by outgoing team president Michael Stoll
After a little more than two weeks in Henley, we were all ready to get home to see our family and friends. We raced hard and did everything we could to prepare for this trip of a lifetime. Our experiences were numerous; no two people share the same story from the beginning to the end of the trip with excursions to the likes of Scotland, Bath, Oxford, London, and more. Looking back, it was one of the greatest experiences a graduating senior could ask for.
Upon our arrival, all three boats were focused and determined to win their respective event. After putting in an extra month of training following our last regular season race, these Lakers were poised to make waves at this years’ Henley Royal Regatta. The first success was the Men’s Varsity 4+ qualifying for the Prince Albert cup. They were among 8 of 33 teams that qualified to join the previously selected 8 teams.
Having only seen the women’s team as the men arrived, we were fortunate to have them race at the Reading Town Regatta as well. The Women’s 4+ defeated Green Lake Crew USA, following a week without training while the Men’s 4+ defeated Yale in the semi-final before falling just short of a fast Georgetown crew in the finals. The Men’s 8+ shook things up a bit after a mediocre performance in the morning. Geoff Sadek was moved to stroke, Jeff Slater to six, Chad Condon to four, and the previous stroke, Mike Stoll, back to two seat. The men came off the line blazing in their second race defeating West End Rowing Club of New Zeeland and the local Shiplake College. In the finals, however, they lost to Kent School USA by three-quarters of a length.
With a little racing under their belts, the men looked forward to the main event. Tuesday was upon us and the team went down to cheer on Marty Reed and Dan Schoolcraft in the spare pair race. The pair was victorious in their first race after a near collision at the finish, but was unsuccessful in crossing the line first in the finals against Cambridge. Unfortunately, the Men’s 4+ fell victim to the same fate the next day, losing to Goldie Boat Club (Cambridge University).
The Men’s 8+ had a favorable draw and defeated Durham University “B” by 3¾ lengths on Wednesday. They faced off against Dad Vail Champion, Brock University, from Canada and after a lightning fast start by Brock, the Lakers were unable to make up the initial difference, with the final margin being 1¼ length. With all of the Grand Valley boats out of the regatta, we were left to cheer for our Norwegian housemates from Norske Studenters Roklub and Tonsberg Roklubb in the quad the following day. The quad from Norway found themselves down the first half of the race but rallied through their opponent as they came upon a group of loud Grand Valley fans! They continued to hold off the trailing crew as another wave of Grand Valley fans along with family of the Norwegians at the finish line. Racing again the following day, the quad was knocked out by Leander.
The various exiting from the regatta was followed by different stories of night life experiences. As the week progressed and more teams were knocked out, the local pub in Henley, the Catherine Wheel, became more crowded with rowers celebrating the end of their season. It was incredible to socialize with a crew from Japan, our Norwegian friends, the Canadians of Brock, and many others. Having cooked for the national team during our first week in Henley, we were also able to celebrate their victory in the 4-. It was a thrill to meet these behemoths, guys who towered over Breck Davis, who is 6’6” and some of the guys even added us on Facebook.
We were fortunate enough to take a day trip to Bath and on the way stopped by Stonehenge, a somewhat mysterious site constructed thousands of years ago. In Bath, we got a sneak look inside the Bath Abbey, visited the museum downstairs, and were free to walk around the town for an hour or so. Most of us took the opportunity to eat, some taking comfort in Burger King while others ate at “Bath’s Smallest Pub,” with seating maxing out at about 30.
The next day a group of us traveled to London and we spent the day there walking through museums, photographing Big Ben and the Parliament Building, Westminster Abbey, and other sites. We were lucky to get to Buckingham Palace right as the Changing of the Guard was occurring and we couldn’t have timed it better. We also saw the London Eye, ate lunch on a huge boat, and traveled around on the Underground.
Sooner than we expected, 5:30am rolled around Wednesday morning and we loaded the bus with our friendly driver Tony, on our way to the airport. We arrived in plenty of time, had some breakfast, and boarded the Boeing 777 equipped with individual TVs in the headrests so that each person could choose their own movie or TV show to watch. Upon our arrival in Chicago, we quickly realized that our flight at 4:45 had been canceled and chaos ensued as some of us tried to board the plane leaving in 5 minutes for Grand Rapids and other tried to find the gate of our later departure. To make a long story short, 10 people made the 1:55 flight, 2 went to Detroit, and 6 went to Kalamazoo to be picked up by Bob Stoll. The Kalamazoo flight saw even further delays on the runway but eventually everyone made it home safe and sound, although that was not the case with our bags. Not to worry, everyone’s bag is accounted for, even if some people might not pick it up until they return in August!
Looking back, we spent two weeks in England with some of our closest friends, friends who will reminisce about how fast we were in 20 years and friends that some of us have made memories with the last four years. To say that this trip was an “opportunity” is an understatement, it was truly a gift, and one that came with a lot of sacrifice and a lot of hard work. We are so thankful for everyone who made this possible.
Picture is (c) Row2k and available for purchase here.