Archive for July, 2018

Coach Blog – July 10, 2018

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

John Bancheri
Coach: John Bancheri

Hometown: Delia, Sicily, Italy
Grand Valley Rowing Experience: 14th Year as the Director of the Rowing Club and Varsity Men’s and Women’s Head Coach
Personal: Parents are Salvatore and Rosa Gianforcaro Bancheri. Born in Delia, Caltinesetta, Sicily and raised in Atlantic City, NJ.
Awards: Coach of the Year and Regional Coach of the Year a few times. 2002 Dad Vail Coach of the Year.

GREECE and Henley

GVSU first attended The Henley Royal Regatta in the 90s at the urging of then President Don Lubbers. He felt is was a fantastic opportunity for the university in terms of rubbing elbows with the elite institutions of international academia as well as opening the minds and worldviews of our students on the Crew.

Fast forward to 2018. That vision has been replicated thanks to the support and encouragement of Bob Stoll and the university administration. This was now my 4th trip with GVSU overseas and I must say it will be one that will be etched in my mind forever for many reasons.

Originally, in August we had planned on just bringing a small mens squad. The plan was to go to Seville, Spain train then go to the U.K. for Henley. Upon hearing that I was interested in an overseas training camp that would cost the same as if we spent all our time in the U.K., I had a longtime friend, Tina Tsourtsoulas chime in and urge me to come to Greece.

Tina Tsourtsoulas is the mother of Evangelos Tsourtsoulas, one of my marquee rowers who I coached at Marietta College. Evan came to GVSU to live in Allendale with my family for three months in preparation for making the Lighweight National Team as Evan was a dual citizen. He trained out of the GVSU boathouse and also watched after our boys Patrick and Salvatore.

As a thank you for the years I coached Evan and for taking care of him after graduation, his mother insisted on returning the hospitality. So the idea of going to Kastoria, Greece was born. Upon hearing the men’s team would be going to Greece, the women’s team insisted in also attending. I spoke with Tina and her husband Dimitrios. They said they would help me in accommodating everyone with great prices and rowing equipment.

Fast Forward
The logistics involved in taking 29 people on a 3 week journey were many. I have to say I worked as hard as ever in their preparation despite challenges along the way. In fact, this was a fantastic adventure that was extremely well planned and seamlessly executed despite a few challenges that were inevitable on a trip such as this one.

While in Greece we lived at a 5 star resort, were shuttled around, given first class tours of the region, met the Mayor, Governor, and a Senator. We presented the City and regional Prefecture with GVSU flags and they presented us with gifts to bring home.

Our students visited the world renown monasteries of Meteora. They also spent a day at the beach in the Aegean Sea with Mount Olympus as a backdrop. In Kastoria, they rowed on a lake that also had a settlement from the Neolithic Period. The students rowed and visited the community as well as a local monastery and cave complex. All with expert guidance and perspective from our host Dimitrios.

We also interacted with the Greek National Rowing Team and two of the local clubs that row on Lake Orestadia. It was a pinnacle in my 38 year career that will be hard to match. The true thanks for making it affordable and memorable goes to the Tsourtsoulas Family.

After flying back through Istanbul to London we began our Henley adventure.

Upon arriving in the U.K., we were picked up by my friend Tony at TK Travel in his charter bus. We were whisked away to Henley-on-Thames, where we would further prepare for Henley and the Reading Regatta.

Our students and staff (Mitch Eastlick, Costas Ciungan and my wife Christine) were housed in three homes in Henley. It was a dorm style set up with the max number per room, but clean and a safe environment in this quaint village that comes alive every June. The home housed by our women and two coaches was across the street from the estate of George Harrison. His wife still lives there most of the year.

Our students practiced on the River Thames and had the opportunity to see some of the best rowers in the world. They also visited London and some even had a day in Belgium, Ireland, France, Poland and Switzerland.

As for racing.
Our women were entered in the elite event of the Remenham Cup and were knocked out in the time trial. They felt they had a great row, but at that level it would have taken the best eight women to ever row at GVSU to qualify for the coming weeks bracket.

Our Men’s A Four pre-qualified for the bracket that started on the 4th of July. The B Four also had to row in the Friday Time Trial. They had a fantastic race but still ended up 4 seconds shy of qualifying. I was honestly excited for both our crews performance knowing their capability and that of the competition.

On Saturday our team went to the Reading Town Regatta. Two of our crews won “pots”. Pots are tankards that have been given out as awards since the 1800s. Those pots are where the term “pot hunting” emanated. Fun Day for all!

On Sunday the team went to London and had the opportunity to explore for the day. Great stories of all these excursions from the viewpoint of the students can be found in the blogs in this journal. Please take time to read a few.

The only boat left to race at Henley was the Prince Albert Cup Men’s Four. They came out of the blocks with a great start and took a slim lead only to be passed and beat by 1 and 3/4 LENGTHS by the eventual winner and course record breaker, Imperial College of London. Our rowing season was over but the adventure continued.

In retrospect.
A lot had been on my mind prior to going overseas and while in Greece as well as the U.K. I tried my best to make sure everyone had a fantastic experience. There is so much I want to say right now but I will keep it in my heart and I truly hope everyone had an adventure of a lifetime.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this work from the university to my friends overseas.

Wherever my career takes me I will go back with a crew to Greece as they have invited me again. I will take only one gender at a time and I will stay longer than one week. Opa!

Day 21 – July 9, 2018

Monday, July 9th, 2018

Faith Platz
Athlete: Faith Platz, Six Seat, Women’s V8+
Year: Senior
Hometown: Grand Haven, MI
Quote: “Nothing will work unless you do.” -John Wooden

Last day abroad for the Laker Navy! As the Henley Royal Regatta came to a close yesterday and most rowers have vacated Henley-on-Thames, our team followed suit. There were several different groups of travelers today, and I found myself with some of my teammates and best friends in Poznan, Poland! After an early morning of taxis and airports, we got to explore an absolutely beautiful city in northwest Poland. The old town square was everything I could have imagined: colorful buildings, amazing architecture, cobblestone streets and intricate statues. We had lunch in the middle of the town square. The currency there is the Polish zloty, which amounts to only $0.27, so it felt very weird spending “so much” money at a time. We did some souvenir shopping and bought paczkis from a local bakery. It was incredible to just wander the streets on a normal Monday afternoon and experience the city like a local.

Our wandering led us to a castle that our Uber driver recommended we check out. It was actually used during World War II for military personnel, and included an office that was specifically for Adolf Hitler. The history there was amazing, and views from the balconies overlooking a perfectly-maintained garden weren’t so shabby either.

One of the reasons we decided to even go to Poznan in the first place was because, being rowers, we were intrigued by the elite rowing that happens there. The U23 World Championships are about to take place on Lake Malta in Poznan in two weeks time, and we had to go check out the course. It was a fully buoyed 8-lane course with amazing start and finish areas. The start line marked each lane with a massive concrete statue of the lane number on shore, and the finish was complete with grandstands and a megatron. Lining the lake were also a waterpark, a beach and an amusement park. Walking the length of the course was so enjoyable, and we saw several rowing shells on the water, as well as some competitive kayakers.

Now, our day trip has come to an end, we are back in Henley-On-Thames for one more night, then it’s off to Heathrow Airport in the morning. I actually will not be returning with the whole team, as I will be spending another week over here in Edinburgh, Scotland! Even though my journey isn’t quite over yet, my time with the Laker Navy has now officially ended. But that means that now I’m part of the alumni! My four years with this team had meant so much to my own personal growth, and I am so thankful that I got to cap off my rowing career with an experience such as this. To the parents reading this, thank you for helping each rower make this trip possible for them. I can assure you they’ll never forget it. And to the alumni and supporters, we couldn’t even function in the States without you, let alone across the world. So thank you, and I hope to mirror your generosity and support as I enter the role of Laker Navy alumna for years to come.

Brandon Roberts
Athlete: Brandon Roberts, Two Seat, Men’s A 4+
Year: Senior
Hometown: Dearborn Heights, MI
Quote: “You’ve only lost when you’ve stopped trying”

Good evening from Dublin, Ireland!

Since today was our excursion day, a few of my teammates and I decided to catch a flight to Dublin yesterday morning and do as much as we could in the 36 hours we had here. We woke up this morning at 8:30 or so to a breakfast that our hostel provided. After we were fully fed. We set out upon the town. Our first stop was a tour of the original Jameson distillery. It was really amazing learning so much about how whiskey affected the socio-economic dynamic of the city because the company was founded during the industrial revolution of the early 1800s and was a huge part of the country’s development through both of the world wars.

After Jameson, we found a small Irish restaurant for lunch and explored the outskirts of the town before the next thing we had planned. Around 1pm local time, we started our tour of the Guinness factory. They really placed a high emphasis on making sure everybody was fully immersed in everything the product had to offer. Personally, my favorite part was the “aroma room”. The Aroma Room was this incredibly bright white room where they had four stations that released a vapor of each of the four “notes” that the manufacturer was trying to put into the final product. Following that, we were able to go to the top of the factory where there was a large circular room in which you could see a 360 -degree view of the entire city of Dublin.

Following that, we were incredibly tired, so we decided to unwind with some crepes and ice cream for a little while before our dinner. We discovered this little tourist shop and we all got some trinkets to remind us of the trip. From there, we sat down to a traditional Irish dinner and discussed the rest of the evening. We had to find out the bus schedule so we could get back to the airport so we could get back to Henley and then back home.

As I sit in the airport reflecting upon my trip, I’m reminded of all of the great times that I’ve had on team trips, even though I’m sure there are far more that I don’t remember. Coach always says that you’ll remember your last race, and that hold true for my last trip as well. Although it was bittersweet getting knocked out in the first round, I find some solace in knowing that we got knocked out by the crew who set the course record and went on to win our event. I want to say a huge thank you to my teammates for making this season and this trip worth it.

For those of you who have been following me in my four years on this team, I’m afraid that for the last time, this is Brandon Roberts, signing off!

Day 20 – July 8, 2018

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

Mahe Dreisdale

Mahé Drysdale winning his 6th Diamond Sculls

Ben Norrix
Athlete: Benjamin Norrix, 2 Seat, Men’s B 4+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Rockwood, MI
My best race was: My best race was my Freshman year in the Novice 8 at ACRA. We took home the silver medal in a tight race with Michigan and Orange Coast.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Stick around. Your teammates become your family. Also the Spring is the best time for rowing.

It was finals day at last. After watching 4 days of great racing, I was excited to watch some great races and some of my personal heroes. Emily Gilbert, Elizabeth Greve and I left the men’s house and headed down to the course around 10:45 am. We were all eager for racing to begin. This is because Emily and I had placed a “friendly” wager on todays events. The first race of the day was the Prince Albert Cup. This is the event that both of our 4’s were entered in. The boat that our 4+ drew, which was the Imperial College of London in the first round, ended up winning the entire event. One of my favorite races of the day was watching Mahé Drysdale win his 6th Diamond Sculls. This race was important to me because Mahé is one of my heroes. It was great to see that he still has it. We watched a few more races from the Stewards tent before deciding to walk down and get food.

We found a burger place. The food was amazing. One of the best burgers I have had. After eating, we made our way to the start line to watch a few starts. One of the teams we got to watch was the Croatian National Team. Being able to watch the start of two of the best rowers in the sport was an amazing feeling. I was even happier when I found out that the very next race was the Grand Challenge Cup. This is the Elite 8 category. We again watched this race from the start line. Getting to experience the roaring start of an Olympic caliber 8+ left me awestruck. The amount of sheer power being applied to the blade is amazing.

Emily and I made our way back to the grand stands to watch the rest of the races. A few more great races came down including the two remaining American crews. We cheered our butts off for both of them. After racing finished, we prepared to watch the award ceremony. The guest speaker was Dr. Dame Kathrine Granger. She is Britains most decorated female Olympian with 3 silvers and a gold. Once the whole regatta was over, Emily and I looked at all of the results to see who the winner of the bets were. Im happy to report that I won the bet. So dinner is on Emily when we get home in a few days. This trip has been an absolute blast. I have made so many great memories that I will look back on fondly in the future.

Dublin, Ireland

Group of athletes in Dublin, Ireland

Makenzie Stafford
Athlete: Makenzie Stafford, Coxswain, Men’s B 4+
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Birch Run, MI
I chose Grand Valley because: I wanted to get away from the area that I grew up in and participate in new experiences and be challenged in a different way.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: be patient with how the season goes. You will become an overall better athlete if you put the time and effort that is required, rower or coxswain.

There was 3:00 am wake up call for a select few of the Grand Valley crew this morning. Dublin, Ireland was our destination and we were all very excited. The morning started out pretty rough. The cab that was taking us to the airport ended up being late and that made getting there a bit of a hassle. He ended up dropping us off at a top of a hill that was above the parking lot of the airport because he claimed that is was a quicker and easier way. This was not he situation at all. The incline of the hill was about 70 degrees and that made it a quest to get down. Everyone was slipping and stumbling down the “faster route” and Jessie even ended up tearing up her hand in the process. We were running out of time until our flight and we were not even in the airport yet. We ran, and then ran some more, until we finally reached the place to grab our boarding passes.

But once again, there was an issue. The line was long. Luckily we had Lauren with us, who finagled her way to get the passes quicker and before everyone else. After all the morning chaos, we finally reached our terminal and boarded with ease. We were off to Dublin. Once we touched down, we then again hustled our way to our bus tour of the Cliffs of Moher (which we almost missed). This I was excited for. The bus ride was about 12 hours in total, starting with the small farm towns. One of the things that really stuck out to me while driving, was the amount the cows there were. It seemed like every field was just filled with them; one after another. We drove through and stopped at cool scenery stops, in which we took many pictures at. The views were breathtaking and hard to believe at first. Everything was so foreign. It was well worth traveling all day to see and experience the sights. Our night ended with a walk around the city to find food and to explore the city of Dublin.

Day 19 – July 7th, 2018

Sunday, July 8th, 2018

Stewards Enclosure

Matt Collins
Athlete: Matthew Collins, Three Seat, Men’s A 4+
Year: Junior
Hometown: Grand Blanc, Michigan
I chose Grand Valley because: of the welcoming environment that the campus provided as well as the size and opportunities that GV gives its students.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: appreciate the small things, like the van rides or the team dinners. Those are the things that you will remember forever.

After a long night exploring Henley including going on the Ale Trail, this morning called for sleeping in and pressing the snooze button a few times. After a breakfast that consisted of a modest donut and some orange juice, Brandon Roberts, Noah Lasky, Jacob Spiess, and myself headed into downtown Henley to grab some food before heading to the course. We stopped and got food at this local bar. Then Brandon made the decision to ask for some hot sauce. This small decision led to some discomfort for my three teammates. I watched as they delved into the ghost pepper sauce and had instant regret. After some pitchers of water, we headed to the course. The weather today was blistering and under the blazers we wore, it got quite warm.

Brandon and I went to the Steward’s Enclosure at the course and watched some races go down the course. We ended up striking up a conversation with the spectators sitting next to us. We told them about the training trip we took to Greece and the accommodations we had and it sparked interest in them. They are masters rowers and want different places to train. We gave them Coach B’s information in order to get them information about Kastoria. A few more races later, we left and went to the Henley Regatta store to pick up some mementos to bring home.

Once I got back to the house, I began packing for the trip I am taking to Dublin, Ireland tomorrow with 7 of my teammates. We will be exploring cliffs around the coastline and exploring other tourist attractions in Dublin. Its incredible that we are able to take excursions to all these different places in Europe, even though rowing is the main priority. It will be an early morning tomorrow morning as our taxi leaves for the airport at 3:15am but the lack of sleep will be most certainly worth it. Pull for the Laker Navy!

Stewards Enclousre Gilbert Norrix Athletes

Emily Gilbert
Athlete: Emily Gilbert, 2 seat, Women’s spare 2-
Year: Sophomore
Hometown: Allen Park, MI
My best race was: ACRA 2018, semi finals, when we qualified for the grand final.
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Do the best you can everyday and your hard work and dedication will get you far.

It has been another great day in Henley-on-Thames. I woke up and got ready to head out for the day. As usual for the regatta I put on a beautiful long dress that I borrowed from a teammate and headed out. Ben Norrix and I got breakfast at the Catherine’s Wheel, they had a buffet going on that was delicious. There were multiple things to choose from and you could pick up to seven things, such as scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon, beans, tomatoes, black pudding and more. Everything was so good and it was a lot of food. We watched the live stream while eating and watched Washington fight in the race against the British National team, one of my favorite races of the day. We were rooting for Washington and you could tell they put everything into it because they pushed out a great race. After breakfast we headed to the course to watch the races live for the day. We went into the stands of the stewards enclosure and watched some good racing like, Australia winning over the British National team in the Grand Challenge cup. With many exciting races having gone by, we walked around a bit and went into the regatta store and to the trophies tent to see all the cups that have all the winners names on them. It was so cool seeing the history and tradition, not only of the regatta, but of the sport that all the people here love and enjoy.

Around four o’clock we headed back to Catherine’s Wheel to escape the record breaking heat of the day and catch the end of the football match. The place was packed with people watching the game and we had trouble finding a place to sit. As Britain scored and won the people erupted every time filling the place with some of the most energetic and excited energy I have ever seen. A little before six we headed back to the course to watch the Croatian men’s pair vs. the British National team, a race I was excited to see. They are the best double in the world and have set many records. They have started racing the pair recently and have been doing well in that event as well. It was amazing to watch them race and see how much power and how in time they were – it was a good race. We stayed until the end of the regatta. After words we headed to Zizzi, the Italian restaurant for dinner, where it was packed with people from the regatta. When we got home, the fireworks at the course were starting so a few of us went on our balcony to watch the pink Leander 200 year anniversary fireworks. They were so beautiful and amazing to watch with 200s and many pink fireworks. After the fun show, it was time for bed to get ready for finals day tomorrow.






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