Two Bronze Medals: 2011 Dad Vail Regatta
The Grand Valley rowing team, after a spring season saturated with squalls, prepared for the worst as they headed for Philly –especially after last year’s famed 40 mph gusts that churned the Schuylkill, blew boats from trailers, and eventually postponed the racing. But this year, the water was as smooth as the bladework for the Laker Navy, who qualified seven of nine boats for semifinals and took bronze in the Women’s DI Varsity 8+.
The DI Varsity Women’s 8+ took third in their final in a time of 6:43.43 to Purdue (6:38.49) and Old Dominion (6:38.82). The GVSU bronze medalists were proud to represent the work of numerous coaches, including Dennis Kamrad, who in his successful decades of coaching has never before had a boat medal in the Women’s DI Varsity event at Vails. He cited the girls’ dedication and relationship with each other as a strongpoint of their racing ability. “I’ve never seen a group of girls with your focus,” he told them, hugging each girl in turn.
The Men’s Varsity 8+ qualified for the petite final after taking fourth in their semi, and rowed to a fourth place finish in petites with a time of 6:00.25. Drexel won the petite (5:52.98), and Michigan won the Men’s Varsity 8 event overall (5:48.05). Junior captain Marco Benedetti says, “The petite was our best race this year. We executed where we needed to and made some good moves.”
The Novice Men’s Lightweight 8+ took bronze in their final event, a race which GVSU has not entered in recent memory. The men’s novice team this year retained unprecedented numbers, enabling two novice eights to race, one heavyweight and the other light. Lightweight Dominic Kootsillas-Conybeare said, “After MACRA my boat trained with a chip on our shoulders. For the past couple of weeks we’ve had the most intense focus I’ve ever seen from my fellow athletes. Even though we only earned third place, I know we all left it on the water, and being an athlete that’s what it’s all about.”
The DII Varsity Women’s 8+ took first in their heat which propelled them straight to their final, where they rowed to a fourth-place finish in 7:08.41. The girls rowed a courageous race, moving in and out of positioning before falling short of third place in the final 500 meters. Rival Mercyhurst won the event in a time of 7:00.15.
The JV Men’s 8+ took fourth in a competitive semi-final by just over two seconds in a time of 6:17.29. Although they did not advance to the final event, Tyler Sellmer says the race was well-executed. “We were a fast boat in a fast event. We followed our race plan and gained seven seconds from the heat to the semi,” he said. “But it wasn’t enough. And it shows how competitive the JV8 event is.”
The Novice Women’s 8+ and Novice Heavyweight Men’s 8+ rowed tight semi-final races, both falling just short of the qualifying position. The men raced the course in a time of 6:21.80 to Florida U’s 6:15.07 and Virginia’s 6:12.62. The Novice Women took fourth in their semi, missing first place by about a second and a half in an incredibly competitive battle to qualify for the final. The girls rowed the course in 7:16.72 to University of Massachusetts, Drexel, and Villanova.
GVSU also entered two 4+s: a Women’s Varsity 4+ and a Novice 4+. Although neither boat advanced to finals, the Varsity 4+ qualified for semifinals in a time of 8:08.83 and the Novice 4+ rowed in the fastest heat of the day, which included the eventual winner, Emory. Grand Valley also entered the single event in its exhibition year. In his first year of sculling and his first 2k race, junior Chris Picklo took fifth in his heat.
Overall, Grand Valley demonstrated its depth in semifinals and faced incredible competition during Saturday’s racing with enthusiasm. The athletes feel they performed to the best of their abilities in the near-ideal conditions on the Schuylkill and look forward to continued gains in speed in the weeks before their season’s conclusion in Gainesville, Georgia, at ACRA.