In the first race of the day for the Lakers, the women competed in the grand final of the Jessop-Whittier Cup for Varsity Invitational eights. The Lakers narrowly held off Radcliffe and UC-Davis to advance to the finals on Saturday. The grand final saw USC in lane 1, UVA in lane 2, GVSU in lane 3, WSU in lane 4, Radcliffe in lane 5, and UCLA in lane 6. The top ranked teams from USC and UVA jumped out to an early advantage on the rest of the field on the start. Their powerful rhythm was clearly going to make the event a two boat race for first. Out of the first 500 meters, the remaining four crews settled back with WSU and UCLA taking a length lead on Radcliffe and GVSU. As the field moved through the thousand, UVA and USC raced for first, UCLA and WSU raced for third, and GVSU and Radcliffe were in a battle for fifth. The Lakers held a clear advantage with 750 meters to go, but could not keep pace with the more experienced ladies from Boston. The final sprint saw the field show their experience once more, as all five crews opened up more on the Lakers. UVA won the race in a time of 6:34.2. GVSU took sixth place with a time of 6:58.2.
Assistant Coach Mark McIlduff said, “We made a decision to go for broke and just see if we could hang on in the first thousand meters. Ultimately, it probably cost us the race for fifth, but why not gamble? It was our second two-thousand meter piece of the year, and we are here to learn. This weekend proved to be an invaluable experience for the girls and for the program. Anytime you can face off against boats that will potentially vie for the D-I national championship, it will make everyone in our program better.”
The men’s eight raced later in the morning when the wind had picked up. The race was for the Health Specialty Varsity Cal Cup and included Trinity College in lane 1, GVSU in lane 2, WSU in lane 3, Notre Dame in lane 4, British Columbia in lane 5, and Cal-Lightweights in lane 6. A quick start by Trinity saw the Bantums out front on an otherwise even field. Trinity continued to push out before shifting with a length lead on the field. At the thousand meter marker, GVSU made a huge move into British Columbia to push out to a commanding grasp of the second position, while WSU and ND remained connected to UBC. After another surge, GVSU drew contact with Trinity with 300 meters left in the race. However, the Bantums from Hartford, CT had the Lakers’ number as they held off the move to pull ahead to a boat length victory. Trinity won the final in a time of 6:22.6, with GVSU finishing second in 6:27.9.
Head Coach John Bancheri exclaimed, “We are now at the LAX airport getting ready to fly back to Grand Rapids. The San Diego Crew Classic was a fantastic event and the weather was a gift from Mother Nature. The women finshed 6th in the premier womens event after fighting a tough first thousand and then fading in the second 1K. You gotta love the chuztpah and the fact that they jumped off the line and pushed the envelope. They had no speed work preparation coming into this regatta, yet charged out of the start like they had prepared all winter. You have to love it when they challenge NCAA top ten speed and see how long they can hang. In the end we were a long way off (24 seconds from UVA), but for a home grown program you have to be extremely pleased with the performance. The reality is we are a top 25 team in the US and we’ll have a few opportunities to prove our speed as we develop further with more water time and chances to get together in the big boats.
The men finished second to a Trinity Crew that blasted off the line like a NHRA dragster….and they kept going. Our guys fell behind early in the race but settled into a long and smooth rhythm, looking long and relaxed. At the 1000 meter mark they made an obvious move on then 2nd place British Columbia, overtaking them by a few seats. In the 3rd 500 the guys ate back into Trinity’s boat length lead which helped pull them ahead of the crew battling for 3rd place. In the end Trinity won by a few seats of open water, but our guys knew they have a strong body and as we gain water time this season and finally get the speed work required to compete at a higher level we will be able to put together a solid race from start to finish. We came into the year thinking we would rebuild, but this weekend certainly shows that we have re-evaluated those expectations. We will get back to work this week in preparation for a major regatta we host next weekend against the top club programs in the Midwest. This weekend shows that Grand Valley is ready to take another step in the development of the program.
All I can say is that there was some great racing by all of our athletes, we are all so proud. Thanks to everyone who helped make this trip possible. Watch our kids get faster every week.”
Director of Student Life Bob Stoll remarked about the weekend, “It is amazing to travel across the country to this prestigious event with so many outstanding rowing programs represented. It is a great honor for Grand Valley to be invited to participate in this regatta. Our student athletes don’t have the nice California weather conditions that enable their teams to practice on the water every day all year long. The long winter months in Michigan require our athletes to train extensively indoors at their training center. To watch the day in and day out intensity and dedication of Grand Valley athletes is a real tribute to their pursuit of national recognition. It was exciting to hear the announcer at the regatta say that Grand Valley has the best club rowing program in the country. This confirms the results of the hard work the athletes and the coaching staff have put forth every day . I look forward to supporting the team during the coming spring season as they continue their intense work and dedication to the elite sport of rowing.”
The Lakers host the 12th Annual Lubbers Cup Regatta on Spring Lake, MI April 3rd. The regatta includes entries from University of Michigan (Men), Michigan State University- Club, University of Notre Dame (Men), Ohio State University- Club, MSOE, Marquette, and Eastern Michigan University- Women.