The 1980 Grand Valley Varsity Men’s Eight under Coach Paul Springer
Building a Rowing Program at GVSC
Recollections of the First Ever Grand Valley Rowing Squad-1964
Grand Valley State College was founded in 1960 and its first freshman class of which I was a member entered in the fall of 1963. At that time, campus buildings consisted solely of Lake Michigan Hall, Seidman Student Center, a farm house (commonly referred to as the Field House) and a barn. The freshman class of 1963 became known as the Pioneer Class for a rather obvious reason. In that first year, we were all obligated to take what was called a Foundation Studies Program designed to set us on the path to a foundation in the liberal arts. There was a physical education component to this program and in 1964, a PE course in rowing was offered under the direction of then Professor Charles Irwin. Someone had donated a couple of wooden shells to initiate the program and they were stored on campus in the barn. In the spring of that year, the course was first offered and several of us who no doubt had no clue as to what rowing was all about signed up for the course, establishing the Pioneer rowing crew.
Our first experience was to load the eight man shell onto a former farm truck that belonged to the college and transport it to Barrett’s Marina at Spring Lake. We crew members actually rode on the back of the truck, partially supporting the shell from the Allendale campus to Spring Lake. Upon arriving at Spring Lake, we off loaded the shell, elevated it above our heads and marched onto a floating dock. Surprise! When we were all on the dock with the shell overhead, the dock began to sink beneath us. As we sunk lower and lower into the water, I remember Professor Irwin yelling, “You might want to put the shell in the water!” I think we were so shocked by the dock sinking beneath us that putting the shell in the water didn’t seem all that obvious. The good news is that we survived the baptism and were able to ease into the shell without flipping it. What followed was our first lesson in the dynamics of rowing together in sync. Needless to say, there were a lot of starts, stops and oar crabbing but fortunately no flipping, as the Spring Lake water was still very chilly and we were already wet from our dunking at the dock.
Being part of that first crew was a tremendous and positive learning experience. The highlight that I will never forget was the first time that we actually got into a rhythm and our boat started to fly. That was the “Aha” moment when I know we all finally understood what true rowing was all about.
Rowing was the first ever sport at Grand Valley and I was blessed to be able to spend time with the current men’s and women’s rowing teams while they were recently in Sarasota, Florida for spring training. What a great and highly motivated group of young men and women. I am especially proud of the fact that the legacy and tradition of Grand Valley rowing established with our first crew in 1964 lives on.
Bob Monaghan ‘67
Grand Valley State University
Post cards of historical Grand Rapids Boat and Canoe Club
Photos courtesy of Bob Stoll, Director of Student Life
An email from Alumnus Phil Telman ’71:
I’m forwarding this picture from the past. I believe Coach Orova took it at a morning practice in 1969. He had a habit of giving pictures he took out at the All-Sports Banquet as souvenirs. The location is on the Grand River at the Comstock Riverside Park boat launch (in the background, if it still exists – at the intersection of Guild St. & Monroe Av.). We’re headed North to the American Legion Post where we stored our equipment at that time (just North of the North Park St. bridge on the East bank). At the time, Coach Orova was residing on Monroe Av. just about a half mile South of where this picture was taken.
It was great for me. I lived only 2 blocks from here. In my wildest dreams, I never would have envisioned an experience such as this so close to home and at this time and place. I’m applaud Coach Irwin’s foresight and those that supported that original notion.
Here’s what I recall as members in this Light Weight shell:
B – Ted Fries
7 – Fred Marizon
6 – Jim Walters
5 – Wes Kuipers
4 – Phil Telman
3 – Ike DeKam
2 – Jeff Hoke
S – Steve Christianson ??
C – George Heller ??
My apologies for the front of the boat. It’s been awhile.
I don’t have any other pictures of this significance but may forward press clips when I get some more time. I still plan on being at the new boat house Saturday (10/13) at 9:00AM.
GVSC Class of ’71
Timeline of Grand Valley Crew
• 1964- Rowing was offered as a Physical Education course at Grand Valley for the first time.
• 1966- So much interest was shown in rowing that Athletic Director, Charles Irwin, began holding team practices on Spring Lake.
• 1967- Grand Valley formed its first varsity team and began to race among other colleges.
• 1972- Grand Valley established its own boathouse on the Grand River in Allendale.
• 1981- The rowing teams switched from varsity to club status, but the program was maintained by three passionate varsity athletes from the previous year.
• 1994-1997- Grand Valley Alumni, Barry Klein raced on the National Team.
• 1996- Women’s varsity lightweight 4+ won the Dad Vail National Championship.
• 1996, 1998, 2002- Grand Valley boats raced in England at the Henley Royal Regatta.
• 1997- Men’s varsity heavyweight eight won the LaSalle Invitational and earned a bronze at Dad Vails
• 2004- Women’s Pair won silver, women’s 4 won bronze, men’s 8 finished 4th at the Dad Vails. Grand Valley boats women earned silver and men earned bronze in Zagreb, Croatia at the University Race of Eights.
• 2006- Varsity Women’s Eight won silver, and the team took 5th overall in team points at the Dad Vails.
• 2007- Varsity Women’s Eight won silver at the Dad Vails.
• 2008- Varsity Women’s Eight won silver, Women’s Frosh/Novice Eight and Men’s JV Eight win gold at the Dad Vails and the team takes 2nd Place in Team Points. GVSU wins inaugural ACRA National Club Championship team points trophy as Men’s Varsity eight takes bronze, Men’s Ltwt. four wins gold, Men’s pair wins silver, and Women’s F/N eight wins gold and goes undefeated.
• 2012- Grand Valley alumni, Sarah Zelenka races in the 2012 London Olympics and finishes 4th in the women’s pair event.
• 2013-Grand Valley Women’s Varsity Eight Wins Dad Vail.
Previous Head Coaches
•1964-1966 Charles Irwin
•1966-1968 Jack Anderson
•1968-1970 Steve Orova
•1970-1971 Jim Scott
•1971-1981 Paul Springer
•1981-1984 Bob Sawicki
•1984-1985 Rob Roys
•1985-1987 Brian Brewer
•1988-1990 Jack DeLine
•1991-1992 Doug Urey
•1992-1993 Tom Waukes
•1993-1994 Bradley Holdren
•1995-1996 Casey Haley
•1996-1999 Richard Laurance
•1999-2000 Khalid Senad
•2000-2005 Chad Jedlic
•2005-present John Bancheri
Read the Memoirs by Greg Hartsuff for an in-depth view of life as a Grand Valley Rower.
Previous Team Officers
Previous Varsity Men Rosters
Previous Varsity Women Rosters