio said. “You constantly talk about crew because it’s your entire life. People kind of know when you’re on the crew team."
Senior captain Mason Leblanc sought that same sense of community when he moved up to Connecticut from North Carolina before he started high school. He knew nothing about crew but decided to join so he could be active. It’s helped him become more disciplined and hardworking, he said.
Rowing can be taxing, mentally and physically, on the body. Post said athletes must have the mental fortitude to test their physical limits — pushing past exhaustion to give their all to each stroke. "There are no breaks or timeouts," he added.
Crew has helped senior Wyatt Morris become more athletic and Jason Dupuis, his co-captain, find a more enjoyable sport once he tired of playing lacrosse after eight years.
Both the girls and boys programs are proud champions. Glastonbury has five team state championships — titles won from points from boys' and girls' boats combined — two boys state championships and four girls state championships. Glastonbury recently won a team title and girls title in 2022.
They keep winning. Despite calluses, scarred hands and scorching hot practices, they’re invested. Post's full team attended a hot Wednesday afternoon practice during Connecticut’s heat wave the second week of September. A day when the high was 91 degrees.
They filled up their water bottles, carried their 60-foot boats down to the Connecticut River and rowed for two hours — working on strategy and speed at the behest of their coach and coxswain.
Back and forth they went, focused and unflinching.