A hot and humid Oak Ridge, Tennessee was the setting for the culmination of Grand Valley Rowing’s 2009 season, the second annual ACRA Championship Regatta. After a Saturday full of victories and otherwise respectable performances in heats and semifinals, Sunday, May 24th presented the last chance for the team and for many seniors at obtaining victory.
Racing in the petite final at 8:26am Sunday was the GVSU Men’s Pair, with freshmen Tucker Anderson at stroke and Mitch McClane at bow. Eliminated in their semifinal on Saturday, the pair nonetheless won their petite final with a time of 7:48 flat, the third-fastest time of all the pairs, even though they were scored seventh.
The Men’s Double began the Grand Finals for the team at 9:21am, consisting of freshmen Marty Reed and Jimmy Wilkie at bow and stroke, respectively. After a clean start, they were second or third off the line, as both Oklahoma City A and B pulled away from the field. The race primarily became a battle for third between GVSU and Virginia, changing positions numerous times throughout the race. The thousand-meter mark saw Virginia pull away, a move soon countered, though this would leave GVSU struggling through the remainder of the race, through another move at the five hundred and a final, “bronze or bust” sprint at the 250 meter mark. Unfortunately, they would fall short, finishing fourth at a 7:45.7 to Virginia’s 7:39.2, and Oklahoma City A’s winning time of 7:02.1.
Next at 10:45am was the Men’s Freshman/Novice 4, coming in after victories in heats and semifinals and a last-minute lineup change. A high-paced start saw the four briefly pull ahead, but they could not maintain the momentum, fading to sixth around the thousand-meter mark. Ohio State won with a time of 7:00.5, and Grand Valley finished with a time of 7:23.6. Josh Stauber sat bow seat, followed by Topher Jarman, Aaron Gesquiere, and stroke Zak Armstrong; John Nance coxed for the heats and semifinals while Aly Mendels took the duties for the final.
A rapid-fire series of GVSU races started when the Novice Women’s 8 began their race at 11:17am, pulled out front early, and cruised into the third five hundred in second. Soon after they roared past the leading team, Colorado, with what Adam Cecil of the Men’s Varsity 8 described as a “…heroic push, like they gave everything they had.” Unfortunately, Colorado was able to barely retake the lead in the end, with a winning time of 7:18.7; Grand Valley ended up in second with a time of 7:21.7. The lineup consisted of Rachel Kishman at bow, then Mollie Manson, Alex Foster, Lauren Adlof, Emily Zogas, Christina Turner, Lindsay Marshall, stroke Tamara Hillman, and coxswain Robi Scarbrough.
The Men’s Second Varsity 8 took to the water in late morning, with a race time of 11:25. The University of Michigan jumped ahead in a particularly hairy start, with GVSU close behind and Purdue trailing off their port. Despite their efforts, including two fifteen-stroke moves, Michigan remained ahead, winning the event at 6:16.9; Grand Valley succeeded in holding off Purdue, clenching the silver medal with a time of 6:19.7, exactly two seconds ahead of the third-place boat. The Men’s 2V lineup included seniors Scott Feil and Matt Rejc at bow and two seat, sophomore Brendan Sawyer at three, freshmen Jon Havenhill and Marco Benedetti at four and six seat, junior Dan Schoolcraft at five, senior Dan Robertson at seven, and junior Mike Stoll at stroke. Hallie Dorsey coxed, returning after medical leave following a post-Dad Vail car accident.
Shortly after the 2V Men finished, the Women’s Second Varsity 8 began their race, around 11:33am. By the thousand-meter mark GVSU had taken open water on the remainder of the field, something that would not change for the rest of the race. The Women’s 2V8 took the gold with a 7:07.5, almost ten seconds ahead of Rochester in second place, and more than twenty seconds ahead of Ohio State in third. Hannah Brinza, Kari Oshanski, Hana Jones, Lauren Holben, Abby Quisenberry, Alex Vander Ark, Katelin Steigenga, and Renee Chouinard comprised the Women’s 2V lineup, with Becky Turchanik as coxswain.
12:37pm saw the Varsity Women’s 8 victorious with a winning time of 6.41.8, almost nine seconds ahead of Purdue and the University of New Hampshire, who finished with times of 6:50.6 and 6:52.6, respectively. This marked the conclusion of a nearly perfect season of domination for the Varsity Women, a few weeks removed from winning the Division I event at the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia. The returning lineup included Leslie Mayville at bow, Kelli O’Brien, Katie Phelen, Kendra Sox, Kelsey Arnold, Laura Marshall, Samantha Morgan, Sarah Zelenka, and coxswain Aly Mendels
The final event, the Grand Final of the Men’s Varsity 8, started at 1:00pm under a light sprinkle. GVSU came off the line around fourth or fifth place with the University of Michigan bringing up the rear; Michigan would shortly walk away from the pack. Grand Valley remained in fifth for the majority of the race up until there were around 250 meters left, before sprinting from fifth to third place, winning the bronze medal and knocking out Dad Vail silver medalists Purdue. “The guys in our boat had a lot of will to fight back like that,” noted senior Adam Cecil. Michigan’s winning time was 5:52.9, second place UC-Davis finished at 6:00.5, with Grand Valley right behind at 6:01.3. A multitude of seniors filled the lineup, with Justin Ott and Adam Cecil filling bow pair and Geoff Sadek and Blake Donovan filling stern pair; middle four consisted of sophomore Pete DiFrisco at three and juniors Breck Davis, Mark McClusky, and Ryan League at four, five, and six. Katie Higgins was their coxswain.
Grand Valley easily won the Women’s Team Points Championship, which, combined with the Men’s third-place showing in points, allowed for GVSU to win the Overall Team Points Championship for the second year in a row. In addition, seniors Blake Donovan and Geoff Sadek were honored with placement on the ACRA Great Lakes All-Regional Team, as were Sam Morgan, Kelsey Arnold, and Sarah Zelenka for the women. Coxswain Katie Higgens and Coach John Bancheri were also honored.