This past week in Florida has been very successful. The team couldn’t have asked for better weather – not one drop of rain until the last day. Not only did we have a week filled with technical practice, but we also had a lot of time to have fun in the sun!
The Laker Navy had the opportunity to put in a lot of mileage this week. We spent a lot of time perfecting our bladework as a crew and making huge improvements overall. It was awesome to be able to row on the beautiful waters of Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River, and we were even visited by dolphins and jellyfish during practices. (We also tried our hardest to get Coach Bancheri onto a cruise ship that we rowed past -maybe we’ll have better luck next time!) It was cool to hear the people aboard cheering us on as we showed off our newly improved technical skills.
Even though our week was jam packed with practices we found plenty of time to enjoy sunny Florida. We spent three of our afternoons at Clearwater Beach, soaking up the sunshine, playing beach volleyball and enjoying the waves. We also enjoyed our fair share of ice cream while fending off the local seagulls (some of us were more successful at seagull dodging than others). We had the opportunity to participate in and observe many street performances and were astonished as they performed magic tricks, swallowed fire and jumped through hoops! Luckily everyone remembered to reapply their sunscreen as we progressed throughout the week. With our Michigan skin bronzed and our bodies tired from a day at the beach. We got back on the bus and headed to the hotel.
Life at the Barrymore Hotel was relaxing. We spent the hours between and after practices hanging out with our teammates by the pool and exploring downtown Tampa. The hotel had a delightful pool area where we played cards, catch, and listened to music. It was convenient that the hotel was close enough to practice for us to walk there and it was near many local restaurants and entertainment opportunities for us to enjoy. When not out exploring Tampa, we enjoyed two pizza nights, thanks to the support from our parents, which provided us with great bonding time as we ate together as a team. It was also great to have a chance to meet Bob Monaghan, without whom many of our rowers would not have been able to make the trip. Hearing about his experiences as a alumni and as a member of the first crew team at Grand Valley was fascinating and really emphasized how far our program has come over the last 50 years.
We want to thank all of our friends, family, and supporters, who make it possible for us to have the opportunity to travel to work on preparing ourselves physically and technically for the upcoming spring season, and to enjoy the chance to spend a week in Florida exploring a new city and having memorable experiences with our teammates. We especially thank our parents, guest coach Ted Deakin, our alumni supporters – specifically Bob Monaghan and Shane Szalai – friend of the program John Reichner, the Barrymore Hotel, the Stewards Foundation of Tampa (specifically Denny Antrim, whose assistance at the rowing venue helped make our training run smoothly), Dale our bus driver, and the state of Florida for providing us with a week of absolutely immaculate rowing conditions.