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Sunday, July 3rd

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


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

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.


Thursday, June 30th

Athlete: Christopher Doherty
Year & Major: Junior, Exercise Science
Hometown: Traverse City, MI
High School: Traverse City West Senior High
I chose Grand Valley because: The exercise science program is excellent, the campus is beautiful, and I am not that far away from home.

Today was full of excitement for the Laker Navy! This morning was the most relaxing so far: we woke up to send the four off to the course, then I went back to bed and slept in to awake to a sunny day a while later. Taking it at my own pace, I ate breakfast, got dressed up for the regatta with my crew and we went on our way.

The train to Henley was packed. We literally squeezed into the train; when I began to board the woman next to me said “thankfully you’re not fat,” and off we went. When we arrived and made it out of the maze of people at the station, we followed the stream of people to the already busy course. We sent the four off the dock with cheers and applause, wishing the best of luck in their impending race. Thankfully they did not need it.

We made our way down to the viewing area with 2016 ACRA Assistant Coach of the Year Michelle Goodwin to watch the four race. It seemed like an eternity, but finally we herd the announcement that they had began racing. Facing Durham, the tension built as they approached. The announcer slowly updated their progress… “Grand Valley even… one foot ahead… quarter of a length… half a length…” When they finally reached us, about two thirds down the course, they were almost through the rival boat.

Trying to give them an extra boost we started the traditional GV-SU chant on the shore, easily drowning out the Durham fans in front of us (we got some dirty looks). Excitedly we waited for the results. We held our breath and her that the four had won!

We hurried back to the boat tent to congratulate our teammates on their successful race. After some congratulatory handshakes and smiles, we went back to enjoy the rest of the regatta.

Scott and I went to the enclosure and sat down to enjoy some racing. Highlights of the day included Olympic 1x champion and world record holder Mahe Drysdale, Harvard and Cal’s eights, and some Leander crews. After a long day at the course, we headed back to the Henley House.

We are now settling down for the night after a bunch of pizzas that Coach had bought for us. The night has been full of videos and photos, kindly provided by friends of the team Richard and Dot Owen, who also are housing the famous Don and Nancy Lubbers. The Lubbers will be visiting us tonight, it will be nice to be able to put faces to the names I have seen on our boats and meet them in person.

This journey has been a busy and fulfilling one, today was no different. Tomorrow our four is racing at 9:35 AM our time, or for those who will are early birds, 4:35 AM EDT. I am excited for them, so I can only imagine what they are feeling. The feeling around here is a relaxed readiness, I just hope the rest of Henley is ready for us tomorrow.

Athlete: Rob Hiner
Year & Major: Junior, Engineering
Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
High School: Pioneer High School
Favorite Quote: “Just Go”

Today was another successful day for the Laker Navy in Henley. My boat and I woke up and ate a large breakfast in preparation for our race. We then headed to the course and sat in anticipation for our launch time.

Our match up was against Durham, a reputable English crew. The race was a close one that came down to the end. We were able to pull out the win by one boat length. There was a stiff head wind all the way down the course and it was my crews ability to stay long that won us the race. Durham put up a good fight and tried to move on us at several key points during the race but we were able to successfully counter all of their moves and get our bite across the line first.

Our win today matches us up against another fast crew, Edinburgh, tomorrow. The rest of the day was spent laying low, resting, and restoring energy for tomorrow’s race. We soaked in the pool for a while this afternoon to help restore our legs for tomorrow and we ate an enormous pizza dinner. Everything is in order to continue our success. I’m excited for tomorrow’s race, it should be another close one.


Athlete: Austin Gentry
Year & Major: Senior, Philosophy
Hometown: Corona, CA
High School: Santiago High School
After I graduate I plan to: take a road trip through the northern states.

Today I went into Henley and had breakfast with my dad before heading to the Regatta. For a Mexican restaurant in England, I can say that it was sufficiently authentic and provided great sustenance for the first meal of the day. It was a cold, windy, and rainy day, which made being at the regatta without an umbrella and poncho less desirable. Given the less than ideal weather, I left early to head back to our house for a short nap and to ensure that I had warm clothes for our subsequent row after the last race of the day.

I got to the house to find Coach Bancheri preparing dinner for our return, which was great, and he gave me a quick taste before I headed upstairs to relax. After a quick nap, Coach Michelle and I boarded the train to Henley and met up with rest of the 4+ who were patiently waiting for 7:30 pm to roll around so we could launch.

We got hands on our boat, headed to the dock, and launched immediately. We shoved off in some pretty intense wind, which was directly passing downstream. We decided at that point that it was necessary for us to clam up (to reduce the gearing of our oars) because of how stiff the wind would be on our spin upstream. We threw down some solid steady-state strokes and are completely dialed in for our race tomorrow. The men and Karissa are incredibly excited to race tomorrow and to prove that we are a stiff contender for the Prince Albert Cup.


Tuesday, June 28th

Athlete: Rob Hiner
Year & Major: Junior, Engineering
Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
High School: Pioneer High School
I chose Grand Valley because: of its impressive engineering program and it’s beautiful campus. The fact that GVSU has a rowing team also factored into my decision.

Hello Laker Navy fans, followers, and alums! I’m very pleased to report to you from England. Today the team started the day out right with a pancake breakfast prepared by our very own Karissa Cloud and Donnie Jensen. After fueling up on flapjacks we caught the train to Henley for one of our last practices. Once we arrived at the boat tent it was exciting to see that all of our four oars and boat had been branded by official royal Henley regatta stickers.

Once on the water we rowed next to our eight for a few practice starts and sprints. It was nice today because there were stake boat holders out to help with practice. This allowed us to back into the starting blocks and really get a feel for how the start will go on race day. I was very pleased with the practice starts and sprints. The boat is moving faster than it ever has before, it’s ready to race.

After practice I walked into town with some teammates and enjoyed a delicious steak lunch. We then returned on the train to the house where we are staying. I spent the majority of the rest of my day off of my feet, relaxing, reading, and listening to music. The day was topped off with another scrumptious John Bancheri meal. We had Italian sausage sandwiches that we cooked to perfection and will provide the perfect fuel to win some races. For dessert coach Costas whipped up some home made pies for us to all enjoy.

I’m very greatful to be here in England representing my school at such a prestigious event. I’m proud of my team and how far we’ve come. I know that every man (and woman) in my boat is eager to put it all on the line to see how we stack up on the international stage. We are very fortunate to be here and I know that this trip would not of been possible had it not been for the generous help of family, friends, and alumni. I know that every stoke I take on the Thames is thanks to them.

Now I anticipate the excitement of my race on Thursday. I cannot wait to line up next to Durham and race down the course. Thanks to all who made this possible!

Athlete: Simon Klida
Year & Major: Sophmore, Athletic Training
Hometown: Auburn, MI
High School: Bay City Western High School
Favorite Quote: “The higher the carry the truer the strike.” Steve Fairbairn

Hello Laker Navy followers, I am so happy to be blogging to you from here in England. Today started off like most of my days here, waking up to Donnie telling me I am sleeping too long and need to get up. I had a nice breakfast at the Henley house and then it was off to the course for our last practice in the eight. Unfortunately our wonderful 2016 Women’s Assistant coach of the year Michelle Goodwin had the wrong train time and a couple of the guys, and myself, missed the train. It was not a huge problem we just waited a half hour till the next one and the day continued on.

We shadowed the four on the course for three laps. It was a busy day at the course today, but we were able to make the most of it by having some fun while waiting to get to the starting line. We did our pieces and went fast, we got off the water and derigged our boat.

A couple of guys and myself went to lunch at a local bar and I was somehow lucky enough to get a free lunch. From there we headed back to the Henley house on the train. Once home I enjoyed some competitive games of Ping-Pong with Dom and Jack. Also I helped coach John Bancheri prepare a wonderful dinner. Coach Costas surprised us with a yogurt pie for dessert, which was also wonderful.

As I sit here reflecting and the day is winding down I still have a hard time believing that I am here in Henley. I cannot say how blessed and thankful I am to have this opportunity and thank you to all who have donated.


Monday, June 27th

Athlete: Elliot Reith
Year & Major: Freshmen, Communications
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
High School: East Grand Rapids
After I graduate I plan to: get involved in the music industry

What a day it was for the Laker Navy. Waking up early to a beautiful day here in Shiplake was what started the grand adventure. Fueling the day with a great breakfast provided to us by Tom and Debs, our gracious hosts, and we prepared for another hard day of rowing. For the four, it was another standard practice, but for the eight, today meant something more. Today was the day that we were going to do another time trial to prove to ourselves that we were faster than the record showed we were. We felt cheated by the weather, and so we wanted to prove a point to those who doubted us. Todays race was not only to prove a point, but it was a way for us to regain our honor.

We traveled by train to Henley and arrived early to the racecourse. After a stretch session and a motivating speech from Coach B, we were off. The eight took a quick technical lap of the course, ready to go like stallions in the starting gates. The four cheered us on with whoops and hollers from across the water as we approached the starting blocks, practically vibrating with anticipation. “Grand Valley… We have alignment… Attention… GO!”. We were off. We started like a bullet, but soon, fatigue found us. The past few days had taken a toll on us, but we powered through. We all pulled for different things. I pulled for my own honor, to prove others wrong, and for Scott Thorbjornson, the senior who sits in two seat behind me. I knew he deserved an excellent final race, and so I tried my hardest to give it to him. After ripping through the water, feeling the pain in our teeth and muscles and very soul, we finished our piece faster than our time trial time. We had done it. We landed, showered, and headed home for lunch and a well deserved nap.

After a restful mid-afternoon, we dressed up to go out to the Henley reception; a few of us stopping by the local pub to catch the Wimbledon results beforehand. Once at the reception, held at the Henley River and Rowing Museum (a great spot for those who appreciate rowing), we took a few photos, ate a few snacks, and enjoyed the sights of the museum. I loved delving deep into the history of our sport and was amazed to learn about the origins of it. I also enjoyed some social time with my team. I talked with many of the rowers extensively, as well as the 2016 ACRA Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year, Michelle Goodwin. It has been a pleasure to get closer to all of them over training and this trip. One of the officials from the Henley Royal Regatta gave an amazing speech about the experience of it all, and I was more ready than ever to experience the whole pageant.

Once all of our duties at the reception were taken care of, we headed to The Catherine Wheel for some food and shenanigans. Many a laugh was had there, and on the train ride and walk back to the house, making me realize how grateful I truly am to be on a team like this. These men and women are what truly make this sport worth all the work and pain we experience every day. We headed home after dinner and wound down for the night.

I know we are all truly grateful for the opportunity to be here, and so we would like to thank all of you for your support and the donations that made all of this possible. We all hope to continue to make you proud and bring exciting tales from across the pond back to you through these blogs. Cheers.

Athlete: Jacob McLain
Year & Major: Freshman, Communications and Spanish.
Hometown: Harbor Springs, MI
High School: Harbor Springs High School
Best thing about Grand Rapids is: the river. A close second is the people. Everyone in Grand Rapids is surprisingly friendly for a larger city and conscious of those around them.

Good evening, Lakers and Laker Alum. Friends and family of all our rowers. Today in the lovely town of Henley our Grand Valley Rowers shared the River Thames once again with many favorable boat clubs and schools. To start our day off right we indulged in a most generous breakfast from our hosts, Tom and Debbie. After boarding the rail-line from Shiplake we headed into Henley to prepare our boat for one last race down the course before returning it. It was a very noteworthy trial indeed: a gorgeous start, even rate and spectacular length from the oarsmen. But would we expect any less from the fine young men of Grand Valley.

Once off the river we were greeted by our well respected coach Costas Ciungan to assist us in the portage of our eight towards a referred placement of our boat so that we may use it once more in the morning. Hudson, the shell company, was generous as to allow us to use their trailer overnight for storage.

Once leaving the course we were free to do with the day as we pleased. The majority of our crew headed back to Shiplake for a much needed nap and sandwich, myself included. While at rest we played a few rounds of table tennis and unwound in the reading-room.

Not too soon after my nap I was awoken by the news to be dressed in our colors for the international team welcoming ceremony. It took place at the Henley rowing museum just a short walk from town square. After touring a few of the exhibits we were entertained by a speech from one of the local stewards of Henley. At the banquet there were many crews from outside the country. In all there are a total of 27 different countries participating in the Henley Royal Regatta this year, five more than last year. 2016 has been a very busy year for England and a record breaking year for the Royal Henley. Our crews were even graced by the presence of Sir. Steven Redgrave, winner of five Olympic gold medals. After finished with the ceremony the Grand Valley men enjoyed a fulfilling dinner at the Catherine Wheel in the gorgeous town of Henley.


Sunday, June 16th

Athlete: Zack Peters
Year & Major: Junior, Accounting and Finance
Hometown: Royal Oak, MI
High School: Royal Oak High School
Favorite Quote: “Don’t cry over spilled milk.”

Today the men in the varsity eight went to London. It started off with a nice Sunday breakfast at Henley House. We packed for a full day of walking and fun and left to catch the train. We rode the train to Twyford and then to Paddington. Paddington was a huge train station with several tracks going all day. We boarded our train to London and our time in the city had begun.

We started at the British Museum where we saw the Rosetta Stone and many other interesting exhibits. From mummies to clocks, coins and pots, they had it all. Each room was a different region of the world, and let me tell you the rooms were endless. We then rode the tube for the first time after the museum to Trifalger Square where we had lunch by the huge lion statues. I had my favorite: fish and chips.

Afterwords, we walked to Buckingham Palace to see how the Queen was doing. She was fine and apparently not taking visitors. However, there were some nice looking guards with guns around, but we decided to not say hello to them. We took another tube to go see Big Ben and the Parliament building. While we were there we tried to fit all nine of us into a telephone booth for a quick photo opp, it almost worked.

We caught another tube to London Tower to round out the must sees of London. We finished our day at Piccadilly Circus where we had dinner and shopped around. All in all it was a fantastic day full of sights, good food, and good company.

Athlete: Brandon Roberts
Year & Major: Sophomore, Computer Information Systems
Hometown: Dearbourne Heights, MI
High School: Crestwood High School
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: That rowing is hard. It will never get any easier, you just get faster.

This morning started off no different than any other morning for me. Wake up, shower, make breakfast, pack my bag, catch a train to somewhere. Except this morning, we didn’t go to Henley. Today was our day to explore London, and I was excited. To put it in a few words, it was better than I had expected. I’m not really sure what I expected because I had never been out of North America before, but it was awesome! ACRA Assistant Women’s coach of the year, Michelle Goodwin handed us all our “Day-Long Travel Passes” to get on and off the subway/train as we pleased and we were off.

Our first stop was the British Museum of History. Everybody’s “must-see” was the Rosetta Stone, so that’s where we went first. The museum was packed, but as we navigated the narrow hallways with relative ease, we were in and out under 90 minutes and onto the next place. Our next meeting place was set at the statue in front of the British Art Gallery and again, we were off, this time in smaller groups to explore the area.

My group agreed that food was the best option so we settled into a pub for an hour or so for some refreshment. Our tour guide, Coach Costas Ciungan, guided us toward Queen Lizzie’s house, Buckingham Palace, for some neat photo ops. Costas coaxed us down the next street on our way to the next location, but we decided that a rest stop was necessary in order for the group to function as cohesively as it had been before. A handful of us went to the bathroom, Simon, Jack, and I made friends with a pigeon, whom we dubbed “Pigeon Pal”, and Michelle’s parents, Jim and Chris Goodwin, stood at the entrance to the park to keep us on the right track.

Big Ben was next, Parliament was after that, we hung out on a bridge above the Thames for a minute, but the group was starting to drag. It was at that point a plan was made. Tower of London, Food, Home. The end of a long day was in sight. We took another group picture at the Tower of London and took another break to rest our achy, breaky legs.

While here, I learned that the London Bridge is actually called the Tower Bridge, and the London Bridge doesn’t actually exist. Costas decided that Piccadilly was a good idea to go for dinner, so we hopped on another train and split off into groups for dinner. My group spent most of our allotted time at a pub called “The Two Sportsmen”. At that point, we were all pretty much spent. Bakerloo to Hammersmith, back to Paddington station. Once there, we boarded a train back to Twyford Station, then onto Shiplake. Most of us slept. Once we arrived back at the house, the crew of the men’s 4+ had meatball marinara waiting for us.

It was a long day for the Laker Navy, but I had an amazing time. A big thank you to Jim and Chris Goodwin for hanging around the city with us, Costas and Michelle for keeping us wrangled in, Coach B for this amazing opportunity, and all of the donors who helped make this trip a reality.


Saturday, June 25th

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.

Hello there readers. This is Scott with today’s blog. This morning started as usual with a bowl of cereal, pb&j, and a hot cup of coffee. Our team was excited because today we would be racing in the Reading Town Regatta. Reading is a town about 10 miles away from Henley.

To get there we had to row our boats upstream and through 3 locks. These locks were very narrow so we had to pull our oars in, it was quite a challenge to stay in the middle of them and not hit anything. The row up would have been fantastic however we ran into a rainstorm and all of us were soaked through by the time we hit the docks. None of us seemed to mind too much, but I wasn’t dry for most of the day.

Once on land we enjoyed watching the regatta and playing cards while we waited for our race. Our card games were nearly as intense as our races can be, we played many hands of cards and many laughs were had.

In our race in Reading, England we had the privilege to race 3 crews from the USA. One of them of course being Michigan. The other crew was St. Paul’s School from Concord. A short course, only 800 m, we had a good start and was in front with St. Paul. Our race was very tight and we ended up edging out Michigan for second place.

After the race we gathered our things and rowed back down the river to Henley. The row back was much more enjoyable as the weather was clear and we switched a few people around to loosen things up.

Today was a good day and a little sweeter with a victory over Michigan. Tomorrow we head to London to enjoy some sightseeing.

Athlete: Austin Gentry
Year & Major: Senior, Philosophy
Hometown: Corona, CA
High School: Santiago High School
Quote: Quote: “If you want to go fast, you have to be a student of the sport first.”

I woke up this morning at 10am, with 9 hours sleep, and felt like a train hit me. I have been staying up for the past several nights doing work for my final classes for graduation, being sleep deprived and jet lagged for that long finally caught up with me—I certainly felt it after a long night of regenerative sleep. Although I had plenty of sleep, my Coxswain Karissa still had to coerce me from my slumber and woke me up. After a dose of some morning caffeine and washing my face, I was prepared to start my day! I moseyed down the two flights of stairs in this beautiful three-story English country home to make my breakfast. After I felt thoroughly full, I made a packed lunch since the plan for the day was to row up the Thames to race in the Reading Town Regatta.

We took the local train for a quick ride into Henley, where our boats were safely stowed. We threw all of our gear into the boat and launched upstream towards Reading. This was not any ordinary row, however—we had to navigate through a series of three separate locks (with the excellent assistance of our diligently-dedicated Coach Costas Ciungan). It’s a good thing Costas is such a stud because his job for the day was to follow us on the Thames bike trail on a bike that our host-family lent to him, to ease his job of opening up the locks for us. It was a pretty cool experience overall, to go through those locks, and it was a beautiful and scenic row upstream.

When we arrived at the Reading Course, we stowed the boat and oars and headed into the tent where Coach Giovanni Bancheri and, Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year, Michelle Goodwin, greeted us. Coach Bancheri realized that our row upstream consisted of a blustery and cold row, since we rowed through a torrential downpour almost the whole row, and generously offered to buy us a hot drink—which definitely hit the spot, thanks Coach! After drinking my hot tea and eating lunch, I changed into some warm clothes, a few of the guys and I wandered into Reading to check out some local shops. This wasn’t any ordinary walk however; we were, of course, greeted again by this persistent downpour and sought shelter as soon as we could. We conveniently found ourselves in a fabric store and I thought it would be advantageous if we bought some material to create a make shift rain poncho. After the assistance of the hospitable store clerk, we found some table clothes in the back of the store and we fixed up some homemade, extremely effective ponchos. It was quite a hilarious experience overall. After the guys and I had walked for a couple miles, we worked up enough of an appetite to have another meal before we raced.

We got back to the course and hung out for a while before my dad and step-mom arrived. Coach Bancheri filled my father in on a secret—they were able to jump on a referee’s boat to watch the races on the water! While my dad missed out on the launch that followed my race, he still got a free boat ride and was able to watch my race on land. My boat squared up against Baltimore and Durham University in this 800-meter race for the pot—a beautiful polished silver cup inscribed with the text, “Reading Towne Regatta 2016”. The official started our race when the flag went down and we popped out to a small lead in the beginning of the race. We were able to increase that lead and ended the race with a win! It was a great race by all. We pulled the boat into the dock where the very nice Durham crew congratulated us. This is the ironical moment that we found out that they too were racing in the Prince Albert Cup for the Henley Royal Regatta and that they were in our draw for Thursday!

After a quick talk with the coaches, we headed back downstream where we were to meet coach at the tents to receive our reward. We were so excited to see how beautiful the pots are. After we put the boat away and changed into some dry clothes, we headed to The Catherine Wheel, a local restaurant with delicious food, where Coach Bancheri graciously treated the team to a hot meal! The experience in England thus far has been incredible and I’m so incredibly thankful to my sponsors, friends, and family for their support, all who provided me the means and opportunity for me to be here. Now it’s time to prepare for one of the biggest Regatta’s of my rowing career. I am so excited that I have the opportunity to have my last regatta of my collegiate rowing career be at the most prestigious regatta in the world—I’m truly humbled and deeply grateful for this experience. My boat is well prepared, under the tutelage of some excellent coaching, and we are incredibly excited to get out there and strive to row to the best of our ability!


Friday, June 24th

Athlete: Christopher Doherty
Year & Major: Junior, Exercise Science
Hometown: Traverse City, MI
High School: Traverse City West Senior High
After I graduate I plan to: Go to graduate school somewhere in the mid-west for physical therapy.

Today was quite the day. It started off relaxed and east, the morning was spent lounging around, resting for the coming race. There were many eggs scrambled and crossword clues attempted (with mixed success). It was the calm before the storm.

The real excitement began in the afternoon. We left for the course and caught the 1:43 train to Henley-on-Thames. Each day the course has become more and more busy, but today it came alive. There were so many crews there, our event had over 50 entries alone. The energy of crews launching could be felt everywhere. We were only adding too it; the eight was excited and ready to go, finally getting our chance to race.

We were lucky enough to find ergs to warm up on. After breaking a good sweat, we did our prerace stretch and off we went. It was quite tricky to get out, with the number of crews trying to launch for time trials, it was a small miracle we didn’t hit anyone.

The first thing I noticed when we launched was the wind. Standing in the protected tent it was barely noticeable, but the water hid nothing. Apparently it was gusting upwards of 15 mph, regardless every mph was felt. Somehow, despite the less than ideal conditions, we had the most precise, focused warmup that boat has ever had. We were dialed in and ready.

The race started off of a rolling start. The forty second gaps felt like nothing, and before we knew it we were off. Somewhat to my surprise, the headwind hardly effected how we felt. While a little offset, the rate and power were there the entire race. Fueled by our teammates on the shore, we kept tempo until the end. You could feel the determination.

We got off the water and waited. And waited. When the results were released, it took the breath out of my lungs. 12th place, with 11 advancing. Seconds were between us and the 11th crew. Disappointing would be an understatement, but taking a step back put everything in perspective. We took eight guys from three different boats, four 1st year rowers, and threw all of us together a month ago. To go from nonexistent to Henley in one month is quite an achievement.

We have one more race tomorrow at Reading and I know we will be dialed in after today. I’m excited for tomorrow, it will be a good way to let all of the emotions of today out and to race one last time.

Athlete: Jacob McLain
Year & Major: Freshman, Communications and Spanish.
Hometown: Harbor Springs, MI
High School: Harbor Springs High School
After I graduate I plan to: Enlist in the Peace Corps and help others throughout the world as much as possible for several years. With my studies I intend to travel the world and live my life as the next adventure comes. My dream is to one day open an adventure business in South America.

Hello from Henley! Today the GVSU Crew had separate practice with the four and the eight due to our, the eight’s, qualifying time-trial for the Henley Royal Regatta being this afternoon. With that being the case the oarsmen from the eight were given the opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep from the past few jet-lagged days. When we did awake we were greeted with a lovely morning and gorgeous sunshine. To add to this wonderful surprise there had been a very nice breakfast laid out for us by our hosts: Tom and Debbie.

After breakfast the crew spent the morning relaxing in the sun room and sitting areas about the house. Simon Klida and myself played a nice bout of chess while the others read the paper or played music. Once satisfied with chess I decided to make some much needed adjustments of my unisuit before our race. Being one of the novice crew mates to participate in this years Henley campaign I was given an unassigned uniform which happened to be a size too large. Luckily I was able to find a needle and thread in one of the kitchen drawers and used that to hem my uni down a size. It’s a lot better now.

Before leaving on the 2 o’clock train for Henley my mates and I were snacking in the kitchen and noticed on the ACRA website that our assistant coach, Michelle Goodwin, has been awarded the Assistant Coach of 2016 Award. She had been the best assistant coach in the nation during the 2016 season!
Once we arrived at the Leander boat house to practice on the River Thames we secured our spots amongst the many crews which seemed to come out of nowhere.

We did some stretching as a group before Coach Bancheri found us and recommended we find the erg room and get in a quick 15min warmup before getting out on the river (it was a very good decision). While on the Thames the water traffic was horrendous and astonishing at the same time. I have never seen so many expensive boats in one place, and I grew up in Harbor Springs Michigan!

Finishing 12th overall for the time trials it saddens me to say that we did not make the top 11 to move on to the Royal Races. With a well raced head-race and maximum effort from our boat we pulled what we could and did whatever possible with the weather we were given.

Though, as the fine young men we are, a simple close call will not get us down. Yes, it means we will not be racing next week, but we will resume practice tomorrow for our regatta in Reading. Throughout next week we will be challenging other crews in privateer-style ‘Brushes’ to test our panache against our fellow competition.


Thursday, June 23rd

Athlete: Dominic Biolchini
Year & Major: Sophomore, Integrated Science
Hometown: Oxford, MI
High School: Oxford High School
Personal: Family of 6. 4 boys. Thankful for my parents Mike and Julie.

Greetings to all that follow Grand Valley Rowing. It is my pleasure to inform you of the day we had today. My name is Dominic Biolchini and this is my second year of rowing. I am the stroke seat of the men’s 4+ in which we are racing in the Prince Albert Challenge Cup beginning Wednesday. This morning I awoke feeling the time change a bit more than yesterday, but made myself a nice breakfast and packed a lunch for after practice. We caught the 9:28 AM train into Henley and launched for our practice around 10 AM.

That practice we worked on four 50 second pieces to simulate a start, body, body, and a finish. On our 3rd piece of the morning practice, the coach of Yale asked us if we wanted to do a short start piece with the men’s 4+ that they have racing in our event. We happily obliged and managed to take a lead on the piece. We were happy to feel a start from the blocks and have some new things to work on. After that we rowed smoothly into the docks and enjoyed our lunch in a local Costa coffeeshop.

Our second practice we decided to take a two lap swing row which was great to work out some soreness. On that row we only took ten hard strokes which happened to be during a torrential downpour and it felt invigorating to cool off while rowing with that much send. To entertain the many of you who may not row or would like some fun facts from the trip i will let you in on some:

Brush: rowing term here for a short scrimmage

Kip: small nap

To let: for rent

Queue: to wait in a line

Loo: restroom

Pimms: very popular mixed drink

During this time here I have taken some time to reflect and think back to an idol of mine Jimmy Valvano. In a speech shortly before losing his battle to cancer he said, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day”. Last night we laughed ourselves to tears during dinner and in the banter after. Each of us also spent plenty of time in deep thought focusing on our rowing stroke looking to always improve. I challenge each of you to do the same and to be thankful for the people you keep.

Doing a Brush With Dublin

Men’s 8+ doing a brush with Dublin Crew Club


Athlete: Logan Conner
Year & Major: Sophomore, Biomedical Sciences
Hometown: Rockford, MI
High School: Rockford High School
If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Don’t be afraid to challenge or push yourself. You will be surprised on what you actually can do when the time comes.

Today was a very relaxing day for most of us. I am the Coxswain of the 8+ and we only had one practice today at 4 pm. So most of us slept in and possibly overslept until 11 am. We decided to then get up and get the day going.

After a nice breakfast we made our way to the course for a pre-race swing row. We did our row against another crew the University of Dublin Crew. We had a very good short piece and were up a few seats on them by the end of it. After pieces and a little bit of skill work we came off the water and showered then made our way home on the train.

Tonight we are making a Italian noodle dish dinner and I am making my family tradition, Conner Family Garlic Bread, thanks Dad. Tomorrow my boat has a qualifying time trial and we are nervous but excited to see where we stand. I know we will do great and am hoping we can surprise, and even scare, some other crews. It has been a great day and a great start so far.


Wednesday, June 22nd


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!

Just finished day two in England and it was full but fun!

We all got up at 7 am and started with a good breakfast at the house. The host family has been so kind and considerate and we can not thank them enough for graciously welcoming us into their home. Walking down the road to the train station, I am looking around at all of the beautiful homes and seeing something new each day. The train ride is just under 10 minutes and the walk to the course is around 5 minutes; it is convenient to have everything so close by.

Before we got hands on the boat, I put on my life vest that I am required to wear during the row because I am a coxswain. It is a strange feeling to be in the shell while wearing a life vest but by the end of practice I adjusted to it. We lunched and there was more traffic on the water compared to yesterday.

After our warm up and a few strokes at higher stroke rates we turned and moved onto the course. It is still unbelievable to see the course from the water. I’ve only ever seen Henley-on-Thames in pictures and video feed, but it’s even more spectacular in person. For our morning practice, we did two time trials, one during each lap of the course.

After putting the boat down, the men quickly showered on site, and we walked into town to explore. Our big group split up a little and my group stopped at an old church. Inside, we learned that there has been a church on that site since 1200. It was beautiful and candles were lit at the alter. After that, we stopped in little antique shop. The ceiling was shorter than we are typically used to and everyone else had to duck and keep their heads low except for me :) A few shops later and we were hungry. Watching traffic go by, we ate and enjoyed the rest between practices.

Next thing we knew, it was time for our second practice. After a quick meeting with Coach B our boats launched, and it was time for some speed work at race pace. Going down the course at full speed really gave me a glimpse of what it would feel like on our race day. Still more than a week out from our first race but I could not be more excited.

Upon returning to the house I changed and cleaned the kitchen to prepare for cooking dinner. When all of the food arrived with coach from the grocery store we quickly unloaded, turned on the stove, preheated the oven and got to work. Within 20 minutes, our pasta dinner and an appetizer of garlic bread was in the oven. The food turned out amazing thanks to Coach B and after clean up we are off to bed.

It was a very full and fun day, which makes me even more excited for the rest of the days ahead. Thank you to all who donated and helped organize to make this once in a lifetime trip possible. Go Laker Navy!

Athlete: Jack Tucker
Year & Major: Sophomore, General Buisness
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
High School: Forest Hills Northern

Hello! From the Henley house, where we are all currently turning down for the night.

After a long day that started with breakfast, put out by our wonderful host family, that consisted of croissants, breakfast cereal, and French pressed coffee. Following our delicious breakfast we headed off on our brief walk to the train that carried us five minutes down the tracks to Henley-on-Thames.

A five minute walk from the train station brought us to the spectacular view of the Thames from the Henley bridge. Past the bridge we walked past the Leander boat house which we got a tour of our first day at the course. Then we strolled into our bay in the boat house which we share with Yale and Hampton crews.

After a team stretch we launched in our brand new Hudson eight off of the one of the many launch docks outside the boat house. We raced two time trials down the course in a speedy fashion. After practice we showered and took off exploring the town. We found a small antique shop that kept us entertained for quite a while. Then we searched for a place to sit down to eat lunch we had packed in the morning.

The next practice consisted of some short twenty stroke pieces. After practice we hopped back on the train home. Where we had a little bit of free time while our coaches were out buying supplies for our dinner. While we were waiting we took on the challenge of learning cricket after speculating on the right way it is played Dougie (the host families son) came out and helped us learn the correct way to play. What a blast it was. Unfortunately Dom smacked the ball so hard it flew into the thick underbrush of the woods in the back yard. Unfortunately that was the end of our game.

After dinner we had a mini ping pong tournament that led me to writing this blog. I hope you enjoyed my little update of our Henley adventure. I am very thankful for all of the support that brought me here and am very excited for the coming days.


Tuesday, June 21st


Athlete: Zack Peters
Year & Major: Junior, Accounting and Finance
Hometown: Royal Oak, MI
High School: Royal Oak High School

Good evening Laker Navy supporters, family, and friends. My name is Zack Peters. I will be a senior next year and am currently the treasurer of the club.

These past two days have been a whirlwind of excitement for coaches and crew alike. We started our journey at Chicago’s O’Hare airport dressed in our matching GVSU Henley polos. The wait was short and then we flew out to New York’s JFK airport where we would make the leap across the pond. We passed the time sitting in the terminals with some excited chit chat and group crossword puzzles. Although this wasn’t my first time to Europe this is my first time competing internationally. So with anxious minds we departed for the 2016 Royal Henley Regatta.

Upon arrival, Coach Michelle met us with English chocolates and foreign greetings. She led us to our train where we traveled a short trip to our home for the next two weeks in Shiplake. Henley House is a wonderful old home with plenty of room for us to kickback during the day and to sprawl out into the evening. Our kind hosts Tom and Debs, and their three children have an amazing set up for us. They have a pool, a ping pong table, and a large backyard where we will be learning to play cricket later this week. I am curious to see what awesome things are in store for us in the coming days.

After getting settled into Henley House we took another train to Henley to rig and practice. The facility that our boats are being kept in is great. It is right at the finish line of the regatta course. The eight that I rowed in today is brand new. We were the first crew to ever row in it, which was pretty cool. Rowing the couple laps of the course that we did today was a spectacle. As one of the largest rowing events in the world is being set up around us we tried hard to focus in and have a great practice.

After practice we went to Catherine’s Wheel where we ate dinner. The food was good, I personally got a burger and chips. After the meal we rode the train back to Henley House and got some rest to prepare us for our morning practice.

I would like to personally thank all of our donors, parents, and other supporters for making this possible. This is shaping up to be an amazing trip and an even greater experience. We appreciate all that you guys do.

Link to Video

Athlete: Elliot Reith
Year & Major: Freshmen, Communications
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
High School: East Grand Rapids

When we finally touched down in England after a long flight from America, a wave of excitement swept over us all on the Henley squad. For some of us, this is the first opportunity to travel over seas, and so the whole experience is very exciting. We couldn’t wait to row, eat, and rest. But, first things first: the loo.

Once we were all settled, we made our way onto the several trains taking us towards our home in Shiplake, a town near Henley. The home we are staying in has us divided into two groups, one living in the home, and the other living in the apartment above the garage. The owners, Debs and Tom, are both lovely people who, along with their 3 kids and wonderfully spunky dog, have graciously welcomed us into their home. We stopped by briefly just to drop off our luggage, and then straight back to work. The train ride to Henley was short, and once we arrived, we were able to take in the amazing city of Henley. We also were greeted by a smiling Coach Bancheri, whose birthday was today. So, naturally, we all decided to exit the train singing “Happy Birthday” to him. Seeing the Thames, the boathouses, and the other teams we would be competing against really began to bring the whole experience into reality for me. The excitement is rising steadily among the rowers, and we all look forward to the regatta.

Once arriving at the course, we received our tools for competition. Both the eight and the four were gifted with beautiful new skinny Concept 2 oars, the eight having brand new felt handles, and two amazing Hudson boats. The eight we’re racing in is a brand new Hudson Super Predator. It was so new we had to assemble it ourselves, a new experience for many of us. It is a surreal and humbling experience to be given the opportunity to be using such amazing equipment, and it is really a highlight of the trip for me. Going out on the water was strange, because the slides on the boats are so clean that there is no noise when coming up to the catch. This is amazing and frustrating simultaneously, as it is easier to tell how quickly one must come up to the catch by listening to the sound of the wheels in the slide. This new phenomenon has showed me that with the increased standard of equipment, comes an increased standard for mastery and skill when it comes to rowing.

We went out in the eight and made two and a half laps of the course, taking in the view and focusing on the catch with an emphasis on the leg drive. This row included several drills and a few brief pieces in order to test the waters (pun fully intended) on how the rigging of the boat would benefit us as a crew, as well as to see if any modifications had to be made. After some successful time on the Thames, we went to the The Catherine Wheel for a brief dinner, and then back to the homestead for some rest.

The downtime is appreciated by all, but I know that we are all excited to get back out onto the water during our two practices tomorrow. We will continue to prepare for the Henley Royal Regatta all week, and hope to make you all proud back home.


Monday, June 20th


Athlete: Logan Conner
Year & Major: Sophmore, Pre-Med
Hometown: Rockford, MI
High School: Rockford High School

Today was a travel day for the men’s team. Many months of preparation lead up to today. Early morning practices, countless practice plans, and a lot of rent a rowers have all consumed these past weeks of Henley training camp.

I would like to take a second to thank all of those who have helped me get to this point. My extended family, my coaches, those who have provided rent a rowers, but most importantly my parents. They have done a lot for me in order to give me the chance to travel to England to do what I love most. I am forever indebted to them for their love and support over the years, thank you Mom and Dad.

We had a relaxed morning. Around 9:45 a few of the remaining women’s rowers offered to make the men’s team breakfast to send us off. We filled ourselves with delicious eggs, bacon, and pancakes. After, we all gathered up our bags and were off to meet at the RTC for departure in a van to the Chicago Airport. The ride was alright but a few of our bags in the back of the team truck were soaked as it rained on our way down. None the less we made it to Chicago and successfully boarded our plain and arrived at the JFK Airport in New York.

We had a short layover and all grabbed a bite to eat. I have to say we look great as we roam around this airport in our team gear. I have noticed a lot of stairs and plenty of questions about who we are. It feels great to represent our college and country in such a unique way.

I am very excited to race and am anxious to see how we do. I am the coxswain for the 8 and we have a time trial on Friday to make it into the draw for the regatta. It will be tough but I think we have what it takes to move on. These guys have heart, that I know even from the limited time we have had in this lineup. Regardless on what happens this is a trip, which I have looked forward to for a long time, I am extremely excited to be a part of it.

The adventure starts today and I can’t to see what it holds.

Athlete: Donald Jensen
Year & Major: Sophmore, Engineering
Hometown: Grosse Ile, MI
High School: Grosse Ile High School

Finally after 3 weeks of intense training we are on our way to England for the Henley Royal Regatta!

For the past few weeks we have been practicing on our own homemade Henley style course followed with lots and lots of technical work. Now that we’ve put in all our training in the states we are off to England!

The morning started off great with some rowers who were not going to England cooked all of the men a wonderful breakfast before we left. After breakfast we packed everything up and headed to the RTC to meet up and leave for Chicago airport.

It seem surreal that we were finally leaving to go to England. I can barely contain my excitement. A little over three years ago I got the chance to watch Grand Valley’s 1st varsity eight row before they left for the Henley Royal Regatta. The perfect technique and immense power of that crew literally blew me away, and it was at this moment I decided that A) I was going to row for grand valley and B) I was going to do whatever it took to be able to compete at the Henley Royal Regatta just like t that crew did 3 years ago.

Over the past three years I have spent countless hours training for this race, endless hours alone in the erg room, and millions of meters trying to reach the same level of the Grand Valley crews that raced before me. And as I sit here typing this it finally hit me that I finally have done it. Today I leave for England to race in one of the largest and oldest sporting events in the world. All of my years of hard work are paying off as I get to leave today for England.

Many people have supported me thus far and without the help and donations of alumni, family, and friends I would never have been able to make this trip. This will be one of the greatest things I will get to do in my life and I’m so excited I can’t sleep. I can’t wait for our plane to land in England and get to experience one of the greatest sporting events on earth. With this also being my first time ever outside of North America I’m looking forward to seeing new places and a different culture with my friends and teams mates.


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