Archive for March, 2014

Coach Dennis Kamrad – Get Well Soon

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Coach Dennis Kamrad

The Laker Navy has recently learned that Coach Dennis Kamrad, a former coach with Grand Valley Rowing, has developed a health issue relating to his hips and back. Coach Kamrad and his family are in our thoughts and prayers. The entire Laker Navy wishes him a speedy recovery and hope to see him hale and hearty for the Lubbers Cup in 2015.

Coach Kamrad has over 40 years of coaching experience and a wealth of knowledge, and was a former member of the Grand Valley coaching staff. In 1972, he began coaching at the University of Central Florida and oversaw the sport during its club years and then during its elevation to varsity status in 1996. Coach Kamrad was UCF’s first and only women’s rowing coach until his retirement in 2003 guiding the program for its first 30 seasons. Under his leadership, UCF crews won 17 Dad Vail titles, and won seven straight State overall point championships. The success of his crews resulted in him being named the 1997 Dad Vail Regatta Coach of the year. Coach Kamrad has served two terms on the US Rowing Board of Directors. He has also served on the boards of the Florida Intercollegiate Rowing Association and the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association. Before coaching at Grand Valley, Coach Kamrad helped start and develop the Edgewater High School, Florida Athletic Club and Orlando Rowing Club rowing programs. In addition, he had the privilege to be a guest volunteer coach at Washington College, FL Institute of Technology and Rollins College. Furthermore, he has been an active member of the Rotary Club for over 40 years, and helped establish the Orange County East Rotary Metro Club in Winter Park, FL. He graduated from Rollins College as a four year oarsman and with a Masters in Education in Guidance and Counseling along with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Relations.

Day Eight – Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

SB Team Pic

Costas Ciungan ’15
Major: Legal Studies
Hometown: Grosse Ile, MI

Today was the final day of spring training for the Laker Navy, and after completing a fantastic week of mileage and technical training; the Lakers had the opportunity to execute their training. The Lakers had a regatta against Florida Institute of Technology and Jacksonville University. The team departed and checked out of their wonderful accommodations, Historic Dodgertown, Vero Beach, FL. around 7:30 AM. Today the conditions were sunny and slightly windy, but the winds died down throughout the morning. All in all, the weather and conditions were suited for rowing, which has been the weather for the entire week so far. Thank you rowing gods, but really thank you Florida.

The Laker Navy raced in the Keuper Cup at Canal 54, our spring training destination, to close up a great week of training. The regatta schedule of events can be found here. I rowed in the Men’s Varsity 8+ with Austin Burris, Robbie DeWeerd, Nate Biolchini, Ed Avena, David Blythe, Costas Ciungan (me), Spencer West, Justin Ebert, and coxswain: Kyle Barnhart (Stroke to Bow). Our team had been putting in a lot of hours and meters of rowing, technical training, seat racing, and small boats practice. What a week it has been, with the Keuper Cup as the Grand Finale.

All of the boats that raced today did well and learned something from their performance today. In sports it has been said time and time again, that it is not where you start, but where you end up. This week the Laker Navy departed on a journey. A journey into their spring season as they conclude their spring training trip. This trip, this week, and our first race are only the beginning, and where we go from here is in our hands – with lots of room for improvement.

Overall this spring training trip has been a great success and we owe it to all of our supporters, alumni, and donors who have given and continue to give to our program, our success is truly yours. Throughout this week I have seen athletes improve in Posture, Timing, Control, Balance, Bladework, and the development of touch as many had the opportunity to analyze their rowing and get individual coaching attention – including myself. I would like to thank guest coach Jim Raslavsky for coming out from Maine to be a part of our training trip this year!

This week the varsity was in Pairs, Fours, and Eights. In Pairs the Varsity did waggle drills working on elements of their stoke and coaching not only their own blade but their team mates as well. The Varsity also did long steady state rows with technical work built into each practice. What makes this trip so special is that we have the entire team together to train, bond, and help each other get faster. The result was a lot of of leaning, team bonding, and rowing.

The Coaching was yet another aspect that made this Spring Training Trip a success with five coaches who came to teach, correct, and help develop great technique and better rowers. Coach Bancheri was instrumental for having everyone start back at square one, focusing on posture and timing and how those aspects allow for the mastery of control and balance. We had on-land chalk talks where rowers demonstrated to each other different aspects of the stroke. Many athletes learned how each aspect builds upon the other. Additionally, Guest Coach Jim Raslavsky came and provided his insight, stories, and memories into the sport of rowing; including but not limited to training, technique, and sculling.

As for myself, I was happy to have the entire team together with a complete focus on rowing, bonding, and building team culture. We literally got a month’s worth of work done in one week. I know that many developed a sense of rhythm and touch as many novice and varsity rowers saw improvements in their rowing, especially after having been indoors for the last couple months.

This training trip was slightly different for me because I am the president of the rowing team and not the web manger – that posts all the blogs and pictures for the team during the trip. This year I only assisted the new web manager, David Blythe, who continues to do great work. In addition, this is my last spring training trip as a rower on the Grand Valley Rowing Club. I am so thankful as a senior to have rowed for four years, to participate in spring training, and to post the blogs; to share with all of our supporters and family of the many great endeavors, adventures, and lessons our athletes here at Grand Valley Rowing are learning in both rowing and about life.

Thank you to everyone who made it possible from our supporters, donors, coaches, and to especially our student-athletes. My team and I are thankful and are looking forward to the great spring season ahead. The Laker Navy is headed back to Grand Rapids, which has been experiencing a fierce winter with lots of snow and cold temps. We have not even been able to put our docks in yet, which is usually put in before we leave for spring training. Keep Pulling for the Laker Navy!


Jordan Crandell ’14
Major: International Relations
Hometown: Fremont, MI

Here I sit in a 15 passenger van headed north to Michigan after a great productive week of rowing on Canal 54 in Vero Beach Florida. The team made great improvements this week with our technique and speed work and I am confident everyone is prepared to attack our upcoming racing schedule.

After a week of two-a-days, technique rows, alligator hunting and lots of team bonding the Laker Navy got to test our speed with our first spring race at the Keuper Cup Regatta at C-54. Both men’s and women’s teams battled crews from FIT and Jacksonville University. This was exciting for the varsity to get back into the swing of spring racing and our novices got their first taste of how exhilarating flying down the course feels.

The men’s 1V had a respectable finish behind FIT while the 2V men’s crew had a tough battle and came in third. The novice men opened their first spring season with a close win in their event. The GVSU Lady Lakers commanded their events with open water wins by the 1V, 2V and 3V. This was a great way to kickoff our spring season and I am excited to see where the team is going to go in the coming weeks and months.

As a senior, I have begun winding down my career as a member of the Laker Navy and have been silently commemorating my “lasts”. My last fall regatta, last Tuesday HOP (I think) and last Wednesday workout (I hope) and this is my last spring break. It was a memorable one for sure. From the stay at Historic Dodgertown to our phenomenal guest coach, Coach Jim, I am confident that this was one of best spring breaks in my time here. The team really grew on the water and bonded off the water. I’m proud to say I played on a championship pick up volleyball team with fellow teammates Austin, Adam and Chris. Additionally, we were serenaded by the Novice Men poolside on our last night in Florida. Fun times were had by all and we continued several Laker Navy spring break traditions in the Spring Break Guide and handing out betting shirts.

Overall, this was a fantastic week of learning for us all and after we acclimate back to Michigan’s cozy temperatures- I can assure you that we will be focused on racing and becoming better crews. This spring break is just a stepping off point for the Laker Navy and I encourage you all to look at our racing schedule and if you have a free weekend or live in the area to please come out and cheer us on. We would not be the program we are without our faithful base of parents, advisors and alumni and we hope to make you all proud in the coming months!

Thank you to Historic Dodgertown, Compass Coach (And Doug!), Sebastian River Rowing, Indian River Rowing Club and Coach Jim for all you have done for us this week. We cannot thank you enough. So until next time- keep cheering for that Laker Navy! GV-SU!

Day Seven- Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Sunset Row

Elle Memberto ’17
Major: Exercise Science
Hometown: Holland, MI

We started the day at the ICW with a few pieces on the water. The wind was a little difficult to row in but we were able get through it. The women’s novice 8 got to row in a boat from the Indian River Rowing Club, which was an interesting change. It was a very nice boat and fun to try out. Overall it was a beautiful start to the morning.

Our afternoon was very blustery, but someone of us managed to catch a few rays. It’s difficult to try and concentrate on homework with such beautiful scenery! Such a change from the tundra that we left behind.

This evening we went back to the canal and did the pre-race fartlek for tomorrow. It was difficult rowing against the strong wind, but it was good practice. We ended the day to a gorgeous Florida sunset while putting everything in it’s final place for tomorrow’s regatta. It is unfortunately time for everyone to pack up everything for our departure tomorrow back to Michigan.

Canal Rowing

Ed Avena ’14
Major: Exercise Science
Hometown: Detroit, MI

As the week is coming to an end and races are getting closer, practices have been getting much more race specific. In the past few days, we have been seat racing to determine who will be the the varsity eights. Seat racing is so important to the success of the crew because it determines the fastest combination of athletes in a boat. Each of us have had the chance to prove where we stand on the team and it is really exciting to see both the men and women giving it their all out there. I can’t wait to begin maxing out the speed we are capable of performing.

Now that seat racing is complete for this trip, we have been working on more speed work. Today, we had a few 500 meter pieces to see what kind of speed we could get at this point in the season. We also made a few switches to make sure that the men’s line-up was final. Even though we have not been on the water for long, the times we were putting out were pretty good for the first time in the new line-up.

With each new combination of rowers, we have been focusing on the timing and rhythm of the boat. Because line-ups have changed, it’s important to practice on rowing together and getting used to the feel of the boat. Today, we did many drills and practice starts to really get used to the higher rates. I believe that this spring break has been one of the most successful trips we have had. We had a few mishaps that may have either prevented us from practicing or even traveling, but it always seems to work out. With the support of our coaches, the parents who provide our lunches, the guest coaches, and those who allow us to row at their sites and use their equipment, we have had a great opportunity to get more mileage on the water.

Tomorrow, we race FIT and Jacksonville who are both great opponents. Although they have about a month of more water-time, I believe that Grand Valley is going to have a great day of racing. It’s amazing how quick we regain our technical abilities under the supervision of our head coach. While the trip may be coming to an end, I know that what all we have learned here will be taken back to Michigan where we will continue to train for the next few months. Warmer weather can’t come soon enough.

Day Six- Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Sunset Row

Spencer West(Captain) ’15
Major: Wildlife Biology
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

Today began as these mornings typically do: with everyone being woken up by their alarms for a hearty team breakfast before the usual morning practice. This year, as opposed to the norm of staying at a commercial hotel, we have had the luxury of making our temporary residence at the Historic Dodgertown, where the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers used for spring training from 1948 all the way until 2008. The history here is remarkable and an experience in itself, being the site where Jackie Robinson, the first African- American MLB player, trained with the Dodgers until 1956. At Dodgertown, we are spoiled with a delicious all-you-can-eat breakfast, which we all know is something that rowers can appreciate and take advantage of. The facility also includes a large outdoor swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, shuffleboards, and billiards and ping-pong tables for our recreation. Overall, staying at Dodgertown has enhanced this spring training trip for our entire team through the comfort, hospitality, and history that we have experienced here.

After fueling up, two fours each of the menʼs and womenʼs squads left at 7:30 to finish the final seat-races of the matrix. Once at Canal-54 the two menʼs fours quickly launched and warmed up to the start line, and begin the first of two pieces. 1500 meters later, boats stopped and rowers breathing heavy, the coxswains brought the boats together and read out the lineups for the second and final piece. We all stumbled over each other in the boats, pushed away, and made our way back to the starting line once again. As we were making our way, the bus arrived with the rest of the team, who launched into their respective boats and began their own practices. Still breathing hard by the time we got back to the starting line, we began the last piece, pushing every inch once again. After finishing, we quickly brought the boats to shore where the women were standing ready to hotseat the fours we were in. Since everyone was still on the water, the group of us who seat raced were given special instruction on sculling by guest coach Jim Raslavsky. Jim gave us extremely wise insight on sculling, correcting many parts of the stroke which will in turn improve our technique in the bigger boats. Once everybody finished their practice and returned to land, Coach Bancheri read out the results from the past three days of seat racing and the plan for the day before we all loaded onto the bus to make our way back to Dodgertown.

On the way back from practice, our bus experienced some technical issues but before long everybody made it safely back to Dodgertown where we ate a lunch prepared for us by Debbie and Patrick Dolan, Coach Alyssaʼs parents. After lunch a few of us went to the lounge to shoot pool and play table tennis between practices. At around 2:30, with a tornado watch already in the area and thunderstorms predicted for the evening, we received word that we would not be practicing on the water but that there would instead be a meeting at the hotel at four oʼclock. At four, we all gathered in the lounge where we began with stretches and calisthenics lead by the team captains. Next, guest coach Jim Raslavsky further instructed the entire team in mental and technical aspects of the sport before Coach Bancheri showed us videos from past races and from recent practices and instructed the team even further.

After the team meeting, vans were available to bring athletes to the mall for food. Additionally, many rowers chose to order pizza or another delivery option so that they could relax or enjoy the physical night off while waiting for food. Several people played basketball, volleyball, or just relaxed in the time after the meeting. Once we were all full and worn out, everyone settled into bed to prepare for another day of practice in paradise.

As a junior at GVSU, this trip has been the best team training trip that I have had the chance to attend thus far. From Dodgertown to the rowing facilities at Canal-54 and Indian River Rowing Club, this trip has had it all. At the canal, we are blessed with a long, protected stretch of water that makes for great rowing conditions. Through Indian River Rowing Club we have found a site on the intracoastal waterway that gives us endless water to row on and plenty of sites to see. On this trip I have increased my rowing ability physically, technically, and mentally. Seat racing is probably my favorite thing in this entire sport, as it allows the rower a chance to switch boats and crews and shows the athleteʼs ability to move a boat regardless of conditions out of their control. To be able to see oneʼs individual impact in a boat is both gratifying and motivating. Also, with the wise technical eyes of our coaching staff and guest coach Jim Raslavsky, I have felt myself make improvements in my technique and seem similar improvements throughout the team. Itʼs trips like these that create excitement in the team, seeing the desire and will in every athlete to make this team as fast as it can be.

Sunset Row

Lilly Iles ’17
Major: Hospitality & Marketing
Hometown: Holland, MI

Well today has been an exciting one, that’s for sure. The day started off with yet another fabulous breakfast from the staff here at Dodgertown and then the whole team headed out to Canal 54 for Day 6 of Spring Training. While the varsity teams were busy competing for just a few spots left in the Men’s and Women’s 1V boats, the novice women enjoyed a long technical, steady-state row down the canal. As a whole, the novice teams are definitely looking a lot tidier and I’m sure we’ll get to defend the Grand Valley title very soon.

On our way back to Dodgertown, we had a slight engine mishap on the bus and, long story short, it took a couple of state troupers and a high-spirited team to get us off the highway. Everyone is safe, and our bus driver Doug handled the situation in the best way possible – we’re very thankful to have him with us.

Due to a thunderstorm threat, afternoon practice was cancelled but stretching and calisthenics resumed in the lounge here at Dodgertown. Following that, Coach B gave a team-building speech that greatly increased everyone’s mental attitudes. As everyone’s hands continue to hurt and the temperature remains high, we’re all very grateful to be here with this opportunity to represent our school.

Pool Time

Scott Ossim ’17
Major: Chemistry
Hometown: Fishers, IN

Today was the kind of day that really defines what the crew is about. Heavy winds and some other mishaps put everyone in a situation that we didn’t expect to be in, but we handled it like we always do. In spite of the setbacks, we still had a hugely beneficial “practice” and listened intently to the wisdom that Coach B and a few others had to offer. So without skipping a beat, we were right back on track to focus in and think about the weekend/season to come.

Because we’ve put in so much work and so many miles, the whole team is ready to finally get a chance to show what we can do. Until then, everyone will have an opportunity to hone in on the fine points of our techniques and spend some time on the water with their specific crews. Something like “crew culture” (as Coach B puts it) is really invaluable to winning races, and from downtime to race time, it’s something that we can constantly develop.

In a few short days, we’ll get to put it all to the test when we go head-to-head with a few of the local Florida Crews. Some of the novice guys will get their first taste of sprint racing, and hopefully their first taste of fast-paced victory.
On occasions like this, it’s near impossible to not be a touch nervous. Nevertheless, the determination and sheer want to “go fast” is evident all around, and the coming races will prove to be all but boring.

For as long as I’ve been on the crew, I’ve heard everyone (especially coaches) say that this season has a chance to be the best season in Laker Navy history. I feel like every day there is something new to be found in the training, and I’ve been lucky to get to be a part of such a determined and talented crew. Rowing is unique in that it takes every member of the team to go fast, and this team definitely has the “all-in” mentality that we need. Every stroke is an opportunity to take a seat, to take a race, and maybe even slay a few giants.

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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