Grand Valley State University’s rowing team capped its most successful season ever with an appearance in the prestigious Henley Women’s Regatta and Henley Royal Regatta in Henley-on-Thames, England. The Grand Valley men’s eight advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Trinity College, of Hartford, Conn. by 2/3 length (40 ft). The Laker Navy women’s eight also advanced to the quarterfinals before being eliminated by Thames Rowing Club of England in the Women’s Henley Regatta.
The women’s eight kicked off the racing in England by competing in the Women’s Henley Regatta held June 20-22 in Henley-on-Thames. The women won two match races in the Senior Eight event against Auriol Kensington of England and the National University of Ireland respectively to advance to the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, the varsity eight fell to Thames Rowing Club of England. Sophomore Sam Morgan said about the race, “They took us off the start and we never fell back into rhythm. We fought hard, but we were fighting from behind. It was a great effort but we fell a bit short.”
The 2008 trip was the first for GVSU since 2004 and marked the furthest a women’s eight has advanced at the Henley Women’s Regatta. The women’s performance against top international clubs provides high hopes for next season as all nine athletes that competed will be returning to the team.
As the women finished their regatta, the men headed to England for the Henley Royal Regatta to be held July 2-6. The men competed in the Temple Challenge Cup amongst 75 entries. Being selected as a top tier team, the men avoided the qualification round and entered into the field of 32 teams. Again, the Laker Navy advanced to the quarterfinals by beating the University of Warwick and Shrewsbury College in match races. This set up a match race against the ECAC National Champion and US Rowing Collegiate Poll 15th ranked Trinity College eight. The men fought hard, losing to Trinity in the end by roughly 1 second over a 6 minute and 46 second race. The narrow loss to Trinity showed that the Lakers are on their way to becoming a top ranked program. The men will also return all eight oarsmen for next years campaign with high hopes after finishing in the top eight of 75 top international clubs.
The defeat was the final race for senior coxswain Lisa Malloure. “As heartbreaking as the loss was, I am very proud of our performance. I think it was our best race of the year even though it ended in defeat. Competing at the Henley Royal Regatta was a great way to end my four years rowing at Grand Valley.”
The Henley Royal Regatta is a storied race, first staged in 1839 and held annually ever since, except during the two World Wars. Grand Valley previously raced in the Henley in 1996, 1998, 2002 and 2004. Director of Rowing John Bancheri said it was an experience of a lifetime for the team and coaching staff.
“The highlights of the trip were rowing in the worlds oldest regatta, seeing both our men’s and women’s eights make it to the field of eight and our athletes having the opportunity to meet, socialize and develop relationships with people involved in rowing from all over the world. Our students rose above their abilities and beyond their comfort zones. They performed beyond our expectations and they had the opportunity to expand their worldview as well as represent our university on the international stage.”
This event marks the end of Grand Valley’s most successful rowing season. The team won the point championship at the American College Rowing Association National Club Championship Regatta in Oklahoma this spring and took second place in points at the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia. The team also finished in the grand final at the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association championship in April.
Former Grand Valley Head Rowing Coach Chad Jedlic led GVSU to the Henley Royal Regatta in 2002 and 2004. He summarizes, “The Grand Valley athletes who attend these regattas gain an appreciation for the world and for the USA. They learn that they are able to compete against the biggest colleges and the fastest universities. They learn that they should feel confident and proud to wear the Grand Valley colors, no matter who they face. I believe that gaining this confidence affects the athletes in a very positive manner and remains with them throughout their lives. As the athletes who competed for Grand Valley in ’02 and ’04 finished up their undergraduate studies, they left Grand Valley feeling confident because they learned how to set challenging goals and pursue them with passion and resolve.”