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Smiling and holding their floats, seniors make the most of their lunch.
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Celebrating 40 years at the Marin Rowing Association: A glimpse into the life of Sandy Armstrong

The reason to love a sport is about more than just the technique or talent. Often, it is the coach who helps push and guide everyone along the way, which is another reason why sports can have a special place in someone’s heart. For many athletes at the Marin Rowing Association (MRA), Sandy Armstrong, executive director and girls under 19 (U19) coach, makes that impact on many people’s lives.

Junior Chloe Frushtick, a rower at MRA and an athlete for Armstrong has truly been impacted by the time, ability and coaching that Armstrong has provided her over the years, as she is committed to rowing at the University of California at Berkeley. 

“Coach [Armstrong]  has never failed to use her vast wisdom and knowledge to help us overcome those times of discouragement. Coach creates an extremely supportive environment while also keeping a sense of competitiveness that allows us to continue to better ourselves while also staying united as a squad,” Frushtick said.

1982 varsity girls four plus (four rowers, one coxswain boat). Second from the right is Armstrong, in the stroke seat. (Photo courtesy of Sandy Armstrong)


Armstrong graduated in 1982 from Redwood, where she found her passion for rowing, as she was a part of the Redwood Rowing team before MRA was created. 

“[The Redwood boathouse] was an off-campus boathouse [in the 1980s] and it quickly became a home away from home [for the rowers]. For us on the team, it was our own space and that meant a lot to us. It felt like it was ours,” Armstrong said. 

The girls’ rowing team started in 1987 after Coach Bob Cumming saw an uptick in interest in girls rowing at school. 

“Cumming’s philosophy was if women were going to barge their way into rowing, they better do it well,” Armstrong said. 

After playing soccer for most of her high school career, Armstrong became interested in the technical movements and community of rowing. She went to college to study physical therapy at Louisiana State University and then coached rowing at Tulane University for almost three seasons. 

“Then I got into physical therapy, and [coaching and counseling] was a part of it. It just brought up all of the things that I love to do,” Armstrong said. 

Armstrong returned to Marin and got a job at MRA as the U19 girls’ varsity coach in 1984, which she continues to this day. Later, in 1990, Armstrong became the executive director of the non-profit organization MRA. 

“I think that this organization creates an environment for high school student-athletes to thrive, and I love being a part of that,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong’s love for watching athletes grow and reach goals is what motivates her to work with teenagers every day. 

Posing for a photo, Armstrong coaches her team at the 2024 Faultline Faceoff, located at the San Pablo Reservoir. (Photo courtesy of Row 2k)

“I love the challenge of setting a standard and encouraging and guiding someone to overcome something physically, emotionally, mentally and technically. The reward is great when they get it, and then, with rowing in general and being on the water, there’s just nothing like it,” Armstrong said. 

Armstrong not only coached MRA but also guided them to many victories, such as at the Junior World Championships. After winning a bronze and a silver medal, she has also qualified yearly for the Youth National Championships, bringing home 17 medals. In 2013, US Rowing named Armstrong the “US Rowing Women of the Year.”

The rowing community and dynamic that MRA provides for athletes around Marin changed both the lives of the coaches and the athletes.

“Watching [Armstrong’s] incredible work ethic and listening to her inspirational speeches has shaped me into the rower I am today,” Frushtick said. “[Armstrong] continues to make sacrifices to better us as individual rowers, as well as a team.”

For many who go through the program, Armstrong is an influential coach and person who helps athletes get to where they are today. Whether at the end of a rowing race or an email, the last thing that Armstrong says shows all people the true importance and devotion of Marin Rowing in her life. The slogan, “Go Marin!” sticks with the community that Armstrong has built and will continue to do so at MRA.

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About the Contributor
Morgan Sicklick
Morgan Sicklick is a sophomore at Redwood and is in the nonfiction class. She enjoys playing water polo, going to the beach, and spending time with family and friends.