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Coach Blog – July 10, 2018

John Bancheri
Coach: John Bancheri

Hometown: Delia, Sicily, Italy
Grand Valley Rowing Experience: 14th Year as the Director of the Rowing Club and Varsity Men’s and Women’s Head Coach
Personal: Parents are Salvatore and Rosa Gianforcaro Bancheri. Born in Delia, Caltinesetta, Sicily and raised in Atlantic City, NJ.
Awards: Coach of the Year and Regional Coach of the Year a few times. 2002 Dad Vail Coach of the Year.

GREECE and Henley

GVSU first attended The Henley Royal Regatta in the 90s at the urging of then President Don Lubbers. He felt is was a fantastic opportunity for the university in terms of rubbing elbows with the elite institutions of international academia as well as opening the minds and worldviews of our students on the Crew.

Fast forward to 2018. That vision has been replicated thanks to the support and encouragement of Bob Stoll and the university administration. This was now my 4th trip with GVSU overseas and I must say it will be one that will be etched in my mind forever for many reasons.

Originally, in August we had planned on just bringing a small mens squad. The plan was to go to Seville, Spain train then go to the U.K. for Henley. Upon hearing that I was interested in an overseas training camp that would cost the same as if we spent all our time in the U.K., I had a longtime friend, Tina Tsourtsoulas chime in and urge me to come to Greece.

Tina Tsourtsoulas is the mother of Evangelos Tsourtsoulas, one of my marquee rowers who I coached at Marietta College. Evan came to GVSU to live in Allendale with my family for three months in preparation for making the Lighweight National Team as Evan was a dual citizen. He trained out of the GVSU boathouse and also watched after our boys Patrick and Salvatore.

As a thank you for the years I coached Evan and for taking care of him after graduation, his mother insisted on returning the hospitality. So the idea of going to Kastoria, Greece was born. Upon hearing the men’s team would be going to Greece, the women’s team insisted in also attending. I spoke with Tina and her husband Dimitrios. They said they would help me in accommodating everyone with great prices and rowing equipment.

Fast Forward
The logistics involved in taking 29 people on a 3 week journey were many. I have to say I worked as hard as ever in their preparation despite challenges along the way. In fact, this was a fantastic adventure that was extremely well planned and seamlessly executed despite a few challenges that were inevitable on a trip such as this one.

While in Greece we lived at a 5 star resort, were shuttled around, given first class tours of the region, met the Mayor, Governor, and a Senator. We presented the City and regional Prefecture with GVSU flags and they presented us with gifts to bring home.

Our students visited the world renown monasteries of Meteora. They also spent a day at the beach in the Aegean Sea with Mount Olympus as a backdrop. In Kastoria, they rowed on a lake that also had a settlement from the Neolithic Period. The students rowed and visited the community as well as a local monastery and cave complex. All with expert guidance and perspective from our host Dimitrios.

We also interacted with the Greek National Rowing Team and two of the local clubs that row on Lake Orestadia. It was a pinnacle in my 38 year career that will be hard to match. The true thanks for making it affordable and memorable goes to the Tsourtsoulas Family.

After flying back through Istanbul to London we began our Henley adventure.

Upon arriving in the U.K., we were picked up by my friend Tony at TK Travel in his charter bus. We were whisked away to Henley-on-Thames, where we would further prepare for Henley and the Reading Regatta.

Our students and staff (Mitch Eastlick, Costas Ciungan and my wife Christine) were housed in three homes in Henley. It was a dorm style set up with the max number per room, but clean and a safe environment in this quaint village that comes alive every June. The home housed by our women and two coaches was across the street from the estate of George Harrison. His wife still lives there most of the year.

Our students practiced on the River Thames and had the opportunity to see some of the best rowers in the world. They also visited London and some even had a day in Belgium, Ireland, France, Poland and Switzerland.

As for racing.
Our women were entered in the elite event of the Remenham Cup and were knocked out in the time trial. They felt they had a great row, but at that level it would have taken the best eight women to ever row at GVSU to qualify for the coming weeks bracket.

Our Men’s A Four pre-qualified for the bracket that started on the 4th of July. The B Four also had to row in the Friday Time Trial. They had a fantastic race but still ended up 4 seconds shy of qualifying. I was honestly excited for both our crews performance knowing their capability and that of the competition.

On Saturday our team went to the Reading Town Regatta. Two of our crews won “pots”. Pots are tankards that have been given out as awards since the 1800s. Those pots are where the term “pot hunting” emanated. Fun Day for all!

On Sunday the team went to London and had the opportunity to explore for the day. Great stories of all these excursions from the viewpoint of the students can be found in the blogs in this journal. Please take time to read a few.

The only boat left to race at Henley was the Prince Albert Cup Men’s Four. They came out of the blocks with a great start and took a slim lead only to be passed and beat by 1 and 3/4 LENGTHS by the eventual winner and course record breaker, Imperial College of London. Our rowing season was over but the adventure continued.

In retrospect.
A lot had been on my mind prior to going overseas and while in Greece as well as the U.K. I tried my best to make sure everyone had a fantastic experience. There is so much I want to say right now but I will keep it in my heart and I truly hope everyone had an adventure of a lifetime.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this work from the university to my friends overseas.

Wherever my career takes me I will go back with a crew to Greece as they have invited me again. I will take only one gender at a time and I will stay longer than one week. Opa!


Day 21 – July 9, 2018

Faith Platz
Athlete: Faith Platz, Six Seat, Women’s V8+
Year: Senior
Hometown: Grand Haven, MI
Quote: “Nothing will work unless you do.” -John Wooden

Last day abroad for the Laker Navy! As the Henley Royal Regatta came to a close yesterday and most rowers have vacated Henley-on-Thames, our team followed suit. There were several different groups of travelers today, and I found myself with some of my teammates and best friends in Poznan, Poland! After an early morning of taxis and airports, we got to explore an absolutely beautiful city in northwest Poland. The old town square was everything I could have imagined: colorful buildings, amazing architecture, cobblestone streets and intricate statues. We had lunch in the middle of the town square. The currency there is the Polish zloty, which amounts to only $0.27, so it felt very weird spending “so much” money at a time. We did some souvenir shopping and bought paczkis from a local bakery. It was incredible to just wander the streets on a normal Monday afternoon and experience the city like a local.

Our wandering led us to a castle that our Uber driver recommended we check out. It was actually used during World War II for military personnel, and included an office that was specifically for Adolf Hitler. The history there was amazing, and views from the balconies overlooking a perfectly-maintained garden weren’t so shabby either.

One of the reasons we decided to even go to Poznan in the first place was because, being rowers, we were intrigued by the elite rowing that happens there. The U23 World Championships are about to take place on Lake Malta in Poznan in two weeks time, and we had to go check out the course. It was a fully buoyed 8-lane course with amazing start and finish areas. The start line marked each lane with a massive concrete statue of the lane number on shore, and the finish was complete with grandstands and a megatron. Lining the lake were also a waterpark, a beach and an amusement park. Walking the length of the course was so enjoyable, and we saw several rowing shells on the water, as well as some competitive kayakers.

Now, our day trip has come to an end, we are back in Henley-On-Thames for one more night, then it’s off to Heathrow Airport in the morning. I actually will not be returning with the whole team, as I will be spending another week over here in Edinburgh, Scotland! Even though my journey isn’t quite over yet, my time with the Laker Navy has now officially ended. But that means that now I’m part of the alumni! My four years with this team had meant so much to my own personal growth, and I am so thankful that I got to cap off my rowing career with an experience such as this. To the parents reading this, thank you for helping each rower make this trip possible for them. I can assure you they’ll never forget it. And to the alumni and supporters, we couldn’t even function in the States without you, let alone across the world. So thank you, and I hope to mirror your generosity and support as I enter the role of Laker Navy alumna for years to come.

Brandon Roberts
Athlete: Brandon Roberts, Two Seat, Men’s A 4+
Year: Senior
Hometown: Dearborn Heights, MI
Quote: “You’ve only lost when you’ve stopped trying”

Good evening from Dublin, Ireland!

Since today was our excursion day, a few of my teammates and I decided to catch a flight to Dublin yesterday morning and do as much as we could in the 36 hours we had here. We woke up this morning at 8:30 or so to a breakfast that our hostel provided. After we were fully fed. We set out upon the town. Our first stop was a tour of the original Jameson distillery. It was really amazing learning so much about how whiskey affected the socio-economic dynamic of the city because the company was founded during the industrial revolution of the early 1800s and was a huge part of the country’s development through both of the world wars.

After Jameson, we found a small Irish restaurant for lunch and explored the outskirts of the town before the next thing we had planned. Around 1pm local time, we started our tour of the Guinness factory. They really placed a high emphasis on making sure everybody was fully immersed in everything the product had to offer. Personally, my favorite part was the “aroma room”. The Aroma Room was this incredibly bright white room where they had four stations that released a vapor of each of the four “notes” that the manufacturer was trying to put into the final product. Following that, we were able to go to the top of the factory where there was a large circular room in which you could see a 360 -degree view of the entire city of Dublin.

Following that, we were incredibly tired, so we decided to unwind with some crepes and ice cream for a little while before our dinner. We discovered this little tourist shop and we all got some trinkets to remind us of the trip. From there, we sat down to a traditional Irish dinner and discussed the rest of the evening. We had to find out the bus schedule so we could get back to the airport so we could get back to Henley and then back home.

As I sit in the airport reflecting upon my trip, I’m reminded of all of the great times that I’ve had on team trips, even though I’m sure there are far more that I don’t remember. Coach always says that you’ll remember your last race, and that hold true for my last trip as well. Although it was bittersweet getting knocked out in the first round, I find some solace in knowing that we got knocked out by the crew who set the course record and went on to win our event. I want to say a huge thank you to my teammates for making this season and this trip worth it.

For those of you who have been following me in my four years on this team, I’m afraid that for the last time, this is Brandon Roberts, signing off!


Day 20 – July 8, 2018

Mahe Dreisdale

Mahé Drysdale winning his 6th Diamond Sculls

Ben Norrix
Athlete: Benjamin Norrix, 2 Seat, Men’s B 4+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Rockwood, MI
My best race was: My best race was my Freshman year in the Novice 8 at ACRA. We took home the silver medal in a tight race with Michigan and Orange Coast.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Stick around. Your teammates become your family. Also the Spring is the best time for rowing.

It was finals day at last. After watching 4 days of great racing, I was excited to watch some great races and some of my personal heroes. Emily Gilbert, Elizabeth Greve and I left the men’s house and headed down to the course around 10:45 am. We were all eager for racing to begin. This is because Emily and I had placed a “friendly” wager on todays events. The first race of the day was the Prince Albert Cup. This is the event that both of our 4’s were entered in. The boat that our 4+ drew, which was the Imperial College of London in the first round, ended up winning the entire event. One of my favorite races of the day was watching Mahé Drysdale win his 6th Diamond Sculls. This race was important to me because Mahé is one of my heroes. It was great to see that he still has it. We watched a few more races from the Stewards tent before deciding to walk down and get food.

We found a burger place. The food was amazing. One of the best burgers I have had. After eating, we made our way to the start line to watch a few starts. One of the teams we got to watch was the Croatian National Team. Being able to watch the start of two of the best rowers in the sport was an amazing feeling. I was even happier when I found out that the very next race was the Grand Challenge Cup. This is the Elite 8 category. We again watched this race from the start line. Getting to experience the roaring start of an Olympic caliber 8+ left me awestruck. The amount of sheer power being applied to the blade is amazing.

Emily and I made our way back to the grand stands to watch the rest of the races. A few more great races came down including the two remaining American crews. We cheered our butts off for both of them. After racing finished, we prepared to watch the award ceremony. The guest speaker was Dr. Dame Kathrine Granger. She is Britains most decorated female Olympian with 3 silvers and a gold. Once the whole regatta was over, Emily and I looked at all of the results to see who the winner of the bets were. Im happy to report that I won the bet. So dinner is on Emily when we get home in a few days. This trip has been an absolute blast. I have made so many great memories that I will look back on fondly in the future.

Dublin, Ireland

Group of athletes in Dublin, Ireland

Makenzie Stafford
Athlete: Makenzie Stafford, Coxswain, Men’s B 4+
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Birch Run, MI
I chose Grand Valley because: I wanted to get away from the area that I grew up in and participate in new experiences and be challenged in a different way.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: be patient with how the season goes. You will become an overall better athlete if you put the time and effort that is required, rower or coxswain.

There was 3:00 am wake up call for a select few of the Grand Valley crew this morning. Dublin, Ireland was our destination and we were all very excited. The morning started out pretty rough. The cab that was taking us to the airport ended up being late and that made getting there a bit of a hassle. He ended up dropping us off at a top of a hill that was above the parking lot of the airport because he claimed that is was a quicker and easier way. This was not he situation at all. The incline of the hill was about 70 degrees and that made it a quest to get down. Everyone was slipping and stumbling down the “faster route” and Jessie even ended up tearing up her hand in the process. We were running out of time until our flight and we were not even in the airport yet. We ran, and then ran some more, until we finally reached the place to grab our boarding passes.

But once again, there was an issue. The line was long. Luckily we had Lauren with us, who finagled her way to get the passes quicker and before everyone else. After all the morning chaos, we finally reached our terminal and boarded with ease. We were off to Dublin. Once we touched down, we then again hustled our way to our bus tour of the Cliffs of Moher (which we almost missed). This I was excited for. The bus ride was about 12 hours in total, starting with the small farm towns. One of the things that really stuck out to me while driving, was the amount the cows there were. It seemed like every field was just filled with them; one after another. We drove through and stopped at cool scenery stops, in which we took many pictures at. The views were breathtaking and hard to believe at first. Everything was so foreign. It was well worth traveling all day to see and experience the sights. Our night ended with a walk around the city to find food and to explore the city of Dublin.


Day 19 – July 7th, 2018

Stewards Enclosure

Matt Collins
Athlete: Matthew Collins, Three Seat, Men’s A 4+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Grand Blanc, Michigan
I chose Grand Valley because: of the welcoming environment that the campus provided as well as the size and opportunities that GV gives its students.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: appreciate the small things, like the van rides or the team dinners. Those are the things that you will remember forever.

After a long night exploring Henley including going on the Ale Trail, this morning called for sleeping in and pressing the snooze button a few times. After a breakfast that consisted of a modest donut and some orange juice, Brandon Roberts, Noah Lasky, Jacob Spiess, and myself headed into downtown Henley to grab some food before heading to the course. We stopped and got food at this local bar. Then Brandon made the decision to ask for some hot sauce. This small decision led to some discomfort for my three teammates. I watched as they delved into the ghost pepper sauce and had instant regret. After some pitchers of water, we headed to the course. The weather today was blistering and under the blazers we wore, it got quite warm.

Brandon and I went to the Steward’s Enclosure at the course and watched some races go down the course. We ended up striking up a conversation with the spectators sitting next to us. We told them about the training trip we took to Greece and the accommodations we had and it sparked interest in them. They are masters rowers and want different places to train. We gave them Coach B’s information in order to get them information about Kastoria. A few more races later, we left and went to the Henley Regatta store to pick up some mementos to bring home.

Once I got back to the house, I began packing for the trip I am taking to Dublin, Ireland tomorrow with 7 of my teammates. We will be exploring cliffs around the coastline and exploring other tourist attractions in Dublin. Its incredible that we are able to take excursions to all these different places in Europe, even though rowing is the main priority. It will be an early morning tomorrow morning as our taxi leaves for the airport at 3:15am but the lack of sleep will be most certainly worth it. Pull for the Laker Navy!

Stewards Enclousre Gilbert Norrix Athletes

Emily Gilbert
Athlete: Emily Gilbert, 2 seat, Women’s spare 2-
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Allen Park, MI
My best race was: ACRA 2018, semi finals, when we qualified for the grand final.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Do the best you can everyday and your hard work and dedication will get you far.

It has been another great day in Henley-on-Thames. I woke up and got ready to head out for the day. As usual for the regatta I put on a beautiful long dress that I borrowed from a teammate and headed out. Ben Norrix and I got breakfast at the Catherine’s Wheel, they had a buffet going on that was delicious. There were multiple things to choose from and you could pick up to seven things, such as scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon, beans, tomatoes, black pudding and more. Everything was so good and it was a lot of food. We watched the live stream while eating and watched Washington fight in the race against the British National team, one of my favorite races of the day. We were rooting for Washington and you could tell they put everything into it because they pushed out a great race. After breakfast we headed to the course to watch the races live for the day. We went into the stands of the stewards enclosure and watched some good racing like, Australia winning over the British National team in the Grand Challenge cup. With many exciting races having gone by, we walked around a bit and went into the regatta store and to the trophies tent to see all the cups that have all the winners names on them. It was so cool seeing the history and tradition, not only of the regatta, but of the sport that all the people here love and enjoy.

Around four o’clock we headed back to Catherine’s Wheel to escape the record breaking heat of the day and catch the end of the football match. The place was packed with people watching the game and we had trouble finding a place to sit. As Britain scored and won the people erupted every time filling the place with some of the most energetic and excited energy I have ever seen. A little before six we headed back to the course to watch the Croatian men’s pair vs. the British National team, a race I was excited to see. They are the best double in the world and have set many records. They have started racing the pair recently and have been doing well in that event as well. It was amazing to watch them race and see how much power and how in time they were – it was a good race. We stayed until the end of the regatta. After words we headed to Zizzi, the Italian restaurant for dinner, where it was packed with people from the regatta. When we got home, the fireworks at the course were starting so a few of us went on our balcony to watch the pink Leander 200 year anniversary fireworks. They were so beautiful and amazing to watch with 200s and many pink fireworks. After the fun show, it was time for bed to get ready for finals day tomorrow.


Day 18 – July 6, 2018

Stewards Enclosure People dressed up

Audrey Boersen
Athlete: Audriana Boerson, Seven Seat, Women’s V8+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Grand Haven, MI
My best race was: San Diego Crew Classic 2018
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: It’s hard, it hurts, but it’s all worth it.

Royal Henley Regatta Day 3

As you may know the season has ended, for me it ended days ago, when the women’s eight got knocked out of the Remenham Cap last week Friday. Despite not getting the chance to row anymore, I have taken to staying active by running in the mornings. Waking up before the rest of the women and beginning the morning by running down the River Thames – is just what I need to start off my day.

After a light breakfast it was time to do what we are here to do. Watch some high end racing. Before most of the other women had gotten up to begin the day, a few of us were already dressed up and headed down to the course. We had drawn up a schedule of races that we wanted to see, many of them containing crews that were from the United States. We began the day by watching the University of Washington’s men take on a team from The Netherlands. The dual-style racing of the Henley Royal Regatta allows for some close races, and some other races where one team blows the other out of the water. For many of the teams in previous days, and today, the races have not been close. It makes for a not as exciting day at the course, but we got to see the American teams representing our country. Some of the highlights of spending three hours at the course was we got to watch the University of Washington’s women beat the U.S. U23 hopefuls. We watched Princeton and Yale’s men’s eight race, and we also got to watch the O’Donovan brothers, the 2016 Olympic silver medalists in the double. Watching good, clean, rowing is amazing. These teams exhibit the next level of the sport that the Grand Valley team aspires to get to. To watch such good rowing in person is humbling, I realize that I ca not row like that, but at one point those people rowed like me, and with hard work and passion I can reach their level and compete with them some day.

After racing ends for the day the team begins a night full of fun, and great bonding experiences. We may spend a night in, chilling and watching TV, or we may take to the town and see what Henley has to offer us. All of these great options await as we celebrate the end of a great season. For the women we celebrate our successes at ACRA, as well as all of our hard training for the Henley Royal Regatta. The men will celebrate their chance to row in the most prestigious regatta in the world. The Laker Navy has a lot to be thankful for this year, and we are taking our remainder of time in England to celebrate the joy we have of being a part of such an amazing program.

Pull for the Laker Navy!!!

Fours race from the Stewards Enclosure

Salvatore Bancheri
Athlete: Salvatore Bancheri, Stroke, Men’s 2-
Year: Freshmen
Hometown: Allendale, MI
My best race was: this year when the Freshmen 4+ took silver at MACRA.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Stick it out.

Today I woke up at around 9 o’clock in the morning and headed to Costa coffee for breakfast with Darby, which is easily the best coffee place in town. Afterwards, I headed back to the house and got ready to go to the regatta. Being here has been an amazing experience, I loved seeing all the people with the funky hats and the luxurious suits. Also, I was able to see some great racing today as well. I watched Imperial college break the course record with an astonishing time of 6.46. Being able to watch some of the best rowing in the world has been truly a great experience and something I will not forget.

After the events, we made some pasta at the house and hung out with everyone. We leave on Tuesday and on Monday we are heading to Paris which is going to be great. I really look forward to seeing the Eifel tower and visiting the Notre-Dame de Paris. It really has been a great trip and I am at the point where I do not want to leave and just stay here. Like I said, it has been an experience of a lifetime and again want to say thanks to everyone who made this trip happen. Cheers!


Day 17 – July 5th, 2018

Stewards Enclosure

Lauren DeFrancesco
Athlete: Lauren DeFrancesco, Coxswain, Men’s A 4+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Saint Joseph, MI
Grand Valley Rowing Experience: So far it’s been a blast I’ve gotten to travel to places that I haven’t been to before. Learning how to cox was probably one of the most challenging things that I’ve done in college.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Don’t be afraid to ask for help regardless of how silly you think your question is.

Today started out bright and early with a 4:30 am wakeup to the sun shine in the attic we are staying in. From then I laid in bed for the next three hours playing bubble pop on my phone until Café Nero opens where I go to do my homework. There I spent another two hours attempting to do my criminal justice homework, but when in reality I was on social media. After I had my fill of social media, I went home to get ready to spend the day at the regatta. I threw on my below the knee length dress and me and Kenzie went to go shopping downtown to kill time before we met up with some of the guys. While being downtown we stumbled on a market where locals were selling fresh made bread, cakes, and Turkish food which happens to be my favorite.

We walked around the market for a little bit and then 5 of us headed to the Stewards Enclosure where we would spend the majority of our day. Once we were in the Stewards Enclosure we wandered around looking for 5 seats together in the front row which was easier than I thought it would be because we arrived during the break when racing was not happening. We found 5 seats in the front row right in between the 1 and 1/8 mile marker and the finish line. There we spent the day talking and betting on who we thought would win the race that was coming down. After a long day sitting in the sun we all went back to the men’s house to hangout and eat pizza.

Racing at the Henley from Stewards

Lauren DeFrancesco
Athlete: Miles Hagmeyer, Bow Seat, Men’s 2-
Year: Freshmen
Hometown: Lowell, MI
I chose Grand Valley because: The honors college, campus, and rowing team were appealing.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Don’t set limits.

This morning the team began the day differently than before, as it was the first day that we have all been done with racing. With less time being spent preparing for the rigorous rowing that the Henley Royal Regatta has to offer, many members of the laker navy are now left to experience the immense culture of this racing town and to train for the upcoming season. Some of us woke early and headed to the racecourse, watching the early crews launch and using the equipment for our own training. As I walked through the boat tents on my way to the ergometers, I felt the competition in the air and in the eyes of the remaining crews, for there were half as many boats crowding the tent as there were the previous day. Sharing the competitors’ sense of determination, I rowed my own workout.

Later in the day the team went to the racecourse to cheer on friends from fellow U.S. crews. The racing continues to become more and more competitive each day, and the intensity with which the locals watch the races provides for an amazing experience, with everyone arriving in full dress clothes under the 80 degree sun. The excitement and anticipation only grows stronger in Henley as the number of crews racing decreases by the minute.


Day 16 – July 4th, 2018

Henley Regatta Course

Emily Gilbert
Athlete: Emily Gilbert, 2 seat, Women’s spare 2-
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Allen Park, MI
My best race was: ACRA 2018, semi finals, when we qualified for the grand final.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Do the best you can everyday and your hard work and dedication will get you far.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY FROM ENGLAND!! I had a little bit of a later start getting up around 9am. All the women got ready for the regatta, getting all dolled up wearing pretty dresses and skirts. Everyone looked so good!! I borrowed a below the knee length dress from Elizabeth because that is what is required to enter the stewards enclosure. As we were ready, people left for the course. I walked into town with Cass, Jessie, Elizabeth and Melissa. I stopped at a few shops along the way to the course looking for a cute sundress to wear to the regatta later in the week. Sadly I did not find much, so I headed to the men’s house. When I got there all of the men were sitting around the TV watching the broadcast of the regatta. It was so much fun watching the races, hearing what people saw and talking about rowing. At the break around 12:30pm, Ben got dressed up as well and we headed to the course.

On the way we stopped in a few more shops and we found this cute head piece and bought it. We walked along the trail of the course to almost all the way to the start and we watched many races as they went by. The regatta is so different from any I have ever been to, seeing all the people dressed up and lining the whole course cheering for everyone coming down was an amazing experience. After a while we found the Norrix parents and hung with them for a while. We watched our men’s A four race Imperial college of London. The men looked like they had a good race. After we headed closer to the finish line to the Stewards Enclosure Ben and I enjoyed watching races from there for the last few hours. Ben kept track of all the results of the day in his program. As the day ended we noticed dark clouds and were not sure if we were going to get rained on. As we left the regatta, we started to feel light raindrops. Ben and I headed to Pachangas, a Mexican restaurant, for dinner. While enjoying our food, we saw the silver medalists from Rio in the men’s double. After dinner we went back to the men’s house and enjoyed a couple rounds of uno and the Blues Brothers. It was a good first day of the regatta and another eventful day with the Laker Navy.

Men's A 4+ Racing

Noah Lasky
Athlete: Noah Lasky,Stroke Seat, Men’s B 4+
Year: Freshmen
Hometown: Midland, MI
My best race was: the Grand Final at MACRA where we placed 2nd beating UofM and Ohio State.
After I graduate I plan to: pursue graduate school for physical therapy.

It was another beautiful sunrise across the pond. But this morning was a little special. It’s the beginning of the regatta as well as race day for the Laker Navy. The team awoke nice and early, had a hearty breakfast full of eggs, bacon and toast and spent the morning live-streaming the early races. As time passed by, we were relaxed and having loads of fun as we watched most of the races end by a margin of at least 2-3 boat lengths.

As morning racing ended and the intermission began the team began to separate. The athletes competing at 3:45 continued with their pre-race preparation while everyone else got gussied up to go and watch the races. We threw on our blazers and I tossed on my suave hat, and we made our way to the enclosure. It was a hot and sunny day in England. It was 28 degrees Celsius, or as us Americans prefer to say, 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Speaking of America, Happy 4th of July everyone!!!!!!! I hope you’re days are full of sweet bbq and freedom. Now back to us.

I was building up quite a sweat sitting under the blistering sun as we waited for our men to make their way down the course. We had to take a break and spend some time in the shade. But alas, 3:45 came around and sure enough, Grand Valley was announced over the speakers. Unfortunately, the race didn’t turn out as we would have liked, but it’s all for the experience. We stuck around for a few more races then decided it was just too hot, so we booked it home to take off our layers and put on some more breathable clothing.

As the afternoon progressed, the team broke down and decided to celebrate the night in different ways. I myself stayed in with a few friends and watched The Blues Brothers, a cinematic and musical masterpiece, and made a delectable chocolate cake. It was another fun day for the team in England and we have still got five more days to make more memories that will last a lifetime.


Day 15 – July 3rd, 2018

Varsity A4+ practice

Benjamin Williams
Athlete: Benjamin Williams, Bow Seat, Men’s A 4+
Year: Senior
Hometown: Sacramento, California
My best race was: The MACRA grand final 2017. Amazing four boat race to the finish with only a few seconds between first and fourth
After I graduate I plan to: I plan to move forward with my degree and continue rowing.

Today was the last day before the beginning of the regatta. It has been amazing to see the small town of Henley begin to buzz and grow in population. As people come into the city, the anticipation of the race to come has begun to set in. Every so often I realize “I’m racing in the Royal Henley tomorrow” and I get nervous. As on edge as we are to get up to the start line, I feel incredibly prepared for this race. We are going up against the Imperial College of London tomorrow, a crew we really do not know much about. Tomorrow afternoon though it’s just going to be us versus them, and I can not wait.

Today was relaxing, we lounged for a while before our last practice row, and we were lucky enough to be a part of the testing procedures for the regatta’s film crew. We traded some short power pieces with the US Women’s U23 8+, and after we were done, we all had our eyes on the prize. This time in Henley, it has been even more exciting with the World Cup going on around us. England is doing well, and the locals are in an upbeat mood as it is, which is a great thing for the regatta. The weather has also been particularly wonderful. To add to the buzz and making this regatta feel real, my mom came into town today from California. It was incredible to introduce her to my teammates in this country and have her here to support me in this incredible adventure. I would say it has been a successful week in Henley leading up to the races and now it is time to get down to business. Thanks again to everyone for all the support, and keep pulling for the Laker Navy!

Benjamin Williams
Athlete: Melissa Frank, Three Seat, Women’s V8+
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Oswego, IL
Fun fact about me: I’m afraid of water.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: you get out of rowing what you put in.

Another great day in Henley has come and gone! This morning I woke up and ran down to the course to watch some of the boats practice. Today was the spare pairs races for the men which started at 1:30 pm today. Both of our pairs put up a strong fight trying to get through the bracket! Ben and Jacob fought Cornell hard until the very end but ended losing in the last few strokes after walking up on them in about the last 250 of the race. It was a real great race to watch. In the midst of the spares racing, the A four was able to take a broadcasted lap of the course in order to make sure the video was working for tomorrow!

After the races we walked into town to look at hats for the regatta which starts tomorrow! I am excited to see the A four race and fight to get to the next round! After leaving town, the rest of the time we spent at the team houses where we all got together to make dinner (burgers and fries) and hang out together! Nothing else much going on today, just looking forward to tomorrow with the start of the regatta and the great racing to come!


Day 14 – July 2nd, 2018

Brandon Roberts
Athlete: Brandon Roberts, Two Seat, Men’s A 4+
Year: Senior
Hometown: Dearborn Heights, MI
Quote: “You’ve only lost when you’ve stopped trying”

Hello from Henley-on-Thames!

After the eventful day in London yesterday, it was amazing to be able to sleep in this morning. My boat had planned to have practice early in the afternoon, so I was able to sleep until 8 or so and make myself a decent breakfast to prepare for the day. Shortly after waking, I left the house to go get a pedicure with a few of the coxswains. I had never gotten one before and I can honestly say it was really nice to treat myself to some relaxation. I returned to the men’s house for a light lunch and off to practice we went.

The practice we had today was one long lap with a few 10-stroke bursts thrown in for “send” and “boat feel”. It was nice to get back on the water after having the day off yesterday, but we were able to brush off the rust pretty quickly. After returning to the dock, Coach John wanted to adjust our rig and send us out for one for one more piece to see if it helped. It’s rough to say if it did or not, but we’re going to keep it for tomorrow to see if it helps.

After getting off the water, we headed back to the house to get ready for the athlete reception. Everybody got dressed up in our Henley Blazers and headed to the rowing museum for an evening of hors d’oeuvres and mingling with the other teams who were there. Following a short speech, the reception came to an end and we all found a place to eat for dinner and retired to the houses.

Thank you to all the families who are supporting us both from the sidelines and from America!

Be sure to watch the livestream of the Pairs Race tomorrow and the Prince Albert cup on Wednesday at 3:45pm GMT!

Henley Stewards Enclosure

Darby Mollan
Athlete: Darby Mollan ,Spare Coxswain
Year: Freshmen
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: The friends you’ll make while rowing will last forever!

Another hot day in Henley! I started out the morning wandering around antique stores and coffee shops with Diana. The streets are starting to fill up with rowers and spectators for the upcoming regatta. For lunch, we made the trek to the men house for sandwiches and chips. After lunch, the coxswains and some of the men watched the World Cup. I’m not an avid soccer fan, but as the trip goes on and I experience England around soccer and the World Cup, I have become one! All the coxswains went back to our house to begin getting ready for the rowing reception for the over seas crews. After curling everyones hair, we got our white dresses and blazers on. We headed to the museum on the river for the reception and met several stewards including 5 time Olympian and winner of Henley 20 times, Mathew Pincent. It was a once of a lifetime experience to mingle with some of the rowing greats and other teams from around the world!


Day 13 – July 1st, 2018

Team Photo Paddington Station

Elliot Rieth
Athlete: Elliot Rieth, Stroke Seat, Men’s A 4+
Year: Junior
Hometown: East Grand Rapids, Michigan
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Work as hard as you play, and always make room for both.
Grand Valley Rowing Experience: I rowed 5 seat in the Novice 8 that placed 2nd at ACRA his freshman year, and went on to go to Henley that summer. I have been in the Varsity 8 the past two years, going from 3 seat his sophomore year to stroke seat his junior year. During his time in the Varsity 8, I competed in regattas such as San Diego Crew Classic, Head of the Charles, Dad Vail, and ACRA.

Today the Laker Navy took to the big city, London.

The men’s house woke up early to wish Christine, Coach Bancheri’s wife, off for her flight back to the states. We then finished our breakfasts, got in some wise cracks, listened to Easy by The Commodores, and took off towards the train station for our big excursion.

Once we arrived at Paddington Station, the rowers split into two main groups. One group went on a bus tour of the city, while the other braved the London underground system in search of the best London had to offer. I was in the ladder group. Little did we know what the day would turn into when we set off on our trip. We boarded our first train on our way to Buckingham Palace, and the adventure had begun.

We began the day by taking in the typical tourist spots, such as Buckingham Palace (where we stumbled upon the new guards headed to their post on our way to our next destination), Parliament, Big Ben, and the London Eye. From there we went to a burger spot that our leader, Ben Williams, suggested, called Bleeker Burgers, I believe. This restaurant had one of the best burgers and shakes I have ever had in my entire life, and I will never forget it. Next, we made an attempt to get to Piccadilly Circus. We had a bit of trouble navigating the tube and popped out in Oxford Circus where we stumbled upon a street fair called Summer Streets on Regent Street. There we stopped in a 5-story toy store, had the best ramen I’ve ever consumed, and witnessed an amazing street performance by a group of drummers.

From there we went to Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Jubilee Market, the National Gallery, and the Waterloo area before boarding the early train back home to wind down from an amazing day in the city.

Overall, it was truly a day I will never forget and I am glad I was able to experience it with my friends.

Back to work.

London Eye and GV rowers

Makenzie Stafford
Athlete: Makenzie Stafford, Coxswain, Men’s B 4+
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Birch Run, MI
I chose Grand Valley because: I wanted to get away from the area that I grew up in and participate in new experiences and be challenged in a different way.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: be patient with how the season goes. You will become an overall better athlete if you put the time and effort that is required, rower or coxswain.

The day started out with a nice brisk walk from the coxswain house to the men’s house to meet the team for our day trip to London. We took the train from Henley to paddington station where after, the team split off into separate groups to explore the foreign landscape. My group ended up taking the bus tour. This not only was a faster way to travel down the busy streets but, also a way to learn about the culture of the rustic and timeless city. I was really excited to see Big Ben but, come to find out, it was under construction and could only see the face of the clock. The disappointment soon faded after the group found their way into a place to eat. We then set out on a long venture to the tower bridge. During our walk, we saw many different street performers including a comedy yoga instructor and an older gentleman jamming out on a small piano. That was a sight to see. 3 miles later we finally reached our destination. We took our share of pictures in-front of the bridge and all decided that after the trek that we were all hungry again. I mean, I was with a bunch of rowers, when aren’t they hungry. Our bus tour also included boat tour. This was also a very cool experience. We got to go under all of the bridges on the River Thames and learned a lot about the history of the buildings and the river itself. According to the commentator on the boat, the British military built an excessive amount of bridges across the river to trick the Germans during WWll incase of an invasion. Our time was running out to get back to paddington station after we docked and got back on land so, we started heading to the closest bus stop. Come to find out, the stop was closed and we walked all that way just to find ourselves further away than we already were. We had an hour left before our train departed and we were on the other side of London. We started speed walking across Hyde Park, where we had just enough time to see a couple doubles and quads resting on the shore of the Serpentine, which is the lake located in the middle of the park. We made it back to the station just in time for our train ride home. With out tired feet and our many souvenirs, I can say we had a very successful day in London.


Day 12 – June 30th, 2018

Team Photo Reading Town

Cassidy Bruins
Athlete: Cassidy Bruins, Stroke Seat, Women’s V8+
Year: Senior
Hometown: Colorado Springs
Quote: “Power moves only”
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Never stop fighting. The greatest successes come from the greatest hardships.

Hello Laker Navy fans,

Today was a hot, sweaty, fun, sad, bittersweet, but amazing experience. My last official race as a collegiate rower for GVSU. As you are reading me attempt to put my feelings into words, you should know that I can not quite capture it properly, but as with everything else- I will do my best. Part of me wants to laugh, another part wants to cry, but mostly I am just glad that I spent the day laughing with my buds and walking away from a regatta with a pot (trophy) in an event we had never done before, with a bucket rigged boat that we have never been in before. I am sad to say goodbye to racing and to my boat, but happy I have had the experiences today and this season that I have.

This morning we woke up early, and headed out to the neighboring town, Reading, around 7 am. When we arrived it was chilly and cloudy and things were not looking great. As the morning went on, the clouds cleared and everyone seemed to cheer up. My boat launched mid-morning and getting into an unknown, brand new boat was amazingly cool, but soooo difficult to set. We prevailed through the first round and then into the finals, where we faced Oxford and our teammates in the other GVSU boat. We found our set and our power and the boat flew across the river, blades slicing the water perfectly. The victory was sweet, although it was half against our teammates. We got our pots and were very satisfied.

The 8+ launched mid-afternoon and we thought we had it all and we were wrong. It was not the cleanest race, and it just didn’t click. It clearly just was not our race to win. I am sad to end on that note in the 8+. However after our incredible time trial yesterday, I will just pretend it did not happen and remember the good over the bad. That is what I am best at.

The men’s boat also faced each other in the final, and watching them battle for first was a treat for the the team on land, it was a great race. I am proud of each of my teammates and the time they have put into this season, all (except one boat) coming down to our efforts today, and we all are stoked to watch the men’s 4 compete in the Henley on Wednesday.

We are all getting ready to go out to eat and for a night on the town, and are very excited to roam about London as a team tomorrow!

Men's 4+ B Entry

Aidan McCoy
Athlete: Aidan McCoy, Bow Seat, Men’s B 4+
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Chicago
I chose Grand Valley because: Fantastic school with great academics, and my high school coach rowed here as well.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: You’re stronger than you know.

It was rough waking up today. Rushed and delirious I stumbled out of my bunk bed. Made a hot cup of the best instant coffee a man can buy in England, and buttered a croissant. I wolfed down my half-prepared breakfast, and put on my uni to get ready for the bus to the Reading Town Regatta. As we arrived to the regatta, my bones became antsy with anticipation. I saw so many other big crews with shiny boats and oars, all I wanted to do was get out and row. My four launched first at 10:40 AM. We raced our 800 meter piece with Durham University and Brunswick University, we pulled a great piece but ended up second just behind Durham. Since we made it to the next round, we had to wait for another four hours until we raced again. I ate a hot bacon roll that they provided me at the concession stand at the regatta for three pounds, and plugged a lot of water into my body. As I fought the urge to dose off at the tent, my teammate informed me that my boat was about to launch. I splashed some water on my face, rolled my uni up, and ran to the boat. We launched once again, and rowed an even better piece against Cambridge ’99 Boat Club. We finished first with a solid three boat lengths of open water between us. This meant that we were going to enter the final with our A boat. With us being the B four, we were not expecting to do well in this race with Orange Coast Rowing Club in-between our two boats. However, this is when the story picks up a bit. Now that we made the final, a feeling of self-confidence began to slowly bubble up within the depths of our bodies. For some reason all of us felt unusually excited about the race, and we were ready to go out with a bang. We launched, and approached the start as usual. Our boat lined up with Orange Coast to the left, and our A boat to the left of Orange Coast. The official raised the flag, and the four of us gripped our oars with our lives. “Attention…..GO!” The flag whipped down and the boats were flying across the water.

I pulled with all the adrenaline and fury I built up towards this moment, and did not look out of the boat once. Orange Coast clashed with our boat once, we kept pulling, they clashed again, and we did not stop. After about three more clashes, the race was already almost half way over. I watched Orange Coast begin to come back into my peripheral vision, and from then on I was pulling with every ounce of energy I had left. I heard the chanting of my teammates from the sidelines, and I could not let them down. Before I knew it, Coast was a boat length behind us, and we had just crossed the finish line in first place. I celebrated with gasps and struggles with my boat, splashes and short yells hit my ears and I was in awe to what was happening. Everything that could have gone right went great within that race. The regatta presented us with our prized mugs, or “pots” for our victory, and happiness filled my body and my boat. Today was the best day I have had on this trip so far, and I will remember this day for years to come. I am so excited to see what else England has to offer, and I have a feeling it is going to be very hard to leave once the time comes.


Day 11 – June 29th, 2018

 Women's V 8 Time trail

Jessica Hasenau
Athlete: Jessica Hasenau, Five Seat, Women’s V8+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Livonia, Michigan
My best race was: San Diego Crew Classic 2018
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: This is not a normal club. If you put in the work you will find yourself with some amazing opportunities.

Today I had the best race of my life in the Royal Henley Remenham Challenge Cup time trial qualifier.

Sitting at 5 seat in the Varsity Women’s 8+, it felt like our strongest race we have had all spring. Every woman ripped on their oar every stroke and we cleared our puddles by at least 3 feet. We smelled like underdogs and were the only club team there so you bet we had something to prove.

Special thanks to the men’s team who staggered along the course to cheer us on until they reached the next person (and Brandon for running 100m next to us), which was really cool. It’s really great to be on a team that supports each other so much. We got to cheer on one of the men’s 4+ as they did their time trial after us also going against some really tough competition and raced very well.

I felt like there was “a 1/8 of a mile left” for a mile, but it must have just been the lactic acid kicking in all our quads since the Henley Mile is longer than a mile and feels much longer than the normal 2k we’ve been so accustomed to. However, finally we crossed the finish line and knew we had each pushed ourselves as hard as we could and gave it our absolute all.

The final results were not in our favor. We rowed a great race and can all say it was something to be proud of, but sadly our boat did not qualify and so we will not be moving on next week. Thank you so much for the support back home on social media and the parents that flew all the way here to cheer us on! We’ll make sure to keep you updated tomorrow during our Reading Town regatta.

Ben Norrix

Jessica Hasenau
Athlete: Benjamin Norrix, 2 Seat, Men’s B 4+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Rockwood, MI
My best race was: My best race was my Freshman year in the Novice 8 at ACRA. We took home the silver medal in a tight race with Michigan and Orange Coast.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Stick around. Your teammates become your family. Also the Spring is the best time for rowing.

Race day. After 6 long years of dreaming of racing at the Royal Henley Regatta, my dream came true. Today began with us getting as much sleep as possible. Our race was in the afternoon and we all decided to allow ourselves to wake up naturally. I personally woke up around eight this morning. I went downstairs and made breakfast. I made the breakfast of champions. (Triple decker PB&J). My four and I gathered around the tv and watched Planet Earth Two. This kept us relaxed before our race. Sitting around waiting for us to leave was probably the hardest part of the day. I was super anxious to get on the water. Finally 1 o’clock rolled around and we set off for the race course.

Once at the course we began to stretch and prepare for our race. We put the boat in slings and had our pre race talk with coach. It came time for us to launch and when we placed the boat in the water we were launching next to Cambridge. We headed to the start line and prepared for the biggest race of our lives. They called us to the start and the official said go. We did a soft start to get the boat moving. And we hit the start line at a solid 37. We knew immediately that we were going to have a good piece. The boat felt smooth right off the bat. As we were going down the course, the rest of our team who didn't have races today lined the race course so that we would have someone cheering us on the whole course.

As we progressed down the course, our coxswain began telling us that we were moving on the crew in front of us. This kept us going. We hit Upper Thames Rowing Club, and we began to empty the tanks. We came into the grand stand area and began to hear the chants of GV..SU. We hit the finish line and immediately it hit us how tired we were. But just because we crossed the finish, we were not done yet. Our coxswain told us to hold water and we slammed on the breaks because we almost hit the crew in front of us. It was at this moment that we saw what crew we had walked on the whole race. We turned around to see Cambridge.

We got off the dock and put our boat in slings to de-rig it. We waited anxiously for the results. When they finally came out we were heartbroken to find out that we had barely missed qualifying for the bracket. We had finished 7th. Only the top 5 moved on. Even though we were heartbroken from not qualifying, we still were proud of the race and how it went. We beat crews that we did not except to. Im proud of the boys and girl in my boat for laying everything on the line. To end the day, I walked around Henley with my parents and my girlfriend before heading back to the mens Henley house to watch comedy specials on Netflix.


Day 10 – June 28th, 2018

Men's A4+ with Collins

Matt Collins
Athlete: Matthew Collins, Three Seat, Men’s A 4+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Grand Blanc, Michigan
I chose Grand Valley because: of the welcoming environment that the campus provided as well as the size and opportunities that GV gives its students.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: appreciate the small things, like the van rides or the team dinners. Those are the things that you will remember forever.

As I awoke from our first night in the most prestigious rowing town in the rowing world,I can’t wait to see what we experience across the pond. Due to the fact that we lost two hours from our recent training trip in Greece and the British sun pierced through the skylight in our room, I woke up a few hours before we had to leave for practice. I was the first member of the team but, slowly but surely, the rest of the men came down to enjoy some crossaints and Frosties (the Frosted Flakes of England). After 2 hours of enjoying breakfast and reminiscing in our trip to Greece, we made the 10 minute journey to practice. Having seen the River Thames yesterday evening, I expected to not be taken back by it this morning, but that wasn’t the case. The crisp air made the water ripple and it was absolutely breathtaking. The men’s A four got on the water, preparing for today’s assignment: four 2 minute pieces at race pace. As we have a new boat that is more responsive, every stroke we take matters, especially those at race cadence. After some successful pieces combined with some things to work on moving forward, we put the boat away next to racks and racks of others.

After coming back to the house we are staying at, we all prepared our own combination of sandwiches, scones, and fruit. The combination of two-a-day practices across two countries and a 12 hour travel day yesterday meant that my body was in desperate need of a nap. After trying to tune out the music marathon the rest of the men’s team was playing in the speakers across the house, I was able to catch a few Z’s. After waking up, the men’s A four and men’s pair headed to the water for our second practice of the day as we don’t have a qualifying race to get into the regatta because we received a bid. Being able to be automatically entered in the regatta is incredible and I wouldn’t have imagined being in this position when I picked up an oar for the first time 3 years ago. We reduced the practiced to only one lap of the race course which focused on skill at low rates in order to get the feel of the boat.

After practice, the men’s team pooled some pounds together so we could head to the market and make a house dinner. As we enjoyed the feast of pasta and chicken with an amazing sauce made by chef Noah Lasky, we cheered on the Three Lions of the England Football Team in the World Cup. I grew up loving soccer so I will always turn on the beautiful game. Hopefully the England progresses far so we are able to go to a local restaurant in the next round so we can experience the soccer culture here. The night was topped off by the singing of Happy Birthday to Jessie Hasenau and Sal Bancheri whose birthdays have occurred since we left for Europe. As I chowed down on the brownie cake and enjoyed every calorie I could, I am looking forward to experiencing every ounce of rowing culture in Henley and culture in general in England. Pull for the Laker Navy!

Women V8+

Melissa Frank
Athlete: Melissa Frank, Three Seat, Women’s V8+
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Oswego, IL
I chose Grand Valley because: I liked the color blue.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: you get out of rowing what you put in.

Today was our first full day in Henley! And today I got my luggage from the airport which they lost on our way from Greece to Henley, which was almost as exciting as the team being able to sleep after a long day of travel yesterday in order to rest of for our time trials tomorrow. The woman’s eight got to the boat house today at 9:30 am rested and ready for a row. We set off to do our pre-race fartlek. Being in our new boat felt, good yet a bit wobbly at time partly because we’ve been training in a larger boat with larger oar handles for the passed week. The high rates 250 meter pieces felt powerful with good ratio, even Coach said our last pieces at a 36 looked as if we were at a 32 or 33. After the row many of us stopped at a local market with baked goods, fresh fruit and vegetables to bring back to our houses. For the rest of the day we stay at our house and watch movies, because we were specifically told to stay on our butts, until dinner for which we went downtown to a pasta/pizza restaurant for some pre race day carbs and also for us to have some good team fun and laughs. We then stopped at a small super market to grab a treat and head back to our houses for a team meeting and to sleep!


Day 9 – June 26th, 2018

Henley on Thames

Jacob Spiess
Athlete: Jacob Spiess, Three Seat, Men’s B 4+
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Whitehouse, OH
I chose Grand Valley because: I met the team at a regatta and visited GV. I loved The school and decided to go here.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: If you do the same thing everybody else does, you’ll never get faster than anybody. The extra effort is what makes winners succeed.

Today would probably go down as my most well-traveled day so far. I started off the day waking up in the 5-star Limneon Resort in Kastoria, Greece. At 4a.m. we all woke up and prepared for the journey ahead. The first trip was a bus ride to the same airport we arrived into Greece. After flying to Istanbul again we took another flight to the London-Heathrow airport we also went through on our way to Greece. However, the reason for this being my most traveled day in history is the not only did I travel through the country sides and mountains of Greece but we also drove through the farmland and such of England as we finally head to Henley, the reason we started this trip.

Finally, after a long bus ride, two plane rides and another bus ride later we finally arrived in Henley at the course. The sight took my breathe away as the sun stretched over the Thames River and the water was perfect for practicing. After we settled into the housing we went to the race course and saw the boats we rented for the racing. I knew we were getting brand new boats but it was also exciting seeing it for the first time. The slides were unused, seats unstrained by rowers past. We were so excited to get out on the water that we hurried through the rigging and the oars and finally got out on the water.

Today was something I’m going to remember for a long time. Having to leave Greece was sad but being in Henley was something else. Being a rower for as long as I have you tend to appreciate an area where rowing is part of the culture (probably why regattas seem so fun). Here the whole place just screams rowing tradition, culture and experience that many are not so fortunate to experience. I am looking forward to the following days with immense optimism and excitement not only for the racing but the entire Henley experience.

Traveling day in Greek aiport

Allyson Hicks
Athlete: Allyson Hicks, Bow Seat, Women’s Spare 2-
Year: Junior
Hometown: Holland, MI
I chose Grand Valley because: it has a wide variety of major/course options, which was helpful for someone who came in Undecided. GV was the biggest school that I looked at, but it was able to have the offerings of a big school with the small school feel.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: rowing is going to teach you a lot more about life than you’d expect, and it’s a great way to find your niche on campus.

Today was one of those days that seems to never end: a travel day! We woke up this morning in Greece at 4:00am, and had the bus loaded and headed for the airport by 5:00. The resort graciously provided us with a meal for during our travel which was certainly appreciated by all of us. Most of us slept during the bus ride to the airport, and were therefore well rested for yet another thrilling round of checking bags and going through security.

Our flights to Istanbul and London both went well, with an added bonus of birthday girl Jessie Hasenau getting a gift of personalized headphones from the airline! We arrived at Heathrow with a fun blend of exhaustion and excitement, not really noticing the two hour time shift. From the airport, we all loaded into a bus that took us to our respective housing assignments (after some shuffling to figure out who went where). We got ourselves settled, and headed for the course.

Once at the course, it was a cluster of figuring out who was rowing which boat, and the oars all had to be adjusted. It took some time (and some more shuffling) and then we were able to launch. Emily Gilbert and I used the same pair that the men did. This meant that we had to spend some time on land, walking the course while we waited for our boat that was on the water. Using the men’s boat also meant that we did our Henley course as our first time in a starboard stroke lineup. It went very well, and being able to row down a course that I had only seen previously on livestreams was a great experience.

We rounded out the day with a large group that all went out to dinner together to refuel, something that was necessary on a day’s diet of airplane food. A step beyond just satisfied, we all returned to our homes for the next couple of weeks, ready to get some rest for the day ahead. We’re all excited to see what the next couple of weeks will hold!


Day 8 – June 26th, 2018

Picture with governor

Rachel Keller
Athlete: Rachel Keller, Four Seat, Women’s V8+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Carol Stream, IL
Quote: “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week you’re going to have something special.” – Jim Valvano
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Try and row all four years, it’s worth it.

Today is our final day in Greece! I have had such an incredible time in Kastoria, I know my teammates and I will never forget the amazing hospitality that we experienced here. We started off the morning at 7:30 with one final breakfast before we left for the boathouse. No hotel breakfast will ever compare to the breakfast at the Limneon Resort. We got to practice and luckily the rain held off for us as we had a two hour row of steady state focusing on the front end with some bob drills and 20 strokes on 20 strokes off pieces.

After morning practice, we went into town to thank the youth rowing club for letting us borrow their boats for the week. We exchanged gifts and they gave us a tour of the boathouse. We also got to meet the Olympic bronze medalist in the women’s lightweight double from the 2012 London games. A short drive away was the Vice Governor’s office, there we met with him and exchanged some kind words and gifts. It is a really cool feeling that Grand Valley has left its mark on this beautiful city and I hope I am able to return someday.

Our final practice in Greece was a nice swing row to the boathouse to return our eight that we borrowed for the week. There were many pelicans that joined us on the row. Overall this has been an incredible training trip, my teammates and I will never forget the hospitality that we had here in Kastoria, Greece. We are very excited to head to London tomorrow morning to race at the Henley Royal Regatta this week.

So long from Greece!!

Picture with Nautical Rowing Club

Aidan McCoyr
Athlete: Aidan McCoy, Bow Seat, Men’s B 4+
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Chicago, IL
I chose Grand Valley because: Fantastic school with great academics, and my high school coach rowed here as well.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: You’re stronger than you know.

As I come to a groggy rise from my bed at 7:30AM, the light drops of rain give me the wake up call I need to start the day. I dress into my practice gear right away, and notice the emptiness in my stomach has a craving for Greek yogurt. The hotel breakfast is as promising as always, with feta cheese as the main ingredient for almost everything. I devoured my yogurt and eggs with a smile on my face, and prepared for a wet and rainy practice. On the water, we practiced some general steady state rowing, with a few hard strokes thrown in for good measure. After practice, we met at Evan’s rowing club and their members. The Nautical Club of Kastoria was very welcoming and happy to see us. They gave us a quick tour of the boathouse and erg room. The erg room was very impressive, equipped with a lot of weights and a full indoor tank to practice technique.

For our second stop of the day, we gave a visit to the Regional Vice Governor of Macedonia. The politician was also very welcoming and warm as we entered the impressive office. He explained how happy he was to see the Grand Valley Rowing Team practicing in Kastoria, and humorously apologized for the weather. We took a nice photo, and presented him with a few gifts on behalf of the team. For our second practice of the day we did more steady state in order to row the boats we had borrowed back to their respective boathouses. I ended the day with a final gyro from my favorite corner place in Kastoria, and fill my stomach with the symphony of flavors that I had fell in love with for the last time. My experience in Kastoria has been truly life changing. Although that may sound cliché, I do mean it. As this was my first time traveling internationally, Greece was everything I hoped it would be and more. I have made memories here that I will cherish for a lifetime, and I hope this is not the last time I get the opportunity to visit this beautiful city.


Day 7 – June 25th, 2018

Varsity A 4+

Brandon Roberts
Athlete: Brandon Roberts, Two Seat, Men’s A 4+/big>
Year: Senior
Hometown: Dearborn Heights, MI
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Stick together.

Good evening from Kastoria, Greece!

This amazing week in this absolutely surreal location is coming to a close and everybody is pretty beat up about it. This is easily the most breathtaking place, much less rowing venue, that I have ever been to in my lifetime and I am really sad to be leaving. From the rolling hills on every side of Kastoria to the monasteries on top of the mountains in Meteora, Greece. Its people will be deeply missed.

My roommates and I woke up in the morning at or near 7:30 am and spent about half an hour attempting to get out of bed. But sure enough, at 8:05 am we were out the door and on our way to breakfast in the resort before heading out to practice. I was not sure what to expect out of this morning’s practice, so I tried to eat pretty light. We got to the Nautical Club of Kastoria (as the locals call it) and put our boat straight in the water for what we had not yet realized was about to be 2 and a half hours of rowing. We began practice with bobs, then bobs to the catch, then bobs with a slap square. At that point, my boat had to start creating ways to challenge ourselves because the other drills had gotten easy. But alas, two more hours of steady state later, combined with a few pieces at race pace and we were back on the dock, safe and sound.

The team got back to the hotel around noon, just in time for lunch. After a big lunch consisting of grilled chicken, peppers, spinach pie, and greek yogurt, I decided to retire to my room for some a much-needed nap.

Since my boat got the bid for Henley and does not have to race a time trial, coach B got to throw a few more practice sessions at us since we do not necessarily need to begin tapering until later in the week. With that being the case, the rest of the team headed into town to watch Elliot, Matt, Ben Williams, and myself do more race pieces in the pouring rain while Coach Costas, our coxswain Lauren, and our Guest Coach Evan Tsourtsoulas chased after us in the launch. Full disclosure, I was having a blast. I was broken and sore and tired afterward, but it was fun nonetheless. We cut the cool down a little short because the weather was beginning to get the best of us and we headed back to the dock before we took on too much water.

Dinner could not come soon enough. Alongside the Greek national team, we feasted on what I believe was a greek pasta with beef tips and more greek yogurt. After dinner, I got the opportunity to trade some of my rowing gear with some of the Greek national team guys and I got a pretty sweet uni out of the deal. I decided to wind my night down by spending it laughing uncontrollably with a few of my friends in one of the other rooms. Sufficed to say, I had a pretty phenomenal day.

A huge thank you to the coaching staff, all of the donors who got us here, as well as all of the friends and family I have back home who are cheering me on from the sidelines. I would also like to thank our hosts, Evan, Dimitrius, and Tina Tsourtsoulas for making this both a training camp and a vacation that I will remember (and surely embellish) for the rest of my life.

See you in England!

Women's Varsity8+ Practicing

Mckenzie Sandel
Athlete: McKenzie Sandel,Two Seat, Women’s V8+
Year: Freshmen
Hometown: Grosse Ile, MI
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be:Positive attitudes = Free boat speed

To start taper off right the GVSU team made sure to eat a big breakfast provided by the Limneon resort. Shortly after, we began our daily adventure to the boat club where we rowed around the perimeter of Lake Kastoria which is approximately a half marathon! (roughly 21,000m) I enjoyed today’s practice because while the main focus was on form, we also got to incorporate speed work by lining up the boats every 10-20 minutes and doing 40-second bursts!

Because taper began today, my boat only had morning practice. However, the Men’s Varsity A 4+ is not on taper yet and unfortunately had to practice in the pouring rain but you know what they say, “It’s a water sport. You are bound to get wet at some point.” So while the men braved the wind and the rain, the rest of the team went into town to grab some coffee and sit under a canopy to watch them practice. They looked great!

When 6 pm rolled around we regrouped and drove home for dinner and when we finished up eating we began to write our thank you letters to all of our amazing friends and family who supported and helped us get to where we are today.


Day 6 – June 24, 2018

Jessica Hasenau
Athlete: Elliot Rieth, Stroke Seat, Men’s A 4+
Year: Junior
Hometown: East Grand Rapids, Michigan
My best race was: Work as hard as you play, and always make room for both.

Today was a day that the ladies and gentlemen of the Laker Navy will never forget.
Our morning began with a brisk practice out on the lake, one designed to test our peak physical fitness. After grabbing a quick breakfast at the Limneon, we made our way down to the Nautical Club of Kastoria and got ready for our pieces. The plan was to do two 2k races, however, with the weather deteriorating, we ended up doing one 2k and three 750 meter pieces. We were all pushing ourselves to our maximum physical potential, while also trying to focus on the training we received while we’ve been here. Coach was adamant to see us pushing each other, and was especially excited to see the way that the A4+ was racing with such intensity.

After a long and successful practice, we met back on land to take boat photos on the dock. We also had the opportunity to meet the Vice President and Event Coordinator of the Greek Rowing Federation, which was an incredible honor.

We returned to the hotel to shower and eat a quick lunch before heading off on our spectacular adventure in Meteora. A two-hour bus ride there was well worth the amazing view that we were able to experience. The first place we visited was the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, and this was my favorite part of the day. After climbing several hundred stairs on the side of a cliff, we made it up to the monastery itself. There was so much amazing history there, and thanks to Dimitrios Tsourtsoulas, one of our gracious hosts, we were able to get a full understanding of the amazing history behind the monasteries themselves. The incredible art and culture that was inside was something truly beautiful to behold. Dimitrios told us so many amazing historical facts about what we were experiencing, which truly was what made the experience for me.

However, the most amazing part of the entire excursion was the view of the cliffs and the town from the edge of the monastery. I have been stunned by very few views in my life, but this was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. I am very afraid of heights, but I could not possibly resist standing against the railing and taking in the sheer majesty of what was around me. I loved every second of it. After a few photos and visiting the museums of the monasteries,
we headed back into town for dinner.

After grabbing an excellent dinner and some pastries, as well as stopping to pet our new dog friend, McCreery, we headed back to the hotel. Today was a day filled with culture and incredible experiences, and it made me realize how much I have changed as a person throughout my years on Grand Valley’s rowing team. I have become more open to new experiences, and more excited to experience other cultures. Today was a perfect example of the amazing experiences that this team can provide for people who choose to participate in this amazing sport with these amazing people.

Can’t wait for another great day with the Laker Navy.

Diana Bullen
Athlete: Diana Bullen, Coxswain, Women’s V8+
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Clarkston, Michigan
My best race was:ACRA 2018. Our boat got second place and a silver medal. It was an exhilarating experience.

Greetings from Kastoria!

It was another fun filled day in Greece! We got up around 6:50 to go get a light breakfast before leaving for the boathouse. We had planned to do 2×2000 meter pieces against the junior team here but the water was too choppy for them to row over from the other side of the lake. We did one of the 2000 meter pieces before shorting the distance to 750 meters on a part of the course that was much less choppy, and did three of those. The pieces got better every time and our times kept dropping as the women’s 1V found their rhythm and got back into the swing of going at higher rates again. Overall, it was a productive morning with lots of improvements made. I am still in awe every time we launch of the beautiful scenery surrounding us and that I have the opportunity to row in such a beautiful country (Thanks Mom and Dad!).

After we docked the team headed back to the hotel to quickly shower, change, and pick up our lunches prepared by the wonderful resort we are staying at before heading on our charter bus and to our excursion for the day Meteora! The drive there was absolutely beautiful. The mountains are perfectly silhouetted against the sky that gives the whole country a very rustic feel. As we got closer to Meteora giant cliff faces appeared from seemingly nowhere, rising into the sky almost 1300 feet. It looked like a setting from Avatar! As a geology major, I was pressing my face against the bus window like an excited little kid, in complete awe of this natural phenomenon. I took a ton of pictures that I plan to email my geology professors at Grand Valley to gain more insight on how these stunning formations occurred. From the bottom of these mountains we could see buildings sitting on the very top of them, looking out over the whole valley. These were the monasteries that we traipsed up the mountain to tour. The roads were incredibly windy and I was amazed that our charter bus could make it up these giant and curvy hills but
we made it to the top!

The first monastery we went to was perched on the highest peak I could see. We were dropped off at the base of the monastery and then climbed about 310 (give or take a few) stairs to get to the main building. The climb was worth it as we walked along the ancient halls that seemed to be perfectly preserved. The main sanctuary was full of beautiful paintings of the original saints and many other religious figures. There was a museum full of Plato and Aristotle’s original works as well as many other ancient scrolls and absolutely stunning wood carvings. The oldest thing I found was dated all the way back to the 9 th century! Which isn’t even that old compared to the rocks the monastery stood on, they dated back 30 million years. My favorite part of this monastery was a look out point that gave a breath-taking view of both the city below and the other surrounding monasteries perched on their own mountain tops. I felt truly blessed in that moment to be here in this wonderful country with some of my best friends.

After we toured another monastery we headed into town to eat dinner. I split saganaki and spaghetti with Rachel Keller. We both agreed that it was a fabulous meal. The restaurant was decorated with a lot of cool and authentic trinkets that made me feel transported back to ancient Greece. We also had the opportunity to meet a senator of Meteora as we were leaving dinner which was very cool! He was very pleasant and wished us good memories and fun times for the rest of our visit. After dinner, the whole team went to a bakery to pick up some authentic Greek dessert. I got 4 pieces of baklava, my favorite Greek dessert! It tasted delicious. We then loaded the charter bus back up and journeyed back to our resort, where some snacks were waiting for us. Overall, this was my favorite day of the trip so far and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this trip holds! Bye for now!


Day Five – June 23rd, 2018

Jessica Hasenau
Athlete: Jessica Hasenau, Five Seat, Women’s V8+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Livonia, Michigan
My best race was: San Diego Crew Classic 2018
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: This is not a normal club. If you put in the work you will find yourself with some amazing opportunities.

Beach Day!!

We put in the milage yesterday to wrap up a long week of training and travel, so a day to recover was much needed. We spent the day at the highly recommended beach in Thessaloniki, Greece and we began bright and early with a big team breakfast. After that we loaded up on the charter bus and headed to Sahara Resort Beach joined by our amazing hosts Tina and Evan.

It was a long 2.5 hour bus ride, but well worth it. The drive down through the mountains had breathtaking views overlooking the Greek vineyards, bridges stretching over large valleys, and tunnels that cut right through the mountains. Once we got there the resort felt like one of those places you see in a magazine or commercial getaways full of cushioned beds, straw umbrellas, nautical rope swings, and the blue ocean just meters away.

The Aegean Sea was very beautiful and is one of the most memorable bodies of water Grand Valley Rowing has taken me to on our travels. We had a great time jumping in the waves and a few of the rowers even took out a jet ski for a short while. We were also able to spot Mount Olympus in the far distance. The team was able to enjoy a relaxing day together away from training as we sprawled out on lawn chairs and giant bean bags. It was a nice way to enjoy our one day off training for recovery before our pieces with the Greek Junior national team tomorrow morning.

On the way back we stopped for food in Thessaloniki at Casmos Mall around 7 pm and picked up some authentic street gyros that tasted way better than any gyro I have had. Then we went back to Kastoriá. I had so much fun today and still cannot believe we are in Greece having these fantastic experiences. Just 3 more days here in Greece and 5 days left until the Royal Henley!

Salvatore Bancheri
Athlete: Salvatore Bancheri, Stroke, Men’s 2-
Year: Freshmen
Hometown: Allendale, MI
My best race was: this year when the Freshmen 4+ took silver at MACRA.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Stick it out.

Today the whole team headed to The Sahara Resort in Thessaloniki, Greece. The beach was beautiful and we all got umbrellas and chairs on the beach next to each other, which were like mini cabanas. The water was very nice and warm but also very choppy, good thing we were not rowing on it. Many of us swam and hung out together on the giant beach bags that were all over the beach. It was really nice to all be together as one team. Darby and I decided to go jet skiing, the water was very choppy and windy but it was beyond fun. For dinner, we went to the mall in Thessaloniki and got Gyros. A gyro from Greece is like no other with fresh fries inside.

We ended the day with a beautiful sunset journey back to our hotel in the bus. The sights on the way to and from the beach were breath taking. The mountains and cities around Greece are spectacular and there are no words that can describe the views we are experiencing. All in all, it was a great day and I look forward to racing and visiting the Meteora Monastery tomorrow.


Day 4 – June 22nd, 2018

Team with Mayor of Kastoria

Audrey Boersen
Athlete: Audriana Boerson, Seven Seat, Women’s V8+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Grand Haven, MI
My best race was: San Diego Crew Classic 2018
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: It’s hard, it hurts, but it’s all worth it.

Here in Greece you can begin the day by watching the rising sun peek over the top of tall mountains, and that’s just how I began my day. I know, I know, college students are expected to sleep in, and enjoy any chance of shut-eye they can get. But not many people get to watch the sunrise over Greek mountains, so I took my chance and got up with the sun.

After a team breakfast we headed out to the boathouse to get our first workout of the day in. The day was already hot, and we were sweating as we launched our boats. We began practice by doing some skill-and-drill refreshers of what we had learned yesterday. The main focus was for us to apply quick, and efficient pressure at the catch. After the warmup the crews headed onto the course. We were joined by a very special guest today on the water, our host Evan’s friend and teammate Mikos, an athlete of the Greek National team, who placed second in single sculls at the World Cup. Mikos participated in 2k pieces with us. Today we focused on the idea that rate doesn’t equal power, and we worked on that throughout the four 2ks that we did today.

Immediately following practice, the Laker Navy donned our best GV gear and went to meet the mayor of Kastoria. Through the twists and turns of the Kastorian roads we made our way to their parliament building. The whole team was ushered into the clean building and were seated in a meeting hall. Here is where we meet with the mayor, we each expressed our gratitude, and ended our short meeting by presenting him with gifts in the form of a GV flag, and a Laker Navy shirt.

Following a short lunch break the Lakers were back to the road, this time our mission was to learn a little more about Kastoria. Our first stop was to cave beneath the city. The team travelled 350 meters through the mountain. We gazed at rocks aging back 6 million years, searched the still waters of the underground lake, and stood in awe of the stalagmite and stalactites formations. Next stop was to a thousand-year-old monastery. We learned about the different ages, and buildings associated with them, and the meaning to the churches around us. The most interesting thing, to me, was when the Ottoman Empire was invading Greece they wouldn’t destroy the churches of the Orthodox religion, instead they would scratch out the eyes of the idols painted on the sides of the churches.

Following our historic tour of the city we went out for our second practice. This practice was just a long flush row, where we worked on our boat, as a whole, and tried to feel the boat. The women’s 8+ was having a difficult time at first, but in the end, we began to feel the run of the boat on our strokes. This practice was good for the boat to come together and feel the boat, and to connect with our teammates in the boat.

Now we head out to Kastoria to explore the city at night!

We are all enjoying this wonderful trip and are looking forward to competing in the Royal Henley Regatta. Pull for the Laker Navy!

Team at Greek Church

Noah Lasky
Athlete: Noah Lasky, Stroke Seat, Men’s B 4+
Year: Freshmen
Hometown: Midland, MI
I chose Grand Valley because: It’s a very affordable school that delivers a high quality education.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Keep your head down and stay focused. Rowing doesn’t get easier, but you get faster.

The team got a nice surprise this morning, we were allowed to sleep in a little extra so we could eat the big breakfast. After breakfast we took off to the race course for practice. Morning practice was difficult, we did 4x2000m pieces at 22spm. We all gave our best efforts and had a successful workout.

After practice we went back to the hotel to have another delicious lunch. After lunch we took a brief trip to explore some caves and an old monastery. This was an awesome experience.

After our trip we got on with our second practice of the day which was a long flush row. Afterwards we all headed into town to enjoy the night.


Day Three – June 21, 2018

Men's 4+ training on Lake in Kastoria

Ben Williams
Athlete: Benjamin Williams, Bow Seat, Men’s A 4+
Year: Senior
Hometown: Sacramento, California
I chose Grand Valley because: I wanted to better my rowing experience in a new place, Grand Valley offered very different opportunities from what I was used to, and tuition cost a fraction of what competitors did.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: speculation undermines results. If you want better, do better.

Today was our first full day in Kastoria, and it was full of fun and sights to see. The hotel we are staying in here is nothing short of stunning, with views of the lake all around. We woke up around 7 to get breakfast and then travelled to the course for our first row. After some time rigging and tuning the boats to what we are used to, we launched for the row. The men were in straight fours (without coxswains) and the women rowed in the eight. We had a productive practice brushing off the jetlag from the last day and a half of travelling, and working on the front end of our stroke. Upon finishing the practice, we headed back to the hotel for lunch. Everything about Kastoria is beautiful and classically Greece. The buildings are picturesque, and the mountains provide one of the most scenic rowing venues I have ever seen.

After lunch, we drove about 5 minutes into the town of Kastoria for coffee and to explore. It’s a relatively small town, but the people are incredibly friendly, and the language barrier is not insurmountable. We have been able to quite easily communicate with the locals. After a couple hours in the town, it was time for our second practice. In a swift turn of events, the weather became dark, and a storm of thunder and lightning rolled in. Most days, we would try to find a way to row through this, but the condition of the water quickly worsened and we were no longer able to row through the waves. We cut the practice a bit short, and travelled back to the hotel. Because of this early evening, we were able to go back into town to explore the nightlife and enjoy more of the scene. The sunset in the valley was amazing, and I ended up enjoying a World Cup soccer game in a local restaurant. After a long day, it’s nice to unwind. I’m still personally in awe at all the experiences and opportunities that we have been given, and am looking forward to the rest of the trip.

Women's Varsity 8+ training in Kastoria - Greece

Elizabeth Greeve
Athlete: Elizabeth Greve, Bow Seat, Women’s V8+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Dexter, MI
Highschool: Dexter High School
Quote: “Stir the pot” unknown
Academic/Athletic awards obtained: ACRA first team all-academic 2017 & 2018, Varsity letter award 2018, Most improved female athlete award 2018, MACRA & ACRA 2nd place medalist in the V8+.

As our first full day in Kastoria, Greece is drawing to a close, I can reflect on all of the new experiences that me and the team have had today. Seeing as how we arrived in the middle of the night last night, it was a lovely surprise to wake up and discover that our room at the Limneon Resort has a gorgeous view of the lake that we will be rowing on this week and of the surrounding mountains.

The day started off with morning practice. The presence of several stray dogs at the boathouse was definitely a highlight for many. After a brief history lesson on the boat club that is generously lending us some of their equipment this week, we all got to work getting our boats ready to row. For me, this meant working with the rest of the women’s eight to piece together the Filippi shell we are using, which was at the time in two separate pieces. The weather was sunny and hot, and on the water we worked primarily on the leg drive while simultaneously taking in the beautiful views of the mountains and of the town of Kastoria at one end of the lake.

In the afternoon the team bonded and got a lot closer on a van trip to downtown Kastoria where we wandered around and got a taste of the local culture. Afternoon practice consisted of stationary drills but alas was cut short due to the weather. As the day winds to a close, I’m excited to see what will happen tomorrow, but for now I’m more excited to get what will be the first full night of sleep I’ve had in about 3 days :)

Women's Varsity 8+ Training in Kastroia, Greece


Day Two – June 20, 2018

Waiting in the Airport

Erin Vielbig Hyde
Athlete: Erin Vielbig, Women’s Spare 1x
Year & Major: Freshmen,
Hometown: Fowlerville, MI
I chose Grand Valley because: The location was ideal.
Quote: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” -Confucius-Voltaire

Today we embarked on our long awaited excursion. Flying out of Chicago to start, we stopped at Heathrow Airport where we got our first taste of London during a 6 hour layover. The airport was fun and had loads of restaurants, I went with a pre-made panini. The flight from London was a little frightening because we had an hour delay, luckily I slept through all of that. Then we were off to Istanbul, Turkey. In my opinion, this flight was my particular favorite because it had free movies and a cool pudding type concoction. Then we got on our short flight to Greece. This was perhaps the hardest flight, only because we knew that our final destination was so near. Finally we arrived in Greece. We were greeted with open arms and fun treats by our gracious hosts, Evan and Tina. We then took a sleep filled bus ride to our resort where we crashed for the night. All went well and no one lost their luggage.

GV and Great Britain team London Airport

Jacob Spiess
Athlete: Jacob Spiess, 3 seat, Men’s B V4+
Year & Major: Senior, Exercise Science
Hometown: Whitehouse, OH
High School: Anthony Wayne High
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: If you do the same thing everybody else does, you’ll never get faster than anybody. The extra effort is what makes winners succeed.
Academic/Athletic awards obtained: GV award for excellence scholarship.

Finally in Greece!
After three flights and two jumps of time zones Grand Valley Rowing finally arrives in Greece and started heading towards Kastoria. We left Allendale at around 10 in the morning on the 19th and got on our first flight (8hrs) and landed in Heathrow, England. While we were there we happened to come accross the British National Team and was able to get a picture with them. They also invited us to a bbq after the Henley time trial.

After England, we boarded another plane headed for Istanbul, Turkey. This was a shorter flight though the flight was delayed a while so it seemed longer. The flight to Istanbul went great because the chairs were nice and there were in flight movies we could watch. After arriving Istanbul we hurried to the gate only to realize that that flight was delayed too. I spent My time trying to catch some shut eye and trying to figure out how to communicate while buying an ice cream cone. From there it was a short hour until we finally made it to Greece.

Very shortly after arriving in Greece we met Evan, a man who Coach B. trained while he was in Marietta. He told us some things we needed to know about being in Kastoria and gave us some local food. He also regaled is with some stories about Coach B. from back in the day. As we find our hotel rooms my excitement for this week is growing.


Day One – June 19, 2018

Checkin in at Airport

Justin Ebert
Coach: Costas Ciungan ’15

Hometown: Detroit, MI

Major: Masters in Public Administration

Hometown: Detroit, MI
Fun Fact About Yourself: I am Greek and Romanian – first and last name respectively.

Today a team of 25 athletes and 4 administrators, including myself, have departed on the Greece-Henley Royal Regatta trip. The trip took months of planning and preparation starting back in September. From administrative planning and organizing by head coach John Bancheri with assistants to athlete training and preparation, this team has done the work it takes and is excited for the trip ahead. We departed by bus to Chicago O’Hare at or near 10 am and are currently about to catch our flight to England, then we will be making a stop in Istanbul, Turkey before heading to Kastoria, Greece via Thessaloniki. The team will train in Greece for a week thanks to the organization and planning of Coach Bancheri, whose former athlete from Marietta College and international rower, Even Tsourtsoulas, connected us with the Nautical Club of Kastoria. We will train in Kastoria before heading back to England to compete at the Henley Royal Regatta and Reading Town Regatta.

As a coach, I look forward to seeing our athletes train international and compete, especially at the historic Henley Royal Regatta. I also look forward to learning from the best in the world by interacting with coaches and by watching great rowing. Rowing has been happening on the Thames river for over 100 years starting in the 19th century with the beginnings of the Henley Royal Regatta in 1839. An entire history of rowing can be found in Henley at the River and Rowing museum and it is a privilege for our athletes and coaches to have the Henley experience and to compete on such a high stage. On top of that, the training in Greece at the Nautical Club of Kastoria will make this an experience that our student-athletes will remember for a lifetime, especially with all the work and discipline it took to get the opportunity to represent Grand Valley State University abroad.

Throughout the next three weeks our athletes will share their experiences with you via blogs to document the trip for themselves and their families and friends, but also to share with alumni, friends, and future classes of Grand Valley rowers. As a coach I love reading the blogs and seeing what our athletes are experiencing in training as well as socially and culturally. I invite you to read the blogs daily, view photos, and check out the great opportunities and experiences are student-athletes will have as a member of the Laker Navy at Grand Valley State University. Although very important, It is not just about the training and racing, but about the cultural experience and learning that our athletes obtain by traveling abroad and in particularly by watching the best rowing in the world at the Henley Royal Regatta. As legendary coach Steve Fairbairn once stated: “a crew will learn to row by racing, but cannot learn to race by rowing.” Racing is an important element to becoming and effectively rower but so too is watching great rowing and learning from the best.

Proud coach and alumni. Thanks to everyone that supported our athletes in making this trip. As always, Keep pulling for the Laker Navy – anchor up.


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