On May 30th-June 2nd, Grand Valley attended the IRA Regatta in Camden, New Jersey. This regatta is the National Championship for all collegiate male crews as well as lightweight collegiate women. This being said, only select crews were chosen due to the level of competition at this regatta. The Lakers sent a Men’s Freshmen 4+ and a Men’s Varsity 4-. Not only did these athletes get to see and take part in the annual display of collegiate rowing’s maximum speed but also got to train the additional two weeks after Vails, complete with coaching staff. The additional training paid off as both boats not only competed with rowing’s top programs but flat out turned some heads. Coming into the regatta, the Freshmen 4+ was ranked 23rd in their event and the Varsity 4- was barely even accepted. Good thing rankings don’t mean a thing.
During some intense temperatures, the Freshmen 4+ (Stroke-Thomas Beebe, 3-Ryan League, 2-Eddie Eisenhauer, 1-Breck Davis, c-Alissa Jaster) started things off well for the Lakers Thursday morning, finishing 3rd in their strong heat with a time of 6:43.517. Soon after, it was the Varsity 4- (Stroke-Geoff Sadek, 3-Blake Donovan, 2-Danny Vainner, 1-Tim Vallier) that would race. This regatta would be the first time that these rowers had ever raced a four without a coxie. When asked if he was nervous about keeping a straight course bowman Vallier said, “Not really.” He later added, “During practices and warm-ups we’d been going pretty straight, so it wasn’t the foremost of my concerns.” Their course wasn’t perfect but it was much better than most crew’s and the Lakers grabbed 2nd place in their heat with a time of 6:32.352.
Later that afternoon, the Freshmen 4+ raced again. After this race people started to notice Grand Valley. Top three from this race would advance to the A/B semifinal. The young Lakers left not doubt in anyone’s mind if they belonged there by finishing an impressive 2nd with a time of 6:48.774, guaranteeing themselves a spot in one of the top 2 finals.
Entering Friday’s semifinals, both crews were excited. The Freshmen had to finish top 3 to advance to the Grand Final in an insanely fast semifinal. The Varsity had to win their semifinal to advance to the Grand Final. The Freshmen experienced a sudden wind during the first 1000 meters and despite a great second 1000, just missed the Grand Final with a time of 6:41.355. The Varsity rowed perhaps their best race of the year in their semifinal. Off the start it was the Lakers and Wisconsin way out in front of the pack. The Lakers matched Wisconsin move for move until the last 250 and missed the Grand Final despite having the 2nd best time of the day with a 6:23.129.
Saturday’s finals were by far the most exciting of all races for the Lakers, with both crews in the Petite Finals. The Freshmen race was tight the whole way through, with 5 crews battling for the top positions. Coming into the final 500 the Lakers were down, that was not how they were going to end their season. They had by far the best finishing move of the year by any Laker boat. Even within the last 5 strokes they moved 2 seats on the boat next to them, edging favored MIT and narrowly falling short to the crew from the US Naval Academy. This simply awesome move pushed them into 2nd place, missing 1st place by a bow ball, a mere 0.17 seconds. Therefore, the Freshmen 4+ finished 8th overall in the nation. Also racing in the in the Petite final was the Freshmen 4+ Dad Vail gold medalists from Temple, they finished 12 seconds behind the Lakers.
The Varsity 4- had been in this situation many times before, just missing out of the Grand Final in an event. This time the Lakers would not settle for anything but winning the Petite Final. The Lakers had open water by the 750 mark and with long strong strokes finished their seasons pretty well, winning by over 6 seconds. This finish gave the Varsity 4- 7th place overall in the nation. Both crews will get their names up in the boathouse rafters for their top 10 finish at IRA’s. According to professional calculations, Grand Valley boats were the fastest boats per tuition dollar.
Full results can be seen here
Some Quotes about IRA overall:
“After the he Dad Vail, a few highly motivated athletes came forward and wanted a chance to match their speed at the IRA level. They trained twice a day at an intense level and you could see the speed increase daily, hitting a peak. The performance at the IRA was a direct reflection of these guy’s hard work, skill, and their never quit attitude.”
-John Bancheri, Head Coach GVSU Rowing
“It was an incredible experience to be lined up next to the Ivy League schools and do as well as we did. I’m extremely proud of everyone who went and I can’t wait to go again in the years to come.” –Alissa Jaster, Coxie Freshmen 4+