Spring Training Athlete’s Blog

2015 Spring Training Trip Wrap Up

Athlete: Nick Maodush-Pitzer ’15

President of the Grand Valley Rowing Club

Home Town: Grand Rapids, MI

Major: Elementary Eduation and Mathematics

Another year, another expertly conducted Spring Break training trip by the Laker Navy, and my final training trip, being an outgoing senior. Thanks to the support of our parents, donors, advisors, friends, our hosts at The Barrymore Hotel and The Stewards’ Rowing Foundation in Tampa, and especially our coaches, Grand Valley Rowing heads home after a successful round of scrimmaging with Georgia Tech on the Chattahoochee River today having spent the previous week skilling, drilling, and racing our way through our initiation into the Spring 2015 season. After spending the last three-and-a-half months training exclusively indoors (save for the weeklong Winter Training Trip), the Laker Navy had been itching to smell the salty air of the Tampa Bay and hear the splashes of the water, clicking of the oarlocks, squeaking of the seats’ wheels, and the “loud coaching” from Coach B that only the experience of being in real boats, on real water can provide.

As expected, our first few rows of the week could be categorized as rough, as we eased back into the motions of real rowing that cannot be simulated on an erg, such as reaching around the pin on the oarlock at the catch, leaning out into the rigger throughout the stroke, and feathering the blades in unison. Almost eight years after my first ever strokes in a boat, these are all things that still need time and repetitions to work on and perfect, and what a better place to do that than the Hillsborough River in the sunny city of Tampa? As the week progressed and we did our usual mixture of long steady state rows, technical drills, and speed work, there is a uniform feeling around the team that this was, in fact, the most productive spring training trip we have ever been on. Beyond what we gained and oarsmen and oarswomen, there is the added sense of sportsmanship and team bonding that occurred this week, as an intense week of training does wonders to build cohesiveness, camaraderie, and a feeling of trust between the remaining athletes of this team with a common goal of creating an armada of FAST boats. As a senior and team President, being able to witness that development first-hand provides me with the belief that this team will succeed not only this Spring, but for many Fall and Spring seasons to come.

One ubiquitous part of retrograde analysis of any training regimen is the realization and rationalizing of the successes mixed with the frustrations of the process at hand. No practice is universally “perfect” in every way; there will always be strokes where blades are dragging on the water, strokes may feel a bit rushed, or the run just is not as long as you’d like. Inevitably, these glitches serve to frustrate us in the middle of a practice when we are all trying to row each stroke as perfect as possible. However, as Coach B has said, the beauty of our sport is that, yes, we are all bound to make mistakes in this sport, but we have thousands of strokes in a practice and hundreds of strokes in a race to work on fixing those mistakes. ask ira . At the end of the day, we all want to step onto the docks feeling like we have improved individually and as a boat from the previous practice. To steal a line from The Other Wes Moore, “It’s not always the process you should focus on; it’s the joy you will feel after you go through the process.” So as we look back on this week, I think we can all return home feeling that, while each boat still has its kinks to work out, we have all made major progress in a short span of time, and realize that we still have three months to identify and correct those kinks, thanks to the dedicated nature of our athletes and the expert advice of our coaching staff.

To everyone reading these blogs and following the progress of the Laker Navy, thank you for everything you do for the team. We take a high level of pride in being able to produce for you the updates on our training, with the purpose of building your confidence in us and what we do. Through blogging we hope that you feel as integral to the team as the individuals that we physically surround ourselves with every day, and can trust, just as we do, that we can live up to our reputation as Giant Killers within the rowing community, and produce another successful Spring racing season. And, as always, Pull for the Laker Navy.

Day Nine – Sunday, March 8, 2015

Athlete: David Blythe ’16

Home Town: Canton, MI

Major: Accounting/MIS

After arriving in Roswell Georgia last night the Lakers got an early start this morning in preparation to scrimmage with Georgia Tech. The practice consisted of four 1000 meter pieces on the Chattahoochee River. Great work was put in by all crews and the teams ended the morning practice with a lunch graciously provided by Georgia Tech. We’re very grateful for all of the hospitality that the Laker Navy received today from a hosted lunch to a shuttle service from the hotel to the race course.

This marks the end of the spring training trip and has been the best one in the history of Grand Valley Rowing according to Coach Bancheri. After 9 days of warm Florida and Georgia weather, most of the team is reluctant to head back to snowy Michigan. As the team returns to Allendale we will look to take the on water mileage gained during the past weeks and continue to get faster in preparation for the spring racing season.

There are only 20 more days until the team makes an appearance in the San Diego crew class as the teams first regatta of the spring season. After a productive week on the Hillsborough River in Tampa, the season is shaping to be one of the fastest in Grand Valley History. Check back to track the teams progression through the spring season and keep pulling for the Laker Navy

Day Eight – Saturday, March 7, 2015

Athlete: Brittany Castillo ’18

Home Town: Coopersville, MI

Major: Math/Psychology

After a long week of exhausting practices, relaxing beach days, and quality bonding time as a team, the Laker Navy is on the road to a successful spring season.

The day started bright and early with some scrimmages. We did four sprint races, each four minutes long. It was great to put the skills we have been working on all week, and all season, to the test. Having the chance to get some good racing practice in is always beneficial, and helps us to improve in ways that practicing on our own sometimes just can’t do. We are able to really work on improving both as individuals and as a team in a more competitive environment going head to head with other boats which, for the novices like myself, may be somewhat unfamiliar.

After the races, it was a quick lunch by the course and then time to start de-rigging boats. Then after everyone packed up their hotel rooms and loaded luggage on the bus, it was back to the boats to finish loading up the trailer. Now it’s back on the bus for a long ride, and hopefully some well deserved rest, to prepare for the scrimmages in store for the team tomorrow in Georgia.

Overall it was a very productive week for GV crew, and I think we can all say that we have improved significantly, and that we are excited and determined to face the upcoming races so that we can show how hard we’ve been working and how far we’ve come.

Athlete: Donald Jensen ’18

Home Town: Grosse Ile, MI

Major: Mechanical Engineering

This morning we woke up to the beautiful Tampa weather for practice at 6:30. We went and go some breakfast to prepare for our one practice of the day before we headed off to Georgia. After being successful in my seat races earlier during the week I had the opportunity to row in the 1st varsity for the mornings workout. We did a nice long warmup and then rocked out some hard 4 minute pieces at race pace in eights. After some switches and several pieces later we headed in to load the trailer.

We cleaned all the equipment to insure the salt water didn’t damage it and then loaded the trailer for travel to Georgia. After checking out of the wonderful Barrymore hotel we checked over the the trailer and then left for Georgia. The hard practice this morning was a great chance for our two top eights to see how much we have improved over this great week of training. And was an awesome yet challenging way to end our spring break stay in Tampa bay.

Day Seven – Friday, March 6, 2015

Athlete: Carley Jensen ’15

Home Town: Goodrich, MI

Major: Criminal Justice

Today we had practice at 8am and started de-rigging small boats and loading up the trailer, which showed just how close we were to leaving this wonderful place they call Tampa. After an in-depth chalk talk on the erg arm about the starts and body positions of the stroke with Coach B, we headed out in 8’s with Coach Hugh and worked on starts and got in some good meters with a lot of drills. We did some 10, 10, & 10s with different stroke rates and it was a really productive practice for the women. After practice, we all ate lunch and some people went to the aquarium while most others stuck around the hotel and hung out. It was cloudy today so the pool wasn’t as popular of a hang out as it has been all week!

Our second practice this evening was a pre-race fartlek in preparation for our scrimmage against Nova Southeastern tomorrow in the Tampa Bay. It was short, but went really well and you could tell just how focused everyone was for our races tomorrow. Also, we can’t forget the traditional and well organized team picture we get every year! Multiple boats joined together as one, with nothing but laughs and smiles from all the men and women. Now I am heading to the Pirates vs. Yankees spring training game with a group of ladies and gentleman and am excited to watch America’s favorite pastime with some close friends.

This week has been great and the weather even better. I am not looking forward to returning to the cold weather in Allendale, but I am looking forward to an amazing season with my ladies and the scrimmages this weekend here and at Georgia Tech! We have put in a lot of good work during this trip and can’t wait to see what is in store for the Laker Navy this spring season. Last one fast one, seniors.

Athlete: Spencer West ’15

Home Town: Grand Rapids, MI

Major: Wildlife Biology

This morning started off as the rest of the mornings on these training trips usually do, with a bunch of sleepy rowers waking up for a quick breakfast before heading to the training facility for the morning practice. The men were in eights for the morning, with the 1V and 2V going with Coach Bancheri for the workout. We did a lot of skill and drill, as well as several starts, along with some steady state, putting together everything we’ve been working on all week. The gap between practices was filled with homework, napping, while some people went to the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa. When we went back for our second practice in the afternoon, the air had cooled and the winds had picked up. Nevertheless, the 60 degree Florida weather was happily accepted knowing that it was below 20 degrees back home in Allendale today.

During our second practice, we did Coach’s “pre-race fartlek,” doing some short pieces at race pace, looking for the top speeds and maximum run that we could get from the boat. At the end of the practice, all of the boats (5 eights and 2 fours) were brought together for the usual training camp team picture. After we all were back in our seats, the boats disbanded and we headed in for the docks. Dinner for the team was very graciously provided for by parent donation money, through the collaboration of our fantastic advisor, Chris Scott. We ordered 28 large trays of pasta and 140 breadsticks from Pizza Hut. Needless to say, everybody had their fill.

Training in Florida this past week has been a one of many “last experiences” for me as a senior on the team. Being on the team has taken me many places and has caused me to develop lifelong friendships and relationships. My experiences have also given me an insight to the program as a whole, by seeing older athletes graduate after their four years, and seeing students younger than me join this team, becoming integral athletes of the program. This year, the group we have is more driven than ever. With everybody pushing each other to be constantly improving, the team is always getting faster. Our speed and ability is determined by what we do at each and every practice, a required focus that is hard to maintain. Training trips like these really give us the opportunity to zero in on our goals, and to work together as a team through Coach’s training to become faster, stronger, and oriented towards the same goals and expectations.

Tomorrow morning, Grand Valley Rowing kicks off the spring season with races against Holy Cross for the men and Nova Southeastern for the women. The work we have put in all season thus far, especially this week, will start to show as we face off against other crews. Our crews are shaped and built by that work, and how fast we go on race day is simply a demonstration of how hard we’ve worked in the many months before.

Day Six – Thursday, March 5, 2015

Athlete: Allison Pingston ’18

Home Town: Holt, MI

Major: Athletic Training/Pre-PA

Looking back on this trip, I can honestly say I have become a better rower. Even in less than a week I think our improvements as a team have been tremendous (the amount of food we’ve eaten has also been tremendous).Today the women’s team took out two 8’s and started off by working on the beginning of the recovery with some drills then moved on to steady state rowing by 6’s and all 8. It was nice to be able to row with the girls who I will be racing with this spring and get a feel for how we work together.

For the afternoon we headed to Clearwater beach once again to soak up the sun and play volleyball until we were glistening with sweat. It was a beautiful day and we were all happy to relax.
Finally, we made our way downtown for some mandatory CAT VI dancing at Rock the Park music festival. We spent the night walking around the city and looking at all the lights and buildings. Tampa really is a beautiful place. Days like this make the trip almost…almost feel like a vacation but I know all our hard work will pay off. As a novice, I am especially excited to get into the spring season and see what it’s all about. As always, it was a great day to be a part of Grand Valley crew.

Athlete: Dom Biolchini ’18

Home Town: Oxford, MI

Major: Integrated Science Elementary Education

On this pleasant day down in Florida we got lucky with our second beach day in a row. For the varsity men practice was held at the canal again this morning to do some more seat racing this time in 8s. The weather stayed relatively cloudy during the pieces but was still a steamy one. Along with the seat racing we were able to practice a few starts and even a 500 meter sprint. In the afternoon we made our way through the traffic to the beach once again. Many of the rowers enjoyed the water and others simply soaked up the sun. Volleyball was played, Cuban sandwiches were eaten and ice cream cones were demolished before the aggressive seagulls could reach them. The evening had the team go out for some dancing, eating, and listening to music. We all enjoyed downtown Tampa on one of our last nights in the city. Overall it was a great day to be alive and a part of the Grand Valley Crew.

Day Five – Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Athlete: Walter Schaub ’17

Home Town: Grand Rapids, MI

Major: International Relations

Today was a much-needed single practice day. We hit the water around 8 a.m., and did our usual routine down through downtown Tampa and out into Hillsborough Bay. My crew turned and did a 40 minute steady state upstream, followed by a 20 minute piece back to the dock by all 8. The row had some very strong points, and our crews are really coming together.

After practice, the Laker Navy headed to Clearwater Beach, where a nice 90 degree cloudless day led to a fantastic beach experience. The ocean felt great, the volleyball court was alive, and the ice cream was flowing. Beach days like that make us appreciate the opportunities we have with this awesome team.
One traffic jam ridden bus ride later, the team was back at the hotel with pizza from the generous Chris Scott. Overall, it was a fantastic day to row for GVSU.

Athlete: Victoria Lloyd ’15

Home Town: Ann Arbor, MI

Major: Hospitality and Tourism Management

Today the women started the day off a little earlier than usual for this week. We headed out to a canal to do all six of our seat racing pieces. The water was great even though there was a bit of wind but all in all we were happy to fit all of our pieces in in one day. We completed a seat racing matrix that included six 1000 meter pieces with a break halfway to refuel with food and fluids. It was great to have all of the women in our own area and using the improved technique we have been working on the last few days and combining that with our power. There’s no doubt that we left it all out on the water during the practice and I’m excited to see what comes of this season from our team.

After our practice at the canal, we raced back to the hotel where the rest of the team was awaiting our arrival so that we could all head to the beach. After a 45 minute bus ride we finally arrived at our destination, Clearwater Beach. It was the most perfect conditions for a team beach day. The sun was shining and not a cloud was in sight. After some volleyball, corn hole and ice cream, the team boarded the bus to head back to the Barrymore Hotel for a pizza dinner!

Being a senior now, I have come to realize that it’s important to take in days like today because it will be my last times for these trips and activities with the team. I’m so glad that we have put in a lot of milage thus far over break and I know that we will continue to do so until we leave for home. Trips like these are incredibly important for us because they give us so much time to focus on every part of us stroke each day. “Mileage makes champions” is a great theme to these trips. The team’s hard work during this break will be sure to pay off during this upcoming spring season! Stay tuned!

Day Four – Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Athlete: Grace VanderWeide ’16

Home Town: Battle Creek, MI

Major: Exercise Science

As most students look forward to spring break and time to get away from school, we looked forward to getting off the ergs and back on the water! The start of the week has brought some long rows and some good improvements. Today we started out our morning row in two pairs and a four, we did some waggle drills and practicing backing it in, after about an hour we docked and got into an eight and were out for an additional hour and a half. After our morning practice we got back to the room and took a nap.

We hit he water again at 3 and we took a trip around Davis island. While enjoying some dolphin viewings and posing for pictures while taking a break from rowing (picture is attached). After practice the novice women plus Morgan North(pretty much the coolest mens coxswain) went out to dinner and enjoyed spending some time together. Also shout out to Amanda K on her 21st birthday!

Athlete: DJ Salerno ’18

Home Town: Fenton, MI

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Today was a beautiful day with clear skies and a nice 80 degrees. The team woke up and boarded a bus to a full length six lane race course to do some seat racing, this was my first time on a race course (novice) and it was really fun. To go head to head and push as hard as you could for 2000 meters was like nothing else. We did three pieces then took a lunch break and did another three pieces. Overall the team did phenomenal and everyone gave everything they had wile rowing.

After the seat racing the team went back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation, most people hung by the pool to tan or slept. I was in the latter group. After a few hours the team went for a sunset cruse of cat VI skill and drill rowing. This was a great row to focus on technique and form so the next time we race we can just hang and bang and not worry about form, for it will be muscle memory.

In all today was excellent and really reminded me why we row. For the feeling of flying down the river with seven other guys all in sync giving everything they have for a common goal. To be part of a group were we all work for the man in the seats around you. The GVSU navy is truly my friends and brothers, and we GO FAST.

Day Three – Monday, March 2, 2015

Athlete: Austin Gentry ’16

Home Town: Corona, CA

Major: Philosophy and Political Science

Seat racing is an exciting time for some oarsman and a dreadful and nerve-wracking time for others. Today was supposed to be the first stage of our seat-racing matrix for the week, but due to unpredictable rowing conditions and excited coxswains, after one piece we were told that we would finish the pieces in a more controlled environment. I think that it was good for the men to get their nerves out today on that piece. We did everything according to plan; the pre-race warm up, a few bob drills, a swing row down the race course, and lined up to race. All of the stuff we did this morning better prepared the men and coxswains for the seat racing matrix and will pay dividends when it comes to executing the real thing tomorrow morning—even though the plan changed.

Afternoon practice consisted of a swing row warm up down river. We neared the end of the channel where we started some bob sequences that emphasized feathering the blade to the bow, catch placement, and timing. We completed the drills and rowed out into the bay where we had a battle paddle session. After practice commenced the team loaded the shells on the trailer for the short ride to our new seat-racing venue tomorrow. Florida has been good to us and the team is very excited about racing this spring.

Athlete: Kaitlyn VanBoven ’15

Home Town: Fremont, MI

Major: Elementary Education and Mathematics

Today was our second full day of training. We started the day with a long morning practice with two different sessions. The first AM session we went out in smaller boats. We did a lot of circle drills to focus on blade work and backing it in. After a quick snack we switched over and went out in fours to do a practice piece to get ready for seat racing later this week. After the long morning session we relaxed the afternoon away. Some of us went to the pool to cool off and then enjoyed a nice afternoon nap.

We made our way back over to the boathouse for a productive evening row, this time in eights. We worked on the last 6 inches of the recovery and the first 6 inches of the drive. Every day we strive to make ourselves at least one percent better, and this evening’s practice I feel we made a fifteen percent improvement. It amazes me that on my final spring break with GVSU rowing as a rower, I’m still learning a lot each day. If we keep our focus and improving with productive practices, it will be an exciting spring season. As the sun started to set, we headed back into the docks. We made our way back to the hotel to find 38 large pizzas waiting for us thanks to the parents’ donations for food. Rowers really love food, especially when it is free. Shout out to all the parents who donated money. We really appreciate it, so thank you! Now I’m looking forward to another great night’s rest and to get back out in the sunshine and back on the water tomorrow. We will try to bring this warm weather back with us to Michigan!

Day Two – Sunday, March 1, 2014

Athlete: Katie Vincent ’16

Home Town: Canton, MI
Major: Therapeutic Recreation

Woke up today in the beautiful state of Florida. We welcomed March with open arms. While MLB teams are at their spring training camps and NCAA teams are prepping for March Madness, Grand Valley Rowing welcomed in the month with three practices in sunny Tampa, Florida. The nice weather brought with it boaters of all kinds on the canal and out on Tampa Bay. The traffic proved to be challenging, but it kept things interesting. One boat was even kind enough to provide with a wake big enough to cool everybody down. The practice plan called for a free afternoon and beach day today, but that was cancelled in favor of making up yesterday’s lost practice time. Even without free time built in, some rowers still found time between practices to cool off in the pool. The three practice sessions made for a long day, but the miles logged will pay off in the final sprints of spring season. We are already seeing improvements and looking forward to what the rest of the week will bring.

Athlete: Owen Homeister ’18
Home Town: Sarasota, FL
Major: Business

Today we got into the full swing of things. Right after breakfast, we headed across the river. “Chalk talk” with Coach B got us into the right mindset to put a lot of work in on the water after months of training indoors. Once we got off of the water, we headed back to the hotel and ate lunch provided by the coaches. After we stuffed our faces and took a quick power-nap, it was back to the water for more steady state rowing. The heat was quite intense but we powered through it. After second practice, it was time to hop in the refreshing pool and cool off. By the time third practice came around, the sky was overcast and it was a bit cooler. In the middle of our practice, it started to downpour on us which only seemed to make practice more intense. That lasted for a total of 10 minutes as we proceeded to literally row out of the wall of rain. When we talked to the rest of the team after the row, everyone said that they hadn’t been rained on. Hopefully the weather will be more predictable for the rest of the week! I’m pumped to see what’s in store.

Day One – Saturday, February 28, 2014

Athlete: Christina Pavano ’16

Home Town: Rockford, MI
Major: Psychology

After traveling with the advanced team and leaving Thursday afternoon, we got to sleep in a bit this morning. We woke up with hopes to go rig boats and try and get things situated before the rest of the team arrived with the bus this afternoon, but we woke up to grey and rainy weather. After eating breakfast and then heading over to the course, we decided to delay rigging until the rain started to back off.

Once the team arrived we rigged boats and prepared for the row. The row consisted of long steady state by 6’s on the square to flush out the cobwebs from not being on the water for 2 months. We focused a lot on posture and how posture provides power. With that, we did various drills like outside hand only and pause drills.

After the row, we made a trip to Walmart to stock up on food for the week. After returning to the hotel and quickly eating, the team met up to go over rules and the practice plan for the week. From the looks of today, we are going to have a great week of training back on the water!

Athlete: Chris Doherty ’17
Home Town: Traverse City, MI
Major: Movement Science

Another rowing trip, another bus ride. After the always exciting daylong ride full of fast food and movies we returned to Tampa. The Barrymore is as welcoming as ever and the Tampa skyline is still an amazing site. Even though it was raining out it was still a nice change from snow. Rowing in an actual boat was also a nice change from the land single; winter training is finally coming to a close.

It’s exciting to see other crews here along with us. During out previous trip here we were the only college present, but this time we are not alone. Michigan’s women, Holy Cross’s men and Saint Mary’s women are also training. The water is as crowded as ever; our eights and the cruise ships coming in and out make for quite the sight.

The pursuit of a triple crown is intensifying. This trip will help us get faster and get us that much closer to the podium. Spring 2015 look out, the Laker Navy is coming.

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