Archive for June, 2013

June 30, 2013

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

By: Hugh McKeegan – (1st year, Trinity College ’10), Assistant Men’s Coach

Not much to report today – our crews had the day off, and most of the guys went into London, so my schedule was pretty light. Between walking into town to get lunch and going out for dinner with the coaches from Trinity College, Hartford (my alma mater), I barely managed to squeeze in a three hour nap.

The last couple of days, though, have been eventful. With the city of Reading a short(ish) row upstream, and the competition there taking place on Saturday, we had both crews take a nice swing row up the Thames to the regatta staging site. Keegan and Peter, who competed in the 2- and the 2x, rowed up Friday afternoon, while the 8+, whose lone race wasn’t scheduled until early in the evening, went up to Reading just before lunch on Saturday.

Normally, for us, rowing from one staging sight to another (i.e. the boathouse to the proving grounds) isn’t too tricky – you basically point the boat in the right direction and go until you get to where you need to be. On the Thames, however, the crews had to navigate a series of locks as they made their way upstream. I was to travel with them on bike, following the tow path, just in case. The 2- and I would then return to Henley by train on Friday, and, on Saturday, we’d all head back down stream via lock and tow path.

To make a long story short, I paid attention to a “no bicycles” sign on Friday (which a friendly man in a kayak later told me only foreigners and tourists heed), wound up on the “main” road between Reading and Henley (which was terrifying to bike, at about 1.5 lanes wide and with every car ripping by at 60+ kph), overshot the regatta site by about two miles, finally managed to catch up with the 2x, then got on the wrong train (Wokingham is just lovely this time of year), and still made it back in time for Coach B’s ginormous pasta dinner.

Saturday went a little smoother (which I guess isn’t saying much). The trip to Reading with the 8+ was a piece of cake (I enjoyed saying hello to all of the other cyclists on the “no bicycles allowed” footpath), and the regatta itself was a fun event. Our guys posted a nice margin on the crew from Trinity (still not entirely sure how happy I am about that…) and collected some pretty fancy tankards for winning.

Taco volunteered to ride the bike and I ran the roughly eight miles back to Henley. With the lock operators gone for the evening (they punch out at six o’clock; we didn’t hit the first lock until after seven), Taco and I (with a little help from the locals and only a half hour of frustrated button mashing at the first lock) managed to get the 8+ through all three using the self-service controls. Keegan and Peter, who departed ahead of the rest of the group, wisely chose to portage their shell and beat the 8+ back to Henley by about an hour.

With fish and chips for dinner, everyone went out for dessert before calling it a night. The guys will have plenty of interesting things to report from the day in London, I’m sure. That being said, while winning at Reading and having Sunday off (and all of the attendant shenanigans) was a nice way to end our prep week, the real racing begins on Wednesday. The guys are ready. This trip will only get better.

Day Eight, June 30, 2013

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Men's Varsity 8+ Henley-on-Thames

Andrew Zwierzynski
Athlete: Andrew Zwierzynski, Team President, Grand Valley Rowing club
Year & Major: Senior, Accounting
Hometown: New Carlisle, IN
High School: New Prairie High
If I could Tell my teammates one thing, it would be: Enjoy your time with the team.

This morning I was eating breakfast when I was pleasantly surprised by Peter coming in with Coach B, Sal, and Patrick. We discussed leaving for London. Then, I introduced them to a few of the members of our host family, Sarah, Hannah, and Chloe. Sarah is our sweet house mom who always has breakfast for us no matter what time we get up. Hannah is one of her daughters; she rows for Henley, and her boat just won at the Reading Town Regatta and at the Women’s Henley Regatta. Finally, Chloe is their cocker spaniel. She never barks and always wants to be petted.

After departing from the house and riding the train to London, we split up into groups. Chad and I decided that we wanted to do some of the same things and started off into the subway system. Our first stop was to check out Madam Tussand’s, a wax museum. However when we got their the place was packed, and we decided we didn’t want to wait. We then ran into a couple of girls from Michigan State and talked to them for a bit before getting back onto the subway for the London Dungeon. We both decided that we were going to check out the dungeon no matter what; it was the one thing we wanted to see all day. We waited in line for about an hour and got in to the haunted house amusement ride. We both really enjoyed having our scares and laughing at each other.

We then walked across the street and saw Parliment. It is so much bigger than in pictures, and every little piece of brick work has so much detail. It is a very impressive building. From there we walked to Buckingham Palace. It is also very impressive, with a lot of architectural detail and security. We decided after that to call it a day and to take the train back to Henley to relax.

Men's Varsity 8+ Henley-on-Thames

Spencer West
Athlete: Spencer West, Stroke Seat, Men’s Varsity 8+
Year & Major: Sophomore, Allied Health Science
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
High School: Home School
If I could Tell my teammates one thing, it would be: Make every day an improvement.

Today, given the day off from practice to have time for sightseeing, everybody took full advantage of the morning off by sleeping in for a lazy Sunday morning. After finally rousing and eating breakfast, a few of us prepared to leave for the train station for a day in London while others chose to relax at the house for a day of rest. Our group of thirteen boarded the 10 o’clock train to Twyford, off to London for a day of fun. One transfer and an hour and a half later, we arrived at the London Pattington train station where we split into smaller groups for the day. Costas, Justin, Austin, Jordan, and I, with plans already in mind, followed signs for the northbound Bakerloo Line which we would take to the underground stop at Maida Vale. Our first objective of the touring day was to take a picture resembling that of the Beatles’ famous album, Abbey Road. So we walked the short walk to just in front of the Abbey Road studios, where we saw several groups of people attempting to do exactly the same thing. With Justin imitating the barefoot Paul McCartney, we walked across the crosswalk much to the enjoyment of all the other pedestrians standing at the intersection.

Satisfied with our reproduction, we then took off towards the famous Baker St., where the Sherlock Holmes museum was located. On the way we enjoyed looking at incredibly old churches, homes, and stores in the area. Much to our dismay, we were greeted at the museum by an extremely long line of ticket-holding tourists waiting for their turn to enter the museum. After spending some time looking around at various souvenirs and miscellaneous keepsakes, we decided that we did not want to spend a large chunk of time standing in line, we decided to move along to our next destination. To get to the next site, we knew it would be best to take the underground railway. So once again we hopped on the Bakerloo Line at Baker St., this time heading southbound. At the Charing Cross stop, we split up with Justin and Costas off to the National Gallery with plans to meet back up later in Trafalgar Square. After they got off, Austin, Jordan, and I continued one more stop and transferred to the District Line which we took to Westminster, so Jordan could experience everything that she didn’t have the chance to see during the first trip in London.

We came out of the underground and immediately saw Big Ben, which we took pictures of and continued onward towards the Houses of Parliament. After admiring all sides of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, we crossed the street to get a closer view of Westminster Abbey. Dismayed that the abbey was closed for sightseeing due to Sunday services, we continued onward in showing Jordan everything in London that she missed the first time around. We were surprised to see a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square, which was given to the British as a gift in the early 1900s. Next, we took pictures at a classic picturesque red phone booth with Big Ben in the background. From there the three of us continued through St. James Park, past the pelicans and gardens, all the way the Queen Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace. After watching the guards and admiring the sculptures, we walked down the road known as “The Strand,” away from Buckingham Palace and towards the Admiralty Arch. We arrived in Trafalgar Square surprised by numerous tents and fences surrounding iconic fountains and lion sculptures that we took pictures with just a couple days previously. It appeared to be that the commotion was all in preparation for an event in celebration of Canada Day. Since we couldn’t meet up with Justin and Costas by the lions, we decided to make our way to the entrance to the National Gallery. Before meeting with them at the entrance, Jordan and I purchased delicious ice cream and sorbet from a small stand just around the corner.

After the five of us reunited at the entrance and descended the steps down to Trafalgar Square, we were approached by a man from Ghana who made bracelets for each of us while engaging us in a most interesting conversation. At this point I realized that sometime after getting off at Westminster my train ticket had slipped out of my pocket one of the time I had grabbed my wallet. After checking near the ice cream stand and determining it would be a lost cause to look much further, I knew I would have to buy a new ticket. Before getting back on the Underground once again, the five of us stopped at Pret to purchase sandwiches and beverages to hold us over until our next meal. We then took the Bakerloo Line from Charing Cross to Waterloo, travelling under the river and exiting very near the London Eye from which we walked to the eastern end of the Westminster Bridge. With a gorgeous vantage point, we were able to see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament from across the Thames. We followed a pedestrian path along the river known as “The South Bend.” This route took us under the London Eye and past several entertaining street performers en route to the Tower Bridge. On our way we also passed a skate park, a garden, Millennium Bridge, and Shakespeare’s Globe; Justin, Costas, Austin, and I even purchased bird whistles much to our enjoyment of annoying everyone around us.

Finally, we arrived at London Bridge, which we began to walk across to get a fantastic vantage point to take pictures of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. By now it was getting pretty late on in the day so with one last thing on our to do list, we hopped on the Underground at Monument, headed northbound for King’s Cross. Once at King’s Cross, we followed the signs towards the trains and platforms 9 and 10. Near the platforms, we found what we were looking for, a line of people waiting in line to take a picture with half of a luggage cart protruding from a brick wall under a sign reading, “Platform 9 3/4.” We then began to make our way back to the Paddington Station, taking the Victoria Line and the Bakerloo Line to get there. Arriving at Paddington with plenty of time to spare, we went into a shop within the train station to purchase a few snacks before boarding the 7:15 train to Twyford. After switching trains at Twyford we finally arrived back in Henley-on-Thames around 9 o’clock rather hungry. To satisfy our cravings, the five of us went straight to Catherine Wheel to grab dinner before returning to the house. After a satisfying meal and desert, we went back to the house ready to rest our legs and relax.

Twice in the past week we’ve gone to London and both times I left feeling that it was a very successful trip. Acknowledging how impossible it would be to see everything in London worth seeing in just two days, I left London today knowing that I’ve experienced a large chunk of London with some great people. Both times were able to navigate the bustling city smoothly and successfully, planning out our stops and doing everything set on our agenda. But with touring days now over, the time to focus on racing is here. With the first round of racing now just a couple days away, anxiety and anticipation are really beginning to set in. After coming off an encouragingly strong row yesterday and a much needed day of rest today, we go into these last two days of practicing with a high level of focus, knowing that this next week will take everything we’ve got.

Day Seven – June 29, 2013

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Men's Varsity 8+ Henley-on-Thames

Chad Condon
Athlete: Chad Condon, 4 seat, Men’s Varsity 8+
Year & Major: Senior, Management
Hometown: East Grand Rapids, MI
High School: East Grand Rapids High
If I could Tell my teammates one thing, it would be: always go hard and don’t worry about stuff in the past, and focus on what you can control.

Today we got to sleep in and relax a bit before we set out for our long row up to Reading for the race. On the way up the Thames River we had to go up three locks. The whole trip was about eight miles long. Once we got to the regatta we had a while until our race, so a couple of us took a nap in the grass. Then we went for a walk to Tesco for a little lunch. By the time we got back to the course it was almost time to race. The name of the regatta that we raced in today is the Reading Town Regatta; it’s only an 800 meter race. It’s almost an all-out sprint.

We raced in the senior 8+, the only other entry was Trinity College from the U.S. We knew it would be a tough race going into it. The first few strokes we were dead even, as we got into our second ten of our high twenty we started to pull away, as we shifted we moved away even further. As we came into the last 300 meters we shifted up again and had open water by the finish. Instead of getting a medal at Reading we got tankards. They are really cool with the race and year engraved on the side. The race was a really great way to put our work over the past four weeks to the test before the race.

After we finished our race we pulled up to the dock and ran to get our clothes on shore hopped back in the boat and started on our way back down the river to Henley. The lock operators where not on duty because it was after 6:00pm; Hugh ran the trail beside us as Taco biked and they operated the locks themselves for the. At the first lock Hugh and Taco were not there yet so we dropped Jordan off to get the lock filling up for us. We ended up going through the last lock with Trinity. When we got back to our house at the end of the day, we had amazing fish and chips waiting for us. They were so good and every one ate so much.

Men's Varsity 8+ Henley-on-Thames

Costas Ciungan
Athlete: Costas Ciungan, 3 seat, Men’s Varsity 8+
Year & Major: Junior, Legal Studies
Hometown: Grosse Ile, MI
High School: Grosse IleHigh
Fun Fact About Yourself: I love gardening and I went to Elementary School in Florida.

The Henley Men’s team has been having a whirlwind trip thus far having practiced on the Thames river, traveled to London, explored the quaint shops of the Henley-on-Thames, and winning beer steins at the Reading Town regatta. Today was great day for our team as we got to participate in the Reading Town Regatta and raced against Trinity University, U.S.A.

On June 28th, 2013 – it was the Sal and Patrick Bancheri’s Birthday. As such they got thrown into the Thames river from the docks. Later they explored the Warner Brother’s Studio London – where Harry Potter was filmed. I traveled with them to see the studio and I was thankful that Coach John Banerchi – their dad – let me go with them. At the studios the twin boys and I had loads of fun.

The boys and I got to step inside and discover the actual Great Hall. We explored Dumbledore’s office and discovered never-before-seen treasures. We stepped onto the famous cobbles of Diagon Alley, featuring the shop fronts of Ollivanders wand shop, Flourish and Blotts, the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Gringotts Wizarding Bank and Eeylops Owl Emporium. We saw iconic props from the films, including Harry’s Nimbus 2000 and Hagrid’s motorcycle. We Learned how creatures were brought to life with green screen effects, animatronics and life-sized models. We rediscovered other memorable sets from the film series, including the Gryffindor common room, the boys’ dormitory, Hagrid’s hut, Potion’s classroom and Professor Umbridge’s office at the Ministry of Magic.

Yesterday was an outstanding day but today was even better. The mens team woke up around 10:00 pm in order to launch around 11:00 pm to row to Reading for the regatta. It was about an hour and fifteen minute row in which we traveled through three locks. The locks were an adventure because the width of our boat with oars barely fit into the locks. Everyone had to pull in their oars to fit. It was a new experience to travel through not just one lock but three locks.

The Men’s team got to the regatta round 1:30 pm and watched as our spare pair rowed in the Double. After which the team walked to the local market to pick up some lunch which consisted of sandwiches, chips, and fruit. We ate at the nearest park bench along the Thames river. It was great to get something to eat but it was also beautiful with lots of birds swimming in the river or flying in the air chirping.

The Men’s team relaxed, stretched, and warmed up until they launched for their race which was at 6:30 pm. The race was against Trinity College and the Laker Navy would win in grand fashion earning themselves silver beer steins. We had a great race – executing on all cylinders with great blade work and timing. This was a great confidence row as the Henley Royal Regatta draws near. Many of the guys have been getting acclimated to time difference here as England is 5 hours ahead. Our crew as also been having better and better rows each day as we get use to the feeling of slightly different oars and bigger Hudson boat – that fits our crew perfectly.

Overall, I have been having a wonderful time with my team as we enjoy and explore Henley-on-Thames, London, the Thames River, and the Reading town regatta. Moreover, I was floored to have the chance to visit the Warner Brother’s Studio London and explore where Harry Potter was filmed including original sets, costumes, cinematography, and designs. I am looking forward to the next couple days leading up to he start of the Henley Royal Regatta and can’t wait to start racing.

Harry Potter with Bancheri Twins and Costas Ciungan

Day Six – June 28, 2013

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Men's Varsity 8+ Henley-on-Thames

Justin Ebert
Athlete: Justin Wegner, 2 seat, Men’s Varsity 8+
Year & Major: Senior, Natural Resource Management
Hometown: East Grand Rapids, MI
High School: East Grand Rapids High
If I could Tell my teammates one thing, it would be: Put in the time in the offseason and it will pay off in the spring.

In an effort to break from the pattern of these trip updates being written at the end of the day I have decided to attempt to write this one as the day progresses.

It is now about 11 am here in England (6am US time) and we have just returned from the racecourse after our first and only practice of the day. I am happy to report that today’s practice was, in my opinion the best one we have had since arriving in England. It was a simple practice, two laps of the course, with a total of four 250m pieces (two per lap). For the first time I felt like I had my legs back so to speak and we are finally adjusting to the new boat and oars. The boat was set and the pieces were quick. This was a much needed confidence booster as we approach our first racing experience of the trip, the Reading Regatta. The successful practice has done a lot for moral and everyone seems relieved to have gotten a good row in as we continue to build on a trend of improvement. We are now getting cleaned up and gathering for lunch at the house. We plan to attend qualifiers later this afternoon but have no real plans until then.

We have just finished lunch at the house. We continued the celebration of Sal and Pat’s Birthday (Coaches twin boys) with cake and ice cream. We sang them happy birthday and presented to them a birthday card. Much to their chagrin the celebration began earlier this morning after practice when we tossed them into the Thames, upholding a long-standing tradition of getting thrown in on your birthday.

I just arrived back at the house after a bout of exploring Henley with Costas. We walked down to the racecourse to have a look at the Regatta Store that opened yesterday. The course is quickly filling up with more teams and the boat tent with more boats. Traffic is getting heavier and rowers are everywhere. It is very clear that this regatta is a big deal and my excitement is building, as we get closer to the start of the event.

After spending some time at the regatta site, we walked through Henley some more checking out the local shops. The most interesting shop we stopped at today was a used book store. There is a whole section of books new and old on rowing there. The proprietor is very knowledgeable in rowing literature and it was interesting to learn about some of the history of rowing in England especially in Henley.

I have some down time now before dinner, which Coach B is currently cooking. Some sort of Pasta, It smells delicious. Not sure what I am more excited for dinner, or watching qualifiers this evening.

Back at the house again after a final excursion for the day. Dinner was incredible, we had pasta, meatballs, garlic bread and a spinach dish prepared by Coach with a lot of help from Taco, Ebert and Burris. We ate heartily and all helped out with the dishes. After dinner we headed down to the racecourse to watch qualifiers. Qualifiers are held as time trials and are for the crews that aren’t given automatic entry into the event. There were a lot of crews coming down the course one after another and it was fun to see some of the boats we could potentially be rowing against. There was a wide range of crews some looked quick, some were not so pretty. After watching the crews qualifying for the Temple cup (the race we are entered in) we made our way back to the house. On our way through the regatta site I saw Matthew Pinsent four time Olympic Gold Medalist for Great Britain, and one of the idols of the rowing community.

Overall it has been a very enjoyable day. It was nice to have the afternoon to relax and walk around Henley and I am excited to row to, and race at the Reading regatta tomorrow. It will be a good test of our speed and it will be fun to rev it up and lay it down in a dress rehearsal for our race on Wednesday.

Men's Varsity 8+ Henley-on-Thames

Justin Ebert
Athlete: Robert DeWeerd, 7 seat, Men’s Varsity 8+
Year & Major: Senior, Criminal Justice
Hometown: Holland, MI
High School: Holland High
Fun Fact About Yourself: Restored a 1971 Monte Carlo.

Today was a remarkably bland day, at least in terms of the weather and Coach’s Italian dinner. I’ll get to the dinner at a later point. As for our practice this morning, I feel that the crew is finally coming together, after moving into a bigger boat and using different oars than what we are used to. The boat is starting to feel more comfortable, and our movements together are becoming fluid again. Today’s practice was short and sweet, with two laps of the course and a total of four 250 meter pieces. We tried to do a start/short piece with Newcastle University, but, as expected, they broke out into a cold sweat of nervousness and, unwilling to be humiliated, declined our invitation. We came off the water and after a short chalk talk with coach a few of us grabbed the unsuspecting Patrick and Salvatore and threw them into the Thames river as a birthday ‘celebration’ (Video available for viewing via Coaches facebook)

Our 9:00 am practice was over before we knew it, and now we had a solid chunk of time to find something to do. A few volunteers went with Coach to the local grocery to get the ingredient(s) (the S being questionable) for dinner. Others such as Chad, Jordan, Ken, Spencer and myself went into town to check out some of the shops again. The first shop was actually a home built in approximately 1560 and is now an antique shop filled with thousands of items from old tin cans to swords. Chad is still upset about his decision to opt out of getting a sword, which he reluctantly made after I questioned his being able to get it past U.S Customs. Four hours later of walking around town we found ourselves at the race course again.

Qualifying races occurred today, so we decided to sit and watch some of the first events, such as the men’s and women’s singles, quads, and fours. 5pm rolled around, and we realized that dinner was being prepared, and so our stomachs lead us back to the house.

All though my initial comments about Coaches dinner may have lead a reader to think that my feeling about the meal is that of disappointment, that was not the case. Coach did as he had told us and blew the “Italian” dinner provided by one of the local restaurants out of the water. As I walked into the house, the amount of food and the intoxicating smell was infatuating. Homemade meatballs and perhaps the best sauce I have had conjoined with great pasta, bread, spinach, and of course company, made for an exceptional dinner. After dinner concluded, those of us that had not helped prepare dinner felt that it was our duty to do the cleaning.

Scurrying through the streets of Henley-on-Thames to see bits of the qualifying races that consisted of those that would be in our event (Temple Challenge Cup), we peered over the bridge to see crowds of people gawking at the course. Knowing that this is only a portion of the amount of people that will be sprawling onto the streets and course next week leaves me anxious to race. Tomorrow should relieve some of this anticipation, at least until Wednesday, as we are racing in the Reading Town Regatta tomorrow.

The Bancheri Twins 15th B-Day

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