Archive for July, 2016

Sunday, July 3rd

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Athlete: Scott Thorbjornsen
Year & Major: Senior, Speech and Language Pathology
Hometown: Bangor, MI
High School: Bangor High School
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Keep moving forward.

Today is our last day before we leave for the U.S. Many of us decided to enjoy the day at a much slower pace than most mornings. After breakfast and some packing for tomorrow there were a few rousing games of ping pong played to get the competitive juices flowing before heading to Henley to watch the finals. The train was much less crowded than previous times getting on and I was able to sit. I enjoyed it much more than being crammed into the train trying not to breathe down the neck of the person in front of me. On our arrival to the city I realized why the train had been so empty and that was because everyone in England seemed to have beaten us there. The city was full to the brim with many colors. The people of England definitely know how to dress up for an event: there were dresses and blazers of every color. The hats were also quite impressive ranging from straw hats for the men and big brimmed hats with flowers for the women. We Americans stuck out in out khaki shorts, tennis shoes, and t-shirts.

When the racing finished I went and found some souvenirs and walked home on the scenic route back to Shiplake with Dom because we knew the trains would be full. On our way back we noted the beautiful scenery of the English countryside. Everything is very green and the gardens that surround houses are different from home. Instead of being orderly these ones are overgrown and full. It seems like anything will grow. When we came back to the house more ping pong was played and dinner was eaten.

Now after two weeks of training, racing, and recovering the Laker Navy’s time in England has come to an end. These past two weeks have given me some of the greatest memories so far in my life. I have competed in the oldest regatta in the world, seen a country I may never have had the chance to see, and made many friendships. To all my friends and family who have supported me and helped make this possible, thank you. I am forever grateful for this opportunity.

Saturday, July 2nd

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016


Athlete: Karissa Cloud
Year & Major: Freshman, Speech and Language Pathology
Hometown: Ada, MI
High School: Forest Hills Central
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Stick with it. Whether you’re new or coming in with experience, racing is worth it all!

After waking up this morning, I realized it was our second to last day in England. Hard to believe that it has been almost two weeks since we arrived. After a small breakfast, a few of us watched a movie in the living room and looked up train times to figure out a plan for the day. We got ready and traveled to Henley on the 10:20 train. Upon arriving to the station we walked out the exit and passed an accapela group. Their song was beautiful and a crowd had gathered to listen. Walking into town, I could tell that the size of the crowd and people in Henley had grown. It is so fun to look out and see a wide variety of Blazers that the men are wearing and large hats or elegant dresses on the ladies.

At the regatta, the enclosure for watching races was filled with people, and the stewards enclosure was even more busy. It is so fun to watch boats row by to the start and cheer for ones racing down the course. My favorite part about it is looking at the variety of blades for the different teams. A big cloud passed over head and it began to rain so one of my teammates Donnie and I went to the regatta cafe for a quick lunch and to stay dry. After our meal Donnie stayed at the course to watch races and prepare for a 2k test he has tomorrow while I left and met up with more of the team in one of the local cafés close to the river. The boys ate and I was there for the company. After their lunch, we walked around the town square of Henley and bounced around a few shops to pass the time. Before we knew it, the day was over and it was time to head home. We stayed up a bit longer and played a few rounds of ping pong, and as the sun set we all went inside for bed.

This trip has been once in a lifetime and I can not say thank you enough to all alumni, family, and friends who have helped to make this amazing trip possible. I would not have traded this for anything in the world and I am forever thankful for those I have met and grown close to this year and on this trip.

Friday, July 1st

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Athlete: Brandon Roberts
Year & Major: Sophomore, Computer Information Systems
Hometown: Dearbourne Heights, MI
High School: Crestwood High School
After I graduate I plan to: After I graduate, I plan to continue rowing at any club that will take me and put my degree to good use

Hello again blog site. Today was a great day. When I awoke, the men competing in the Prince Albert Challenge Cup had already left. In an eager haste to get to the course, I threw on my fanciest duds and skipped breakfast to get to the course in order to catch the boys’ race.

Upon arriving to the boat tent, Coach B spotted me looking fresh and asked me if I wanted to represent my family, my country, and my school by riding in the referee’s launch. Even though that’s what it was called, it could hardly be compared to our usual coach’s launches. This launch could eat Coach B’s launch for breakfast. This was the launch to end all launches. It was 50 feet long and a beautiful finished wood. Truly, a sight to behold. The man driving this chariot of a water vessel took his sweet time getting to the start, so the official riding bow acted as our tour guide, explaining the history of each of the tents and locations along the way. The last thing he told us before arriving to our final destination was that we were not allowed to “hoot and holler” for our team, which absolutely wrecked me. As I was reeling from that news, we arrived at the starting line. Fighting every instinct to yell for my boys, I threw Donnie up a shocker to throw him into a state of utter physiological perfection. It couldn’t come soon enough.

The Referee called the start and the boys were off. They looked as if they were flying. They looked as good as the top Grand Valley Four was expected to look. The only problem was that Edinburgh was stronger. They had our boys in blue almost off the start, which was disappointing, but they still gave it all they had. Whether it was from the launch, the sideline, or the livestream, you could almost feel the pain that our athletes were feeling, and yet the perseverance they displayed was something to behold.

It was a solemn ride back from the finish line, to say the least. After a quick cool down for the boys, they hit the dock, put the boat up, and were bombarded with a barrage of hugs and handshakes from the spectators in their corner. We took some team pictures, Coach B laid down some ground rules for all of us, and we were off to a local pub for some much needed nourishment. After the pub, I split off from the rest of the group for a little surprise. For those of you who don’t know, I had been growing out my hair “until Henley” I would tell people. Well now that all of the GV boats had been knocked out, Henley was officially “over” for us, and I treated myself to a good old fashioned haircut.

Even though only five of us had raced, the competition wasn’t actually over. Once we arrived back at the house, an unwritten game had started called “Who can take the longest nap”. I think Karissa won at three and a half hours, but all of the competitors had a great nap. Some of us awoke to the smells of dinner cooking, courtesy of Dominic Biolchini and Chris Doherty, and others woke up to the smoke alarm, courtesy of the very same goons.

Now, at approximately 8:00 pm UK time, we are celebrating. A couple of us are playing lawn games out in the yard, some are playing the piano in the family room, and I’m bringing this blog to a close. A special thank you to Don and Nancy Lubbers who came to visit us last night to see all of the smiling faces they had sent across the pond, but thank you to donors, coaches and families who had made this trip possible for all of us.


Athlete: Donald Jensen
Year & Major: Sophmore, Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Grosse Ile, MI
High School: Grosse Ile High School
Favorite Quote: “If you’re not first you’re last” -Ricky Bobby

We woke up this morning at 6 am, and our wonderful coxswain Karissa and Coach B cooked us a delightful meal of pancakes, sausage and eggs to start the day. After getting ready and packing our stuff we were off to Henley at 7:30. Upon arriving to the course, I went to the changing room and ran into Mahe Drysdale the Olympic single sculler for New Zealand, one of my idols in the world of rowing. During our short conversation he shook my hand and wished me luck as he agreed to watch my race. We then proceeded to warm up on the ergs and check our boat before the race. Before it was time to go, coach gave us a motivating speech and next thing we knew we were on the water and warming up for the race.

Going down the course to the start, the river was packed with leisure boats and people on the shore cheering for the races going down, which made my nerves kick in more. Sitting at the start, with the cameras pointed in our direction and the drone hovering just above the boat, the wait seemed endless. 2016 ACRA Assistant Coach of the Year Michelle Goodwin was quickly spotted in the umpire boat along with fellow teammate Brandon Roberts (B-Rob). Brandon and I had rowed together in high school at the Wyandotte Boat Club and it was good to see a friendly face.

Then the umpire launched the race and thus begun the most painful 7 minutes and 27 seconds of my life. Off of the start we had a lead of a bow deck on Edinburgh until the barrier, who unfortunately proceeded to over stroke us and take the lead for the remainder of the race. Even though we lost to them, they had set the course record in the Prince Albert Cup last year, so I did not feel as bad. We had also raced 23 seconds faster than yesterday due to the quick thinking of Coach Bancheri and the slight adjustment we made to our race plan.

After a tiring row back to the dock, we were then filmed by an English sports network who was interviewing international crews who traveled far distances to compete at Henley. Shortly after, we went into town for a team lunch and boarded the train back to Shiplake where we are staying.

Once home, we started a large ping pong tournament and ended up not finishing it due to the necessity of a nap. I was woken up by the smell of dinner in the kitchen which was prepared by teammates Dominic Bilochini and Chris Doherty. They cooked us breakfast for dinner and I loved it. As our trip is coming close to its end, I am thankful for all the help from alumni and all who contributed to my trip and making this once in a lifetime opportunity a reality. I look forward to spending the rest of my summer training with the Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia, PA to continue to improve myself. The next year is quickly approaching and I could not be more excited.






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