Archive for September, 2011

Alumni John and Jenny Palk ’02

Friday, September 30th, 2011


Alumni John and Jenny Palk had a baby boy, Jackson Dean Palk, born on June 11, 2011. He weighed 8lb 4oz and was 20.5 inches long. John and Jenny Palk said that “He is such a joy and we are loving parenthood!”. The Grand Valley Rowing Team Congratulates them and wishes them all the best.

The Christening of the “Mike Keeler”

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Coach Paul Springer:
In 1969, Paul Springer was teaching Physical Education for the Detroit Public Schools and serving as head rowing coach at the Detroit Boat Club. Word of his success had managed to travel 175 miles west to Grand Valley State College where the athletic department was in search of a new head coach for the Rowing Team, the fastest growing varsity sport on campus.
Coach Springer discovered rowing in college after a high school track injury to his knees cost him a football scholarship. He attended Wayne State University where he saw an ad for the rowing team in the school newspaper. After figuring out that 5:30 am practices weren’t so bad along with some prodding by his coach, Jud Ross, Paul adapted to the new sport quickly and fell in love with it. Luckily, for Grand Valley State and all of his future athletes, everything worked out.
In 1970 Paul joined the GVSC faculty and began coaching the Laker Navy. Over the next twelve years Rowing became an established tradition at GVSU and a perennial formidable Midwestern adversary. More importantly, Crew played an important role in the development of all those student athletes over the years that pulled a Laker oar. Those same alumni still proudly recall the many fond memories of their rowing adventures.
Over the years the team experienced its share of both success and challenges. In 1980 the Grand Valley Women’s Varsity Eight qualified for the National Collegiate Rowing Championship in Oak Ridge, TN with a win over Wisconsin, an established powerhouse. Overnight the women became a Top 8 team in the National Rankings and put GV on the map with other big name rowing schools. However, shortly after this great success, the team lost its varsity status and was required to function as a club sport and forced to start from square one again. Overcoming obstacles like these has, in the long run, helped create a culture of strength and determination that permeates through everything we do.

Mike Keeler:
Charles Irwin, GV’s first athletic director and the “Father of GV Rowing,” had a longtime friend and GR business owner by the name of Mike Keeler. In the early years, the rowing team practiced on Spring Lake and eventually moved to downtown Grand Rapids where they rowed on the Grand River using the abandoned GR Boat and Canoe Club Boathouse at the North Park Bridge. Irwin knew it wasn’t exactly easy for his athletes to make the commute to practice every day and was already working hard to find a solution.
In 1967 Irwin brought rowing to Mike Keeler’s attention and sought his support. At this time a promise was made. Mike promised Irwin that if crew ever became established with the campus population, he would do what he could to bring the sport closer to campus. Coach Paul Springer knew of this promise as well, and made regular early morning visits to Keeler’s office to “gently remind” him about the deal. His persistence eventually paid off. Eager to fulfill his promise and get Springer off his back, Keeler wrote the team a check for $10,000. When Coach Springer returned to Allendale with the check, Irwin knew just what to do. A 40×80 pole barn was constructed a short distance from the base of the ski hill. Later that year, in 1973, the boathouse was dedicated as the “GVSC Crew House.” Thirty-eight years later the team still rows out of that very same boathouse. Many thanks to Mike Keeler for his generosity and support during those early years of the GV Crew program.

Sarah Zelenka (2009) wins World Rowing Championship with the USA Women’s 4-!

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Grand Valley graduate Sarah Zelenka has won the Women’s Coxless four event at the World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia! The crew, featuring Zelenka at bow, came in with a time of 6:30.30, ahead of a fast sprinting Australia (silver, 6:31.18), and the Netherlands (bronze, 6:34.06). Zelenka graduated from Grand Valley in 2009, the same year that she stroked her crew to a Dad Vail Gold Medal in the Division 1 Varsity Eight. Congratulations Sarah!!

Read more about her race here, thanks to Row2k:

row2k Interview – Sarah Zelenka:

The Grand Valley State University Rowing Club challenges its student-athletes to reach the highest level to which they aspire both academically and athletically, while continuing to build and sustain a nationally competitive intercollegiate rowing program.

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