Spring Break Training 2018 – Athlete’s Journal

President’s Wrap Up

Wrap up picture sunset

Faith Platz, President
Hometown: Grand Haven, MI
Major: Statistics and Economics
Another Spring Break Training Camp in the books! For the final culmination of the trip, we welcomed the University of North Carolina Men’s Rowing Club to scrimmage us on the Tennessee River. Thankfully the rain held off, and we were able to race multiple men’s varsity fours, novice men’s eights, and the varsity women’s eight. All in all, there were about eight boats across the river at once, and we did five short races. It was great to get a first taste of spring racing with so many boats going side by side. We are very grateful that the UNC men were able to join us for our last practice.

This week has allowed so many of us to improve, push ourselves, and break through walls. For a few of the novice men, this was the very first time they had been in a racing shell, but you would not have thought that if you saw them busting it out on the racecourse this morning. After we finished racing, we mingled with the Tar Heels and ate lunch together, then headed back to the hotel to gather our things. With the trailer loaded, we began the long caravan home.

Despite the weather being a bit chillier than we had hoped, at least we weren’t back in Allendale covered in snow (even though we did get a few flakes down here!). We are so thankful for East Tennessee Rowing for allowing us to row out of their boathouse for the week. It was a wonderful, secluded venue where we were able to get lots of great mileage in. As they say, “mileage makes champions,” and the Laker Navy definitely added to the odometer this week. After lots of hard work this week, we know it’s only going to get harder before it gets easier, but that’s okay because it’s officially spring season! As I sit in this 12-passenger van traveling through the wilderness of northern Kentucky, I can’t help but to get excited that two weeks from today I’ll be racing in sunny San Diego, CA. As a senior, every day is one day closer to end of my Grand Valley Rowing journey, and I’m doing all I can to get the most out of every one. Thanks for following along with us this week, and as always, keep pulling for the Laker Navy!

Day 9 – March 10th

Team picture Spring Training 2018

Athlete: Audrey Boersen
Class: Sophomore
Major: B.S. Behavioral Neuroscience
GPA: 3.6
Height: 5’ 4”
2k: 7:12.7
Academic Goal: Attend Medical School after GVSU
Rowing Goal: To compete on a national team

Spring break for the Laker Navy brings about many challenges, both in and outside of the boat. But the crews have pushed through all of the trials, and for that we’ve come out stronger, better, and faster.

We began the week by starting at square one, beginning with the basics of the stoke. We picked apart the release, the recovery, the catch and the drive. Each day had a different discussion topic, and in the following two practices we would try to perfect what we had just been taught. The changes that came about were evident. Each person took something away from these experiences this week. Whether the athlete was a four year senior, or a one semester freshman each person is able to walk away from this training with their head held high, knowing that they improved through the work that they put in this week.

The past few days have been a culmination of the basics, and the work has shown. Our current women’s varsity eight is made up of two seniors, three juniors, two sophomores, and two freshman. One freshman, in particular, showed herself to be a valuable asset to the team, after just one semester of rowing. After a few “early retirements” a few of the novices stepped up, and for them this week has been about making leaps and bounds of improvement, enough to show that they deserve to be considered for the crew that heads out to the San Diego Crew Classic in a few short weeks. While the veteran rowers were skeptical of these new faces and their rowing experience, the freshmen proved it to the team, and to themselves that they deserve a spot in the boat, by making us a faster team than previous years.

Through their hard work and perseverance the novices have shown the veterans that they are a necessary member of the team, and all of us agree that they should be in the boat because each one has made the boat go faster. Our races against the men’s varsity fours have proven this. At the beginning of the week we struggled to keep up with the men, but after our training, and our perfecting of the stroke, we are able to keep up with this group of men, and even surpass them in some pieces. Today the women proved themselves racing against our men’s fours, but also taking on University of North Carolina’s men’s fours. In each piece the women put up a fight, not wanting to be the losing boat, and, while we didn’t win every race, we showed that we are a boat that will battle until the end, no matter what the odds are.

The Laker Navy is gearing up for a competitive spring season. Our training this week was to reacquaint ourselves with the mechanics of rowing as they happen in the boat. Moving from the basics to the fast pace of racing, this week has been in preparation for the Triple Crown races. Every person has poured blood, sweat, and tears into the spring season so far, and each crew has come away faster, ready to face the challenges of the racing season ahead of us. This week has taught us a lot, but there are some very important points that came out of this week. We learned that no matter your size, or your experience, if you are willing to conquer the challenges presented to you, you will come out stronger than ever before. But a more important lesson is that no one person makes a team, the team is the combined effort of every person in the boat to endure through the pain, and to work together to make the bow ball come out in front.

Rowing Womens Team

Jessie Hasenau, Women’s Team Captain
Hometown: Livonia MI
Major: Clinical Exercise Science

13 practices later, we made it. The day began to blur into one big fartlek for me until this morning when we woke up bright and early for our last row of spring break at the Smoky Mountain Rowing Club. Thank you Coach Allen Eubanks for hosting us this week!

Coach Bancheri being good friends with the University of North Carolina’s coach, Micah Boyd, organized a scrimmage with the men’s crews in fours and our women’s varsity 8+ in the mix. Did the women hold their own? Of course. Did we take a small lead? Perhaps. Still there were some very fast boats, great energy, and improvements made by novice as well as varsity. We worked on our high carry over the waves and the wakes that 2 speedboats generously delivered to us during races. It’s fine, GV can row through anything. Not to mention we had 3 novices in the women’s varsity eight! With this long week of technical rows, seat races, and scrimmages it was exciting for us to measure our current speed going into the spring season.

After a quick lunch with UNC we jumped in the vans to change at the hotel and check out. With the vans packed tight and full tanks of gas we set off at 12:30pm in a 5 car caravan behind the trailer where I am blogging to you live right now. With plenty of van ride games and rtc playlists the drive should go by fast and get home to our cozy beds late tonight. Although we do lose an hour…Don’t forget to set your clocks an hour forward!

Go Lakers!

Jake Jones Pair

Jake Jones
Criminal Justice
Onondaga, MI

Today was our last day of spring training in Louisville/Alcoa, Tennessee before heading back to Michigan to start our spring racing season. As per usual the last day practice was spent doing pieces and seat racing, this is always exciting because everyone is ready to go fast after a long week of technical work. This year we were joined by the University of North Carolina Rowing Club men’s team, this added another level of excitement and energy to the morning. We had been doing a lot of inner-squad racing over the past week and were excited to have new opponents to test our speed against. We started the morning as usual with leaving the hotel at 8am and heading to the course, shortly after we arrived at the course UNC arrived and joined us in the boathouse.

After brief introductions we launched and headed out to start the practice for the day. All of the varsity men were in fours, novice men in eights, and GV varsity women in their eight. All crews warmed up then came together and lined up to start the racing, we did five races that were each five minutes long. After the racing was done we headed back to the dock and had lunch with the UNC men. After lunch we parted ways with UNC and packed up and hit the road to head home. I thought this was a productive spring break, we got a lot of miles in and some technical work as well. I look forward to the spring racing season and seeing how the team does at the triple crown regattas.

Novice Men's Pair

Chris Markules
Grand Rapids, MI
Exercise Science

The last day of spring break, words no college kid wants to hear, but sadly for our group, today was the day. The morning started with a quick breakfast and a rushed packing. Next, we were off to the course to meet North Carolina for racing. They were great competition, really made us focus on our technique and power. The Novice Men team really came together as a group during this race, we rallied together to motivate ourselves to rip as hard as we could. Being a novice in my first semester in rowing I learned so much such as what must be done by each rower consistently to make the boat go its fastest. After the race, we mingled with all of the UNC kids talking about what their spring training has been like. All in all, it was a great week where the team really bonded and got a lot faster, but now we are headed back to the cold of Michigan in the vans.

Coach John with mega phone

Coach John Bancheri (14th year)
Hometown: Atlantic City, NJ
Major: History Area Studies and Social Science
Minor: Coaching
Masters in Liberal Arts

Last day of spring training 2018 at the East Tennessee Rowing Organizations Smoky Mountain Rowing Club. Coach Allen Eubanks has been a great host and very supportive of our endeavor.

Today coach Micah Boyd and his North Carolina Tar Heels came up to scrimmage our crews in 1500 pieces. The North Carolina men’s four won the Head of the Charles in the fall. Therefore they were a great benchmark to measure our development and current speed.

I was pleased with the direction of the outcomes. With a few changes, I believe we have found correct combinations as we move forward into the racing season.

I was especially pleased with our Varsity Women’s 8 who hung with and beat some of the men’s fours. After getting a good whipping from the Michigan State Varsity women, our Ladies continued improving. Today in relation to our fours they were are markedly faster. Not bad with two novice sitting 3 and 4 seat.

It has been a great week for everyone and we all learned a lot. I’ve been coaching now for almost 40 years and this Camp was as productive as any I remember. The top level athletes we have will make a fast 8. They will represent the Laker Navy this spring to the best of their ability.

Go Lakers!

Day 8 – March 9th


Cass Bruins, Women’s Team Captain
Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO
Major: Exercise Science

Hello from Alcoa, Tennessee!
We have had quite the week so far training in all sorts of weather and water conditions. Luckily, today we woke up to a sunshiney, calm, flat water day and utilized it for what we call a “Darth Vader” row (30k+) for the morning’s practice. AND we got to sleep in an extra hour- whooo hoooo! This morning’s practice was definitely one for the books. While it was quite a long row, my boat got in so many good strokes and learned a lot about the run of the boat and how to perfect it. These longer rows my be challenging for the mind and body but they help the athletes really get a feel for the boat and how changing little aspects of technique can make a huge difference.

This afternoon we came back to the course a bit early to clean up and start loading the trailer fro our departure tomorrow. After everything was squared away we hit the water in a Women’s 8+, and Men’s 8+, and a Novice Men’s 8+ for a swing row. After some tech work we lined up for a few starts against each other. The women’s boat did amazing against the boys and I am very proud of how far we have come even just on this trip. These starts and 40 second pieces are some of my favorite workouts because we really get competitive and I personally excel in the length and power drills and the start sequences.

When we arrived back at the hotel after practice the team provided pizza, but myself and a few other women walked across the street to Ruby Tuesday for the unlimited salad bar because we just needed some greens in our lives today (and the peach tea there is delicious).

This week of training has been quite the roller coaster of sun, snow, racing, and drills but in the end, we are all getting much faster and improving our technique immensely, and I cannot wait to see how far we go in the spring season!

Until next time, y’all!

Rowing in the evening

Jacob Spiess
Hometown: Whitehouse, OH
Major: Exercise Science

The week is finally coming to a close as we round out what seems like a long camp. Today we rowed 20 miles in total in the morning as a closing to the testing and training throughout the week. In the afternoon, we went for a swing row to prepare us for the racing tomorrow against UNC. This week has been exciting as we get ready for what will be an exciting spring season and eventually a trip to Henley. Before that, however, we have to test what we’ve learned against UNC as they begin they’re spring break.

This week has been a mix of fun, hard work, and competition. With a steady mixture of seat racing, drills, and steady state we’re gearing up for the near future that is the sprint season. You can see the excitement on each rower’s face as they talk about how close we are to the spring races. Although we’re excited to get there, we know that a lot of prep and conditioning goes into those competitions and that starts here. Not only is it the drills and racing that works, it’s the team bonding, the jokes before practice, and the nights spent at dinner or playing games that make winners. That all starts at this camp, the unity formed through this camp is what will carry us through the final 500 at ACRA when we’re exhausted and at our limits and still down a seat.

I can honestly say that spring training has prepped us for UNC and has become a spring board for what will be a good season.

Novice Women

Faustine Sutton
Hometown: Memphis, TN
Major: Allied Health Sciences – Pre PA

Waking up an hour later this morning made for a great start to the day. We didn’t have a chalk talk this morning, so we went straight on the water when we got to the boathouse. We(the novice and some varsity women) were in an eight boat together. Dan laid out what we would be working on before we headed out in order to mentally prepare us for what needed to be fixed. He told us we need to focus on balance out of the catch, feathering away all at once, and not rushing up the slide. He also wanted to take every small thing we’ve worked on this week and put it all together with a long row.

Once on the water, it was a lot harder said than done to set the boat as an eight. We rowed continuously, alternating from 6’s to 8’s on the feather. The boat started off rough and unbalanced, but by the end of the first practice, our balance became better and we ended up getting more comfortable as an eight.

Our final practice of the day was short but helpful. We split into two fours, which helped us get more miles in and focus on what we learned during the week. I definitely noticed improvement in my technique, as well as my teammates’ technique, by the end of the day.

Picture of Dan and Coach Lauren with boats

Coach Dan Martin
Hometown: Arlington, Virginia

It’s an exciting Friday night in Alcoa, TN – I’m sitting in my hotel room, eating cold pizza and watching my Virginia Cavaliers advance to the ACC Tournament final. At the end of a long week of two-a-days, it’s about all I’m capable of doing; on the other hand I’m well aware that all our athletes are feeling even more drained. There’s no question that it’s been effort well-spent: every practice we’ve come off the water better than we were when we launched.

I’ve been working with a mixed group of athletes through the week, with the 2V women joining the novice squad for about half of our practices. We’ve been out in 4’s and 8’s (and on one memorable day, a mixed 6+ featuring our men’s double in the stern) and taking a ton of strokes by partial boats – with a heavy technical focus all week, having the extra stability has been crucial in our development. Along with the points that Coach B has emphasized in his morning chalk talks, our primary theme has been ‘doing our work in the water’. I like to joke that rowers are fundamentally lazy – 60% or more of our time in a race is spent on the recovery, very consciously not working – and as a result, we want to make sure that the effort we do put in goes directly towards making our boat move.

I’ve been very impressed with the progress the athletes in my group have made. They’re working on some fine details – a shift of a centimeter in finish height, for instance – but they’ve been locked-in and focused throughout the week. It’s been gratifying to see these athletes, even at the end of a hard week, bringing such a high level of attention to their craft each day. I’m looking forward to returning to our home on the Grand so we can build on the foundation we’ve established here.

Day 7 – March 8th

Varsity Women in an eight

Melissa Frank
Oswego, IL
Major: Biochemistry
Today, the team was back to our normal schedule of eating breakfast between 7 and 8, heading out to the course at 8 for our first row of the day. In two fours, the novice women and the 2v women headed out battling the cold and snow to practice putting everything together that we had focused on for the beginning of the trip: posture, body prep, timing, control, the catch and the release. We did multiple different stationary drills to focus on putting everything together. Between drills we did some steady state rowing in order to warm up. After that practice, we ate lunch at the course and headed back to the hotel to sit in the hot tub and warm up and get feeling back in our hands and toes!

We had a quick turn around after the morning practice and headed back to the course at 2:30 for some steady state. In an eight, we went out to battle the water and snow once again. We started with our usual pre-race technical warm up and rowing on the square, and then did a nineteen-minute pyramid downstream. After that we rowed back to the boat house, by sixes, and by all eight. On our way back from practice, we decided to go to Chick-Fil-a! So, we had 5 minutes to run back into the hotel change, grab our wallets, and head out to get some food!! And then I personally settled in for the night, to watch some Netflix and sleep.

Sal Bancheri

Salvatore Bancheri
Hometown: Allendale, MI
Major: Accounting
I woke up this morning at 7:30 having to leave for practice at 8. Yesterday morning we had to leave by 6:45 to scrimmage against Georgetown, in which we held off their second varsity boat in our last piece. Today was a lighter practice and was focussed more towards stationary drills and some steady state. It was really cold out in the morning and pretty choppy out on the water. During practice, I learned when striking from the balance you need to keep your hands level and parallel with the oar-lock which also keeps the boat balanced and we also focused on striking to the balanced and how to gradually square into the catch in a way that makes your catches feel like the water is catching your blade in the water. After morning practice, we headed back the hotel and grabbed some lunch and enjoyed the hottub, which felt really good on my muscles after pieces from the day before. We went to the course again around 4 and worked on the same drills and technique as before. We rowed all eight in our novice boat with our 3 and 4 seat having no experience on the water and had gotten in a boat for their first time this past Saturday. The set of the boat wasn’t too bad and we got moving pretty fast at one point. After practice, some of the coswains and other guys on the team went out to Applebees for dinner and ended the night with some half off milkshakes from sonic. Overall, it was a very productive day; I learned alot more about the sport of rowing and felt the guys in my boat and myself grew together as a team, which makes me look forward to practice tomorrow morning.

Novice Women and 2nd varsity 8

Annie Stefanich
Hometown: Armada, MI
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Today it felt like we traveled back to Michigan. There was a high of 38 and snowfall. You know it cold, when we are begging to row. We began the day by having a team breakfast before heading to the launch site.

Once we arrived at the course, we had a team stretch and a chalk talk about correct and incorrect shoulder orientation that affects the balance of the boat. We were also reminded to lean into the rigger and to have proper posture at the catch and release. Coach B discussed the drills we would be working
on during practice. He taught strike to the balance which is feathering with hands away at the release and strike from the balance which is squaring and planting the blade in the water at the catch.

On the water, we worked on maintain balance through the drive and the release by keeping blade heights the same and applying pressure to the face by having the hand accelerate into the body. Alternating between steady state and drills. Varsity and novice women took out an eight and two fours and the varsity men took out two fours and the novice men took out an eight.

We finished the morning session by strapping down all the large boats and putting all the small boats on the trailer due to the high winds. The team had lunch and headed back to the hotel for a break.

During the second practice, women 2V went out in an eight and did a long, steady state row. Rowing by sixes, rotating pairs, rowers worked on correcting individual mistakes in blade work and posture for the 90 minute practice.

Overall we had a good day, despite the colder weather, we made many improvements with our blade work which really helped to balance the boat.

Day 6 – March 7th

Rachel Keller
Hometown: Carol Springs, IL
Major: Clinical Exercise Science
Today was a early start for the Laker Navy. All crews left at 6:45 AM, with the men heading to Oak Ridge to practice and race with Georgetown. The women went to the boathouse and went out for a long steady state and technical row. The row was very challenging as we battled high winds, low temperatures, and huge waves! I was in a four and our practice was focused on drawing high into the body, feathering away, and balance. We all had a great practice despite the conditions, and are looking forward to our night off.

Our night off in Gatlinburg was very relaxing! We got there around 2:30 and left around 7pm. There was something for everyone: hiking, shopping, and site seeing. The team favorite is the Smoky Mountain salt water taffy. We all stocked up! It was a great night off and I always look forward to our time in Gatlinburg. With a few more days left of spring break, we are taking advantage of our time on the water and half priced Sonic shakes!

Novice Men's 8 hard at work

Ryan Overholt
Hometown: Naperville, IL
Major: Information Systems
Today, we woke up extra early to get the men’s team over to Oak Ridge to race with Georgetown on the course there. I was working with the novice women’s team today, as I am coming back from a lengthy injury.

It was very cold today, but I was excited to get into a sweep boat for the first time all year after rowing a double all week. I put on all my layers and rowed away in the cold at stroke seat. It was extremely windy and the water was whitecapping sometimes into my lap but I learned a lot today. I could coach my own blade a lot, and found myself backing the blade in poorly. I worked on squaring early and catching with my knees and by the end of practice, I felt like I had so much more power at the catch and top quarter of the stroke.

After rowing for almost 3 hours, we went back to the hotel to prepare to go to Gatlinburg! I took a very very hot shower to warm my feet up and put my layers back on. After a fun van ride, we arrived at Gatlinburg and I walked around town, stopping at a few shops and attractions. I got some amazing Tennessee barbeque at Bennett’s Pit BBQ! I didn’t go hiking because of the cold, but I wish I did! It was a very fun afternoon and a good break from practicing twice a day all week. I’m excited for the second half of the training trip coming up!

Freshmen Oar Noah Lasky

Noah Lasky
Hometown: Midland, MI
Major: Biomedical Science
Wednesday morning was a change of pace for us all as we had to get up and prepare to leave by 6:45 am instead of the usual 8:00. This was due to a change in schedule for the men as we went to workout with Georgetown’s 1V and 2V while the women just had regular morning practice.

All of the men packed into two vans and made our way to Oak Ridge, where we would proceed to do 6x2000m pieces with a rate cap of 18-24 strokes per minute against Georgetown. Being a novice man, this was quite a challenge for us as this was really our first time rowing with all 8 and we were challenging 3 other varsity crews. However, we managed to have an overall successful workout as we progressively got better with setting the boat throughout the workout and were able to hang with our varsity boat and Georgetown’s 2V for most of the pieces.

After our workout, all of the men went to feast on a Chinese buffet, my two favorite words, and then we showered up and left to go to Gatlinburg for a fun, relaxing afternoon. A group of friends and I mosied around all of the stores looking at all the unique trinkets they sold and debated whether or not to buy brass knuckles for $8. We also came across a sock shop which is where I spent the majority of my money. To round out our trip we stopped at Five Guys, one of the finest eating establishments ever established for eating. Then we packed up the vans and headed back to the hotel for the night.

The night wrapped up with a little hot tub action and some rather intense Super Smash Bros gameplay. I’m very excited to continue practicing and getting better with my team and am looking forward to facing off against North Carolina on Saturday.

Day 5 – March 6th

John Bancheri, Head Coach
Hometown: Delia, Italy
Major: History, Rowing

I have been doing these “chalk talks” for years. There is no script. I go off the theme of the day or the week. In this case we were reviewing the recovery phase of the stroke and “poise” in preparation for the entry of the blade and the drive phase. The concepts of the Quats, 7 lbs. Off the seat. The push, the Impulse and the whip.

I am a big believer of 20 minutes of instruction on land is worth two hours on the water. I’ve had a lot of fun over the years doing these chalk talks and I thank my mentors like (Robert Garbutt, Stan Bergman, Michael Thompson, Rudy Wieler, Larry Gluckman, Jimmy Joy, etc) who taught me the art of coaching. There are a few times one might question the phrase used and I say you are correct, that may not be scientifically correct. The reality is there are many anomalies in rowing. I use very visual cues to illustrate the point, as well as use those phrases to focus on tactile response. As Coach Tim McLaren says, the 4 most important words in coaching are, “it feels like this”.

Thanks to my model oarsman, Matt Collins (3rd year), my assistant coach for the video, Costas Ciungan, our coaches Dan Martin, Lauren Holben, to our host Coach Allen Eubanks and the Smoky Mountain Rowing Center.

Ben Willliams Senior Rower

Benjamin Willims, Men’s Team Captain
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
Major: Political Science

Day 4 here in Tennessee was an eventful one. Coach B spoke with Michigan State’s women so we could have a scrimmage with them. With that being the plan, we spent our first practice working on technique, and racing each other near the East Tennessee boathouse. It was a really nice overcast morning, and even though the ground was wet, we didn’t have to deal with any rain. The flat water made for some great rowing, and the Varsity squads got to go toe to toe for a while.

In the afternoon, we headed out to the course at Oak Ridge to begin seat racing and selection for the Spring boats. This is always a stressful time, but the change of scenery was nice. The men were in fours and the women in eights piecing against MSU’s Varsity women. We began the pieces out of the way of the race course on a long stretch of water, cracking jokes during rest time despite the level of intensity we were operating at. The sun had come out at this point, and it was a gorgeous day.

Upon finishing the racing, we headed back in and loaded up the trailer for our short trip back to ETRO. Some boats will be here again tomorrow, but most of us are excited for the trip to Gatlinburg .

Map of rowing path

Elizabeth Greve
Hometown: Dexter, MI
Major: Allied Health Science

Today began our fourth day of spring break training. Per usual, we began our morning practice with a chalk talk. Today Coach B talked about posture and power: how posture proceeds power as having proper posture provides you with the setup to achieve maximum power. Coach also demonstrated the importance of leaning into your oarlock in order to prevent your rigger from rising so that the boat can be as balanced as possible. He emphasized how important it is for each member of the crew to do this, as one side of the boat not doing this will cause the boat to tip to the opposite side, making it harder for the rest of the crew to row and ultimately slowing down the boat. With these things in mind, the crew took to the water, eager to apply what we had learned.

The varsity women rowed alongside the varsity men for the morning row. We did the majority of the practice with feet out in order to work on maintaining connection with the footboard. We alternated between doing drills and short pieces by 4’s, each time trying to stay ahead of the men’s boats. We finished the practice with all eight rowing (the first time we have done that yet this spring). This was very exciting for me as this is the first time I have been in the 1V and rowed by all eight. It was cool to see how good the boat felt and I’m excited to see how we can continue to improve.

After a break in the afternoon, the women and varsity men returned to Oak Ridge to do pieces with the MSU women’s team. The women did 3×5 minute pieces. It was great to have a competitive opportunity like this so early in the season and against a team as powerful as MSU. Everyone learned a lot in terms of where we can improve both as a crew and individually. The main things I took away from the scrimmage were the importance of staying calm and focused when racing as this will allow you to row the best that you can, as well as the importance of giving it your all in training both on and off the water. As coach said in his chalk talk, posture provides power on the water, but so does physical fitness on the erg and through other forms of training, and both are equally important in determining who will win a race.

Today was definitely one of the most intense days we have had thus far during the trip, but the crew learned a lot and are excited to get back on the water tomorrow to continue making improvements and to keep getting faster!

Erin Vielbig - Novice Women

Erin Vielbig
Hometown: Fowlerville, MI
Major: Public and Non-Profit Administration

After a continental breakfast, we headed to the course and started our AM practice with a chalk talk from Coach B. He reviewed the points made earlier this week, and brought them all together to stress the importance of posture, touch and balance. When we got out on the river we were in an 8, where we spent a fourth of our time feet out, to stress staying connected through the entire stroke, especially during the swing. We worked diligently through drills and did 5 minute pieces throughout our practice. These were done by 6s both feet in and out, at a high stroke rating. This practice was meant to gear us up for a race against MSU at Oakridge later today.

After a lunch and rest at the hotel, we made our way to Oakridge, where we got to experience new views and see where the TN trip used to be. The races went well considering we have yet to row by 8s this week. We noticed improvement throughout these races, and walked away with a few key things to work on.

Tuesday was a great day and we made long strides; however, one of the best highlights came this evening, A group of us went to Bdubs, where we discovered BOGO boneless wings, suffice to say, we were ecstatic. The surprises kept coming, and we learned shakes and floats were also half off at Sonic! We stuffed ourselves with discounted foods in celebration of the week thus far, and in anticipation in the days to come. We ended the day the same we started, as a close-knit group who loves a good deal.

Day 5 – March 5th


Emily Gilbert
Hometown: Allen Park, MI
Major: General Business
It was a beautiful morning in Tennessee for rowing. The varsity women went out in fours with the varsity men in pairs. We did many drills working on our blade work. One drill was the circle drill where one side rowed in a full 360 degrees and tried to see who could make it in the least amount of strokes. Rachel Keller and I won with 23 stroke and the winner of the men was Ben Williams. We also got videos of our rowing to look at later and learn from. After our morning row we went back to the hotel for a quick turn around before the afternoon practice.

In the afternoon the varsity women were again in fours and ready for seat racing. 6×3:00 was the workout for the afternoon, switching the lineups after each piece. It was our first time rowing all four, we really had to focus on our handle heights and blade work to keep the boat set. We were able to put the drills and technique we worked on in the morning to use while testing our strength in the boat.

Adam K Freshmen Rowing

Adam Kolakowski
Hometown: Wyandotte, MI
Major: Business Economics – Real Estate

Today we had another fairly early wake up. We ate breakfast at 7 and promptly got off to practice at 8. Now that we’re starting to finally get in a groove, everything seems to be going way more smoothly. We started with an early morning chalk talk with Coach B. talking about picturing the blade as a hinge. The main talk was about how the top edge of the blade travels in a rectangle where the bottom edge not only feathers to the top edge, but travels in an elliptical path. We soon then got on the water.

As a novice man, we have taken things fairly slow so far. We have been rowing on the square at all times, until today. Our practice lasted two hours with the first hour being stationary drills hammering in proper feathering into us. After finishing up our stationary drills we promptly went for a steady state row pausing every few strokes to emphasize feathering before taking the next stroke. Overall the morning practice ended up being one of our most productive practices so to date.

After taking a nap, I returned with the rest of the novices to our evening block. With a quick warm up, we went straight into our workout. Without hesitation, we just rowed, and rowed, and rowed. We did not go as far as the varsity did the first day but we went an estimated 24,000 meters. We rowed by 6’s the entire time where we rowed on the square on the way down and on the feather on the way back. We had just learned how to feather again in the morning so this row was extremely important. To date, including the fall, I believe this was the most productive practice because we were able to just row and figure out our own issues.

After practice we got back and a few of us Novice guys went out to Ruby Tuesdays. That was completely irrelevant but I needed a transition into me talking about our team bonding game we played tonight. We played Chubby Bunny. For those who do not know what it is, you stick a marshmallow in your mouth, say chubby bunny, and repeat until you cannot say it anymore. I tied for second with Matt Collins with a solid 9 total marshmallows; but Noah Lasky, a fellow novice, topped us with an impressive 10. Overall today was an extremely productive day for us and we still have almost a full week of training left.


Carmen Martinez
Hometown: Madrid, Spain
Major: Social Science
Today was the third day of Spring Break Training, and as we literally say in Spain, it was a “doggy
day” (día de perros) which means that it was cloudy and windy.

We started off with Coach B’s chalk talk about feathering which involved way too much geometry than I’m comfortable with, being a social science major.

On the water with the novice women, we rowed in circles (literally) to get the mechanics of feathering down, which everybody seemed to pick up quickly.

During the afternoon session, with the boathouse full of high school kids, we managed to get on the water without any incidents. We rowed without using our outside hand, so we didn’t move it while we did the feathering. And then we kicked it up a notch by going harder on the way back.

So all in all, it was a productive day which involved a lot of feathers and chickens (which I learned what people meant by).

Day 3 – March 4th

Elliot River morning
Elliot Rieth
Grand Rapids, MI
Public Relations

Today began chilly and bright. With the possibilities of the day ahead of us, the team gathered for breakfast in the lobby before heading to the course. Once we reached the launch site, we all gathered around for a very in-depth “chalk talk” by Coach Bancheri about the drive sequence, among other important rowing concepts. Using the erg arm to show what the effects of these techniques would be on the water, Coach walked us through the importance of logical sequential order of the muscle groups and how that relates to the rowing stroke. After a few more examples of why this concept is important and the effects that it has on performance, we hit the water for our first practice of the day.

During the first practice of the day, we fought waves and wind to perfect our technique. With the men in fours and the top women in an eight, we went through many different iterations of placement and bob drills to work on length, timing, and proper recovery technique. After this, we took to rowing steady state to calmer waters where we were able to then work on power and the drive sequence in more optimal conditions. After a long morning of technique and power work, we headed in for lunch.

We finished the morning with a nice lunch and then headed back to the hotel for a break. A few of the men and I headed to Walmart and picked up a few snacks to munch on in between practices. After we had finished, we headed back to the hotel to play Super Smash Bros on GameCube till practice, an age old tradition. I ended up falling asleep on the floor of my hotel room and was suddenly awakened to the news that we had to go to practice. So, I quickly changed and drove some of the men to practice.

During the second practice of the day the men were back in fours, and the women were split into an eight and a four. We spent the evening continuing our focus on the drive sequence, while incorporating a little bit of competition. Coach B had us do a little bit of “battle paddle” to see who was pushing the hardest, but, more importantly, who was getting the best grasp of the technique we had been working on. The weather was fantastic this evening. The sunset was wonderful, wind was minimal, and the temperature was just warm enough to enjoy a nice row home.

All in all, today was excellent, and I look forward to how the rest of this trip is going to go.

Women rowing mansion tennessee

Linda Goldberg
Schaumburg, IL
Allied Health Sciences

Our second day of the Tennessee training camp started bright and early with a chalk talk led by coach B. Over the course of the next half hour, we were walked through technical work on the drive, recovery, and blade work. With this, I learned that finishing with your legs and arms at the same time made for a more efficient boat. When coming out of the catch, it is important to start the drive sequence with your legs, back, then arms, this sequence allows for “7 pounds off the seat.” Also, ergs do in fact float on water. After this, all of us got ready to row with our teams. As a fill in coxswain, it is very interesting to see how these technical drills come into play, and how dramatically they effect the boat.

The novice women went out in an eight boat for about two hours. We used drills and rowed by 6’s to work on what we were taught. Once we were all docked all of the boats we had lunch, then went back to the hotel so we could rest up for the evening practice. During this time, the novice women took out a four boat and focused on feathering and hands away. Overall, today’s practices were very beneficial and worth while.

sunset row afternoon

Colin Johnson
Battle Creek, MI
Criminal Justice

Day 2 was a day full of learning and reorientation of rowing on the water. We started the am practice Coach B gave a great chalk talk about the drive where at one point he explained the box which was new for me. After that the novice 8 went out and did drills for the drive that I thought were very predictive.

After practice the team made a trip to Walmart for some snakes and basic necessities afterwards Brandon and I made a run to Bojangles a fast food chicken restaurant that I have been wanting to try for a while.

I loved the pm practice as it was a 20k steady state by 6s it really gave me a chance to work on my power, length, and backing the blade in. We also got a chance to look at the houses along the river and for a person who enjoys architecture I really liked it along with finding new parts of the Tennessee River.

We finally ended the day with 14 of us eating dinner together at a local Mexican restaurant which was a nice way to wined down the day. Today got me really excited to see what the rest of training camp has in store.

Day 2 – March 3

First chalk talk

Madison Evans
General Business
Fenton, MI

FINALLY We have arrived at East Tennessee Rowing Club’s boat house to kick off the first day on the water. After a lengthy unloading of the tailor and re-rigging all the boats coach gave a chalk talk. He started it off speaking in Italian and then related it to rowing by linking it to how we have to understand the language of rowing to be a part of that culture. Then he went on to re-explain the key fundamentals of rowing and how the smallest things in the boat make the biggest impact on ones’ performance. I was lucky enough to have practiced with the varsity men in fours as we set out on our first 30k of the week on the beautiful Tennessee river. The rowers mainly focused on posture and timing along with length and power for the two hours we spent on the water. After getting off the water, we had lunch and returned to the hotel for some down time. The second session of the day was a unique learning experience for me as I had the chance to witness practice in the launch with coach B, and that session we focused on one hour of skill and drill and headed in for the night. All in all, the first day of break was long but a great start.

Varsity women

Mya Diffenderfer
Laotto, IN
Radiation Therapy

Let’s just say, after not arriving to the hotel until 3 am, and then waking up 4 hours later for practice, being tired was an understatement. We left for the river at around 8:30 am for the morning practice. You could say I was a little nervous when as a novice coxswain, Coach B told me I was going to be coxing a men’s varsity 4 boat. However, I learned more today than I ever thought I could in one day and it was so fun!

I spent the first half of the Darth Vader piece in the launch with coach B enjoying all the many beautiful houses on the river and even stopping to take some pictures of him in front of his favorite house. I coxed the last half of the piece and even though I may not have done very good, I learned a lot! In the evening practice, I coxed a varsity women’s four and learned how to read where the wind is blowing and how it affects the boat. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week has in store!

Coaches Cox meeting first day

Matthew Collins
Grand Blanc, MI
Sports Management

The Laker Navy woke up groggy after a long day of traveling yesterday but ready to start Spring Break training on a great note. After enjoying breakfast at the hotel while discussing the highlights of our respective van rides, we headed to the East Tennessee Rowing boathouse to begin our morning session. After arriving and rigging all the boats, Coach Allen from ETRO welcomed us to their boathouse and laid out the ground rules. But mainly, he just wanted us to enjoy ourselves. Coach Bancheri had one of his trademark Chalk Talks that refreshed our memories of the reason for each part of the boat, which was especially good a few novices who would be hitting the water for the first time, but is just as beneficial to varsity members. For the morning practice, we embarked on what has affectionately been called the “Darth Vader Row.” This lengthy row is mainly for us to get our sea legs back as the Laker Navy has not been on the water for 3 and a half months. While trying to fight the wind, we ventured up some new water that I have not been on at my time at Grand Valley.

This was the time where we starting establishing landmarks on the shore to help us gauge the distance we cover throughout the week. After rowing approximately 14 kilometers upstream, we spun around and made the trek back. While doing this, the men rowed in 4’s by pairs and the women rowed in an 8 by sixes. We battled the entire row to make it back to the dock first. After we docked, put the boat away, and scarfed down some lunch at the course, we headed back to the hotel. I took a much needed nap, but was awakened as the men’s team gathered before our second practice to watch a commencement speech giving by a Navy SEAL. We learned some valuable lessons from this video such as always finding hope even when things get rough and no matter what you have (i.e. equipment, height), you can succeed if you put your mind to it. At the second session of the day, the varsity men took out 4 pairs and worked on the recovery sequence.

Specifically, I focused on body preparation which will reduce the tendency to speed up the last quarter of the slide. The sun started to set behind the Smoky Mountains as we headed in for the night. Back at the hotel, hungry rowers gathered in the lobby anticipating the arrival of piping hot pizza, provided by the team. A meeting followed this pizza delivery as we received the “Spring Break Guide” which details the do’s and don’ts of spring break training. The Laker Navy, filled with pizza and a desire to get better throughout the week, called it a night to rest up for tomorrow. Looking forward to a great week! Pull for the Laker Navy!

Day 1 – March 2


Allyson Hicks
Hometown: Holland, MI
Major: English
The Laker Navy has made it to Spring Break! Having endured both erg season and midterms alike, we’re all ready to get back on the water.

Personally, I was a member of the advance team, who had the privilege of leaving at daybreak this morning. Being the good college students that we are, Audrey Boersen, Cass Bruins, and I were well rested, jovial, and ready to attack the day. Or something like that.

With the trailer loaded and triple checked with care, we hit the road: the sun rising in the morning sky and Coach B’s self-proclaimed “hippy music” gracing our ears. The mood was light as we debated controversial topics, answered song trivia, and kept our friends updated on our journey.

Fortunately, we all at least claim to like each other, which made cramming ourselves in the truck tolerable. At each stop, we trailer-monkeyed our way up to check the boats’ straps, a great way to stretch out my lanky-limbed self.

We arrived at Smoky Mountain Rowing Club around 5pm, unhitched the trailer, and unloaded the truck. As the sun started to set, we took in the sight of the river on which we’ll be spending most of our week.

Having amassed quite an appetite during the long day, we rushed to the hotel to prep for dinner at Brazeiros, a Brazilian steakhouse. We proceeded to have a seemingly never-ending meal that left all of us blissfully satisfied, unable to comprehend eating more.

It was an excellent culmination to a great travel day. Although the advanced team might be temporarily out of commission from dinner, we’re sure to be ready in the morning for the Darth Vader row and a great week ahead!

Coach Costas V Ciungan ’15

Hometown: Detroit, MI

Major: Masters in Public Administration

After months of training indoors on the ergometer this winter, the Laker Navy is excited for another annual spring training trip. Now the team will get the chance to get back on the water and merge the fitness gained on the erg with technique learned in the fall. The team overall, has been working hard putting in millions of meters on the ergometer through the Million Meter challenge and getting better every week. A goal from the coaching side is to improve athletic capacity and promote continued progress and improvement from each athlete. This goal only continues during spring training as miles makes champions.

I departed for Louisville, TN for spring training camp this morning at or around 6:00 AM. Today was a beautiful day for traveling with clear skies, lots of sun, and warmer weather as we traveled south. The truck and trailer were well loaded by the team in the week prior to departure because the team had to evacuate our boathouse because of flooding. The team pulled together and got the trailer loaded in an emergency during mid-term week under the direction of Coach Bancheri. The coaches organized and planned and the athletes used their teamwork with coaches to get trailer loaded and boathouse prepared for flooding. The team was also featured in : FOX17 News: Laker Navy Pulls Together to Save Equipment

I was traveling with the trailer and drove the trailer for a leg and overall the drive went smooth with very little traffic. The advanced team comprised of me, Coach Bancheri, Cass Bruins, Audrey Boersen, and Allyson Hicks. We arrived at the venue: Smoky Mountain Rowing at or around 5:30 p. This is the first time the team has trained out of this venue, and what a beautiful venue it was by first sight. Great wide river, miles of row-able water, and beautiful docks and boathouse to boot. Venue Link here. I got excited just arriving and seeing the water, boathouse, and warmer weather knowing that a productive week of training is ahead for my team.

As a coach and alumni, spring training is major component of a winning culture that focuses on continued improvement and growth. Every athlete not only pushing themselves, but the guys and girls around them, while trusting that their teammates are doing the same. It is the opportunity for the athlete to start building confidence in their rowing and trust in their teammates; every stroke and mile rowed. Overall, this spring training trip will be very productive for the entire team as rowers perfect their technique and teamwork one stroke at a time. The process continues for the Laker Navy because the spring training trip has just begun and a lot of learning, rowing, and speed is to come. As for me, I am excited to get back on the water and help my team improve every day and every way in using their body weight, both on the drive and recovery, to move the boat as indicated by the blade.

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