Winter Training Athlete’s Blog

Day One- Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lexie and Elissa Rowing

Lexie Benton ’16
Major: Business Management
Hometown: Kingsley, MI

Today we finally arrived in Osprey, Florida where the weather was beautiful and sunny which was much different from what we have been experiencing over the last few weeks in Michigan. The Varsity Men and Women worked primarily in small boats today while Coach Bancheri gave us the coaching as well as a layout of the Inter Coastal Waterway. Afterward we went back to our super nice hotel to check in and hang out before going back and rigging the rest of the boats.

After rigging we started hunting for food around the hotel and after checking out a few place we found a bar and grill the ended up having awesome food. We ventured back to the room and hung out before going to bed to rest up for a long day on the water tomorrow.

boat rigging

Chris Doherty ’17
Major: Movement Science
Hometown: Traverse City, MI

After spending countless hours on a charter bus, we finally got to Florida. It was great to be able to get out and actually move around, and the warm sun and fresh air from the ocean didn’t hurt either. Rigging the boats in the Florida weather was a welcome change from the snowy Michigan we came from too, thankfully I didn’t get sunburn at all today.

We went straight from rigging into the water… The very salty, very crowded water. Personally I have never rowed on a crowded water way so it was a new experience for me. Still, it was nice to not row in the RTC and be out on the water in an actual boat. Coming off the water to a good lunch was almost better than rowing again, a big thank you to Debbie and Patrick Dolan and to all of the people helping the Laker Navy as we get to experience this great opportunity.

Good friends, good rowing, good food, what more could you want.

Justin Bartaway

Justin Bartaway ’15
Major: Criminal Justice
Hometown: Trenton, MI

The team has a small group of people that is trusted enough to drive the team truck with the trailer. On this trip I was one of those people along with rower Nate Biolchini, and men’s novice coach Hugh McKeggan. We started the trip at Matt LeBlanc’s boat repair shop in Belleville, MI on Thursday early afternoon. After many hours of the three of us switching between driving, shotgunning, and sleeping we arrived at the University of Florida’s boathouse in the mid-afternoon where we dropped off two of our older wooden boats. After that we soon proceeded to the teams rowing location at Blackburn Point, where the Sarasota Scullers Club launch point is, in mid-afternoon. As soon as we arrived the long process of unloading and rigging started. After a few hours of rigging we had to stop due to no light, because of being well past sunset. We woke up early the next morning and continued to work on the boats. The rest of the team arrived around noon and we proceeded to have a great practice in small boats, and marked the beginning of an amazing winter training camp.

Novice Women

Elizabeth Wallace ’17
Major: Special Education
Hometown: Fenton, MI

We started our trip with a long bus ride down to Florida on the way to our winter training camp. Although no one really likes bus rides, we were all relieved when we finally arrived. We kicked off the start of winter training with a short practice to work out the kinks and clear the cobwebs. It felt so good to be back on the water and off the ergs. After practice, Debbie and Patrick Dolan provided all of us hungry rowers with lunch. We spent some time in the pool after we were all checked in and met back at the launch site to rig boats and prepare everything for the rest of the week. Free time followed the rigging and preparations, as we recuperated for another day on the water.


Day Two- Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lexie and Elissa Rowing

Maria Edelhauser ’14
Major: Boimedical Sciences
Hometown: Troy, MI

The day had an early start, as my friend Shelby and I headed down to breakfast. Although it was 7:00AM, the breakfast lounge was filled with hungry, sleepy rowers from not only our team, but other rowers staying at the hotel. Once we had some fuel for the day, Shelby and I started our run down to practice in the rain. After catching our breathe, the coaches then came and informed us that practice was postponed an hour. So we headed back to the hotel to snuggle in our beds.

An hour later, the whole team headed out for the first practice of the day while the rain and wind settled down. The varsity squad started out the practice doing circle drills, while the coaches took video. While the circle drill caused some close encounters of crashing, that is not what brought my boat in early. My boat lost its skeg, which meant that our boat had holes in it, which was filling up with water fast. Once the boats water contents were drained, my pair partner Shelby and I switched out our pair for singles to use for the rest of practice.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with naps, a trip to Wal-Mart, and watching videos from practice. Running to our second practice, the dark clouds followed. In the middle of our long row, the storm hit us, which brought rain, wind, and some white capping waves. While taking on water, most boats kept in our pursuit to the shore, while two of our small boats had to stop along the way to empty the water in their boats. While the journey to land seemed endless, we all made it back, safe and sound. Once back to the hotel, it was a battle for the microwave, for many of us bought food to make instead of going out. As we lounged and chatted about the day, we were finally able to fill up our stomachs, which will allow us to train hard again tomorrow.

boat rigging

Emma Anderson ’17
Major: Sonography
Hometown: Hastings, MI

Our day started out pretty rainy when we went to eat breakfast in the lobby area. The food was good, and gave us a pretty good variety. Morning practice was delayed for around an hour because of the rain and possible storms, but it gave us an extra hour to digest and nap which was nice. Around 8:15, we ran down to our boats and got on the water. The water was kind of rough, especially the waves from the large boats passing, but the row was good. We had a 2 hour break afterwards until our afternoon row at 3, in which we returned on the water with dark skies and rougher water. Our row started out pretty good, until the waves and wind picked up. It made it difficult to row and finish our pieces, so we had to turn around and go back. It was a fun adventure nonetheless. Afterwards, we walked back, showered, and then got something to eat at the tiki restaurant place at the hotel. The food was good, but could have been out faster. It’s not good when you have a ton of hungry rowers waiting for their food. Either way, that was the least of our worries. It was a pretty good first day, I think.

Justin Bartaway

David Blythe ’16
Major: Accounting & Management Information Systems
Hometown: Canton, MI

Today began the first full day of practice for this years winter training camp. The day began with a very carbohydrate filled breakfast at the hotel and just before we got done eating we were notified that practice would be moved back an hour because of the rain. The sky eventually cleared and we ran to the site to begin our work for the day. We started with a few circle drills and then went on a medium length row towards the a beach that connected the ICW to the Gulf. Here we saw Steven Kings house as well as got in a quick swim before heading back the our launch site.

Following the morning row we had a great lunch prepared by Debbie and Patrick Dolan the parents of our Coach, Alyssa. Then we proceeded to head back to the hotel to hang out before heading back for evening practice. This break included a trip to Walmart for food as well as a nice chicken pot pie meal with my bed buddy Ed Avena.

We then ran back to the site to start or long steady state row along the ICW which turned out to be a nice row for the varsity teams even though the weather conditions were a little tricky. The day then ended with an extra-large pizza split between me and Nate Biolchini. It was quite a great first day of rowing indeed.

Justin Bartaway

Michael Bien ’16
Major: Business
Hometown: West Bloomfield, MI

Just waking up today seemed like a great day to row. An early practice would not hinder the Florida sun from making our practice about as enjoyable as it can be. The warming sun combined with the sights truly made me happy to be in Florida. Even though we had not rowed in months, our team seemed to pick it back up fast and fly though the water. After our morning practice we were greeted by meals generously provided by Debbie and Patrick Dolan. There’s nothing like food to put a smile on a rower’s face. After that we had a short break to even more enjoy the sights Florida had to offer. The next practice we rowed to the beach and threw our coach into the ocean. After a hard day’s work we went out as a team and enjoyed a great meal to end the day.


Day Three- Monday, December 30, 2013

Team at Beach

Coach John Michael Bancheri (9th year at GVSU)

Planning for this trip began last January after our 2012/13 winter trip at Manatee County’s Fort Hamer site. The hotel we stayed at last year was not available (they drained the pool and hot tub). Increasing costs also caused us to reconsider our options and rethink the whole value of the winter training camp. After much discussion with our upperclassmen and team officers, I was asked to keep the training camp on the schedule and look at other viable options for winter training in Florida. With the help of Coach Joe Dobson of the Sarasota Scullers Masters Crew located at Blackburn Point in Osprey, FL and the encouragement of one of our great supporters John Reichner of Lakewood Ranch, FL we decided to pursue the Osprey option on the ICW (intra-coastal waterway).

Luckily, I was able to meet with Lori Davis of Bentleys Boutique Resort Hotel in Osprey, FL, which is less than a mile from the Blackburn Point training site (across the street from the famous Casey Key Fish House). Lori and I came to an agreement at an affordable rate for 16 rooms, which included breakfast for our student athletes. The hotel was newly renovated in the past few years and the guys that remembered being here four years ago loved the facility and the upgrades. With a hotel deal in place, a venue from which to launch, and the help in securing coach boats from Coach Dragos (Coach Alex) Alexandru of the nationally renowned Sarasota Scullers program, we had all of the pieces in place for our return.

It is interesting to plan a trip like this for 56 athletes and staff. From negotiating with Compass Coach (our bus company of choice) on price and getting OUR driver Doug-ie back, to loading the trailer in early December. Having the trailer loaded allowed us to pre-position our equipment for both winter and the larger spring training camps. The selection (self-selection for the most part) and the fund raising were issues as to how many could go and how we were going to fund the projected budget of $18,000 for almost 60 people. Luckily, we had the help of a few alums (we will acknowledge all our winter training donors in our January alumni newsletter), parents, and investors in our program that made it affordable to hold the camp. Each student-athlete contributed $275 to attend winter training 2013-2014.

Thanks to all who contributed and continue to help develop the Laker Navy (since 1964). Your investment in the program gives our students a great opportunity and experience.
More to come later…… Coach B.

GVSU Rowing

Jordan Crandell ’14
Major: International Relations
Hometown: Fremont, MI

This week, I have switched from Varsity Woman to Novice Man. This has been quite the experience for me because I’m not used to the life of a novice man, but it’s been fun so far. We’ve been working on getting back to the basics and focusing on a lot of technique which I always like because we can break down the stroke and really work on perfecting it which will help come spring. Lots of steady state and lower rates and it will all pay off soon enough.

Coach decided we were pale enough and granted us an afternoon at the beach! Everyone was very excited to get to Siesta Keys and we all ran to the lifeguard stand for our traditional photo with the lifeguard. Then we grabbed a prime spot in the sun and everyone hit the water. There were some pretty sizable waves and we had a great time throwing each other into the path of a crashing wave or throwing seaweed at each other. I can’t speak for anyone else after this because I took a nice snooze in the sunshine.

We returned to practice and hit the water for some pyramids and we even got to pick up the rate a bit and fly for a few strokes. It’s only the first couple of days of training but the weather is picking up and everyone is having a great time. It should be a phenomenal week of rowing, sunshine and plenty of food being eaten!

Beach Picture

Spencer West ’15
Major: Wildlife Biology
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

This morning began as most mornings on these trips do with the alarm going off at 6:45am for breakfast. After eating at the hotel, we all got ready for morning practice and left for the rowing venue. Once at practice, we prepared for launching by bringing the launches and oars down before setting our boats in the water and taking off to begin practice. I was in a single with the varsity group and we started the practice with stationary drills to improve our control and timing. After spending a good amount of time focusing on the technical points of rowing, we began a steady-state workout for the rest of practice until we returned to the launch site at 10:30. After washing down the boats and putting everything away, Debbie and Patrick Dolan parents had a delicious lunch already awaiting us which we were very thankful for.

Once the team finished lunch, we made our way back to the hotel to prepare for a lifting session and some much-needed beach time. At about noon, we left for the Sarasota Scullers training center, where they kindly welcomed us to use their facilities for a team calisthenics and lifting session. From there, the team left for Siesta Key beach, where we enjoyed a couple relaxing hours under the sun and in the sea. We left the beach around 3:30pm to return to the hotel where we quickly prepared for our evening practice.

At practice, back in the single, I was forced to work extra hard in order to keep up with the fours and pairs that were in the varsity group. We spent some time doing drills to help improve our bladework as well as overall oarsmanship. After the drills, we moved into continuous rowing, followed by leap-frog which is a great exercise that allows time to focus on both the recovery and the drive. When we returned to land, we quickly washed the boats and took care of all of the equipment before loading up the bus to return to the hotel once more.

By the time we arrived at the hotel, we had forty-five minutes to clean up before leaving for dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, a salad buffet. At dinner, we all ate more than enough and left the restaurant very happy and sleepy. We returned to the hotel tired from the busy day, but very happy. It has been fantastic to see the wide range of improvements that the team has been making as well as the improvements I have noticed in my own stroke. Spending more time in the smaller boats has given us plenty of opportunities to focus in on technique and gives us a chance to improve every aspect of our oarsmanship. I am very excited to see how the team continues to improve during the rest of this training camp and how these improvements translate onto the race course in May!

Novice Women

Meredith Ament ’17
Major: Anthropology
Hometown: Maple Park, IL

We started off our day with an early morning practice beginning at 7:30 a.m. It was a long row for the novice women and practice consisted of technique work. We pulled the boats in around 10:30ish and had a delicious lunch comprised of sandwiches, fruit, and cookies provided by Debbie and Patrick Dolan. Then we jumped on the bus and headed over to the Sarasota Scullers Headquarters to lift weights. Afterwards we went over to Siesta Key beach for some much needed beach time. We finished up at the beach around 3:30 and then it was back to the boats for afternoon practice from 4:00-5:30.

Beach Picture

Calvin Knape ’17
Major: Business
Hometown: Traverse City, MI

I am Calvin Knape a freshman novice man. Today was a perfect day for rowing. The weather was great and my boat decided to sail. The warmth let us take off our shirts and get odd looks from the Florida people for being out in the “cold” weather. One of them even asked “Are you guys from Canada?” We had a great row today for both practices and even got to row out to a beach, swim and throw Hugh McKeegan in the water.

Later in the evening we all went to a delicious place called “Sweet Tomato”, an all you can eat buffet. The rowers descended upon the food, and none was left after the 57 of us had left. I was entirely satisfied with it all. We have another beach day tomorrow and I am looking forward to that with some more great times with the entire team!

Novice Men


Day Four- Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Varsity Women Four

Amanda Kronemeyer ’15
Major: Nursing
Hometown: Kalamazoo, MI

Today was a “normal” day for a rowing training camp; row, nap, row, with lots of food in between. We started off our day early, some meeting for breakfast in the lobby at 6:30 to prepare for our long morning row. During our first practice, we did a lot of drill. The varsity crews were in pairs and fours, with a lone single making it out there as well. There was a great deal of bobs and waggle drills down, and pause drills on the way back. After this long practice, we had a quick lunch and then back to the hotel for some free time, which for me at least meant a nap by the pool and some relaxing before heading back out. Originally we were planning on a beach trip today, but it was cloudy and not as warm as other days, so that plan changed.

Later in the afternoon, it was back out on the water for a nice little two and a half hour row. The 1V men’s boat was split into two fours, but the rest of us got to practice in eights, a nice change. This practice we went the farthest I’ve ever been, past where I thought the waterway ended and we had to turn around. Down my boat did pyramids with the novice women, with different stroke rates for a number of strokes. On the way back, every boat was doing the same thing, with a staggered start, really looking at the propulsion of the strokes. It was a competition to see how few strokes the boats could take to get to a certain point, with one of the men’s fours winning.

Now, we are all back at the hotel getting ready to head out for New Years, going to the Pineapple Drop! It should be a fun time, and something good here to do that gives us all a break from rowing. Happy New Years!

Beach Pic

Walter Schaub ’17
Major: Theatre
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

After a very long Monday, we got back at it bright and early at about 7:00 a.m in a low tide launch. Our novice mens team rowed into the canal by our launch spot, did some drill work and a bit of racing, tried out some all 8 racing in preparation for the afternoon regatta, and headed in. Hungry and wet, we put away the boats and grabbed some lunch. Back at the hotel after practice, most of us grabbed a nap so we could function during second practice and the new years celebration.

Second practice came quick, with a 3:30 launch and warm up row down the canal about 7 kilometers. Our coach, Hugh, joined us as 7 seat in our Novice 8, which was interesting and new. At the starting line, coach B sent off all the 8’s, and we started our race. Rowing our 8 with a low stroke rate, trying to have the fewest strokes by the end but still win, was heavy and a lot of work. In the end our boat came in second place, with a furious finish side by side with the first place. (they had far fewer strokes though)

after practice everyone grabbed whatever food they could find, and got cleaned up to go downtown. Sarasota turns up for New Years, and it was much bigger than a lot of us expected. Once at the celebration, we made a group of rowers and started dancing. We put in much more than the 60 minutes of dancing coach wanted us to do, but we put aside our soreness from rowing and boogied down. The pineapple dropped at midnight, everyone cheered, and 2014 is here!
The day was long, tiring, and very fun. Good memories were created, and we hit it again in the morning

Varsity Women Four

Erika Colins ’17
Major: Broadcasting and Journalism
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

On this brisk new years eve morning the water at the launch site was extremely shallow. So shallow in fact, we had to walk the boats about 150 yards from the shore until the water was deep enough. The morning practice went well for my eight and I. We did some basic drills and raced against our other men’s novice eight. I’ve been trying to get better at coaching the guys as they row and correcting their technique. I still feel so new at this, because I am, but my teammates say that I’ve improved a lot since the fall.

During the afternoon practice I rode with our guest coach, Kit, in the launch, out to where we would all be racing. Kit had some really great in site on rowing and offered the guys new metaphors and ways to look at certain aspects of rowing. I really admire his coaching ability and I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn from him on this trip. Once we reached the starting line, which was somewhere in the Venice area, I switched places with one of the guest coaches and coxed for the Varsity Women’s eight. I was really nervous because I’ve never really coxed women, let alone varsity women. We raced all the way back to the bridge and thankfully the girls in the eight said I did a great job. That made me feel really good. I talked with Coach B. afterwards, and I now realize that if I slow down the stroke rate a little bit the boat will move more smoothly and be more balanced.

I really think this trip to Florida and my entire experience of being on this team from the beginning has been incredible. I’ve never had the opportunity to be on a sports team, and learning about team work on Grand Valley rowing has been the best way to start. This is something I never would have imagined I’d be doing with my life, but I’ve had such an amazing time doing it. I’ve made so many friends, learned so much, and this trip has only strengthened that.

Beach Pic

Thomas Sawicki ’14
Major: Engineering
Hometown: Dearborn, MI

So today was New Year’s Eve, it was a strange day because it was cooler than normal and very windy. The first thing we did was jog to practice like we do every morning and get our boats ready. Then we did waggle drill in pairs. This made for some hairy situations since we got too close to some clam beds. Luckily we did not hit anything. The row back was quite a challenge since the wind was coming towards us. When we got back the bushes and mangroves blocked the wind in the cove to make for some calm water. When we got back to the hotel we got word that we would not be going to the beach since it was so cool out. So I did what I thought was right and slept for two hours the afternoon practice was fun since it was a race with taking the fewest amount of strokes. I was happy that my boat won. When we got back we all got cleaned up and ready to go to downtown Sarasota for then pineapple drop while there we had an awesome time walking around, dancing, and seeing all the sites. At the end of the night I have to say it was a good day.


Day Five- Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Varsity Women Four

Zack Peters ’17
Major: Finance and General Management
Hometown: Royal Oak, MI

Today was a good day to be on Grand Valley Crew. We had a late start on the first day of the year and a slow one at that. Once the novice men got on the water we limbo rowed out by pairs in the four and by sixes in the eight. On the way out we saw two sets of dolphins swimming close to our boats. As we reached the extent of our row out we then turned and did the same limbo row all the way to where we launched.

After we got off the water the whole GV Crew boarded the bus and went for a day at the beach. At the beach we held the Beach Olympics where the two teams were the novice men with the varsity women and the novice women and the varsity men (with all of the coxswains). Our first event was damsels in distress where five people were chosen to stand in the water and five others were chosen to rescue them faster than the other team rescued their damsels. The second game was some type of human bridge game where each team lined up and had one racer run across their backs and try to beat the other team. The final game was watermelon rugby. This consists of two greased up watermelons and two adrenaline filled teams of college students in the water trying to get both melons to the end zone.

At the end of the day some of us danced in a drum circle and others searched the beach for sea glass and shark teeth. We all saw a few sting rays once we were all out of the water. For dinner the novice men and the novice women went to Bimini’s bar and grill for some grub after a long day in the sun. Overall it was a great day that I was happy to share with the GV Crew.

Beach Pic

Morgan North ’17
Major: Special Education
Hometown: Royal Oak, MI

After a fun but long night at the Sarasota pineapple drop, we got to sleep in later than usual and catch breakfast around 10:00, leaving our rooms around noon to get our boats on the water by 12:30. Novice men did a lot of drill work today after getting on the water later than scheduled due to some launch difficulties. They did a lot of slow steady state with high power, working on timing and control, showing a lot of improvement.
After practice, GVSU rowing took on the beach for some intense beach Olympics. Novice men and varsity women versus varsity men, novice women, and the coxswains. Surprisingly, the seagulls decided to swarm our Crisco covered watermelons, shortening our water rugby game, but we all got a good laugh out of it. After searching the beach for shark teeth with a lot of successful finds, we headed back to the hotel after about an hour at the beach to catch the Rose Bowl. We started out the New Year working hard, with some fun, and we have a lot to look forward to.

GV Spirit

Kathryn Dirkmaat ’16
Major: Special Education
Hometown: Rockford, MI

After a night of celebrating the new year in downtown Sarasota, we all got to sleep in. We started the day with breakfast at the hotel. Following breakfast, we had a later practice where I got the opportunity to learn how to row a single. Coach Alyssa coached me through it. I spent the practice rowing around in circles, working on my technique and skill in the single. The time went pretty fast and I enjoyed the chance to row in a single. After practice, we all worked together to put our boats away and clean up our stuff and then split into two groups to get ready for Beach Olympics. We went to Nokomis beach and participated in a few team games. The games involved a Crisco greased watermelon in the water, crawling across teammates backs in the sand, and saving damsels in distress. After that fun filled afternoon at the beach, we came back to the hotel to shower and hang out before going out to dinner. And that was the end of our new year’s day.

Novice Women

Rachel Nowicki ’15
Major: Hospitality and Tourism Management Major
Hometown: Clinton Twp., MI

After a fun night dancing in downtown Sarasota at the Pineapple drop, we all got to catch up on some much needed sleep. Following breakfast at the hotel, we all headed down to the water for practice at noon. This week, I have been working with the novice team and coxing the novice women’s 8+. During our steady state practice, we focused on low rate and high power and even got to see some dolphins. After heading back in, we all go on the bus to head for the beach for the Watermelon Bowl. The team was split into two teams: the south team which was comprised of novice women, coxswains, and varsity men vs. the north team which was comprised of the novice men and varsity women. The teams faced off in two different games and then versed off in the famous “greased watermelon game.” The seagulls seemed to love the Crisco on the watermelon and decided to attack the team in the middle of the game. Once the games were over and the south team won, some of the varsity girls and I went for a long walk on the beach to collect seashells. Soon after, we all headed back to the hotel to get ready for some dinner and to watch the Rose Bowl.


Coaches Blog

The Coaches

Combined Coaches’ Blog:

With the week nearly gone, the GVSU assistant coaches got together for dinner to talk about how the camp has gone so far. Our reflections are below.

Coach: Alyssa O’Donnell
Varsity Assistant Coach

Today was the first day we saw some dolphins! At first we saw one right behind one of our women’s pairs and then we saw two more on the way back to the site. Now that I’m a Michigander and haven’t seen a dolphin since I was last a rower on the intracoastal waterway, this was all too exciting!

Of course throughout the week we have taken video and pictures of the rowers, critiquing them and capturing the moments of the trip. It seems they enjoy the advances technology has provided us to help them with their own improvements and our own professional development. And of course they ham it up for pictures too!

Last night we went to the Pineapple Drop in downtown Sarasota and really enjoyed ourselves. We went on a couple different rides, walked around, played some games and completed our last workout of the day with a mandatory 60 minutes of dancing. I must say I really had some fun dancing with my rowers on the way back on the bus and chanting the infamous GV-SU!

Today we took our second practice to the beach! We carried on the tradition of the GVSU Greased Watermelon game, with the winners being the team comprised of the Varsity men and Novice women. Although, for the first time there was a big game changer, we had an even larger team show up to the beach; a fleet of about 150 seagulls! The birds wanted to nom on the Crisco covered watermelon so much that we had to cut the game short before an eye was pecked out. To finish off the afternoon we were scavenging along the beach looking for shark teeth that Coach Hugh pointed out to us! A majority of the team went home with quite the collection of shark teeth and various seashells!

Tomorrow is a new day and the ongoing battle of Alyssa vs. the launches, launches 5, Alyssa 3, will continue and hopefully the odds will ever be in my favor (we watched the Hunger games on the bus ride down…)

Happy New Year and as always, keep pulling for the Laker Navy!!

Coach Kelsey Arnold
Novice Women’s Blog

Eight novice women have taken the opportunity to leave the snowy north and spend a week in Florida to improve their stroke and reach a higher level of competition. Since their arrival, they have experienced many firsts in their rowing journey.

Saturday kicked off one of many rows in salt water, as well as dealing with multiple large wakes from sharing the water with other boaters. Sunday marked the first “survival row” as a light rain turned into a downpour with high winds and large swells. The novices were no doubt more appreciative of the Grand Rivers flat waters.

On Monday the team spent the afternoon at Siesta Key beach, soaking up the rays on the flour-like sand. The New Years Eve Regatta marked the longest row yet for the novice women, with a combined mileage of 36,000 kilometers with that morning’s practice. Later they experienced the Pineapple drop to welcome in 2014 in downtown Sarasota. At Wednesday’s practice two dolphins were spotted, and stingrays were also spotted during the team events at the beach later that afternoon.

It has been a pleasure coaching this group of athletes. They are extremely coachable and I am looking forward to our last few practices and more firsts for the novices.

Coach: Hugh McKeegan
Novice Men’s Coach

The novice men have enjoyed a productive camp so far, despite a couple of hiccups along the way. We’ve been spending a lot of time getting back to basics – rowing on the square, swing pick, etc. – and putting in a lot of miles. The guys have been making good improvements across the board and the rowing has gotten sharper with each practice. For my part, it’s been a tiring – but fun – week.

Sunday afternoon’s practice was probably the most exciting outing of the week. While the guys handled the windy conditions on the way home exceptionally well, the same could not be said for me and my little launch – thankfully, a couple of local fishermen, Joseph and Darren, happened along and gave me a tow for the last half mile back to the launching site. After a “memory enhancement” exercise at the hotel between practices on Monday, the novice men did eventually make it to the beach at the end of a long afternoon row, landing the boats and jogging a few yards across the dune to the gulf. The New Year’s Eve festivities kicked off with some tough low stroke rate racing – yours truly filling the seven seat in one of the novice men’s crews, and hopefully not scaring the guys with my incredibly rough stroke – and culminated in a great evening at the “Pineapple Drop” in downtown Sarasota.

With the last team beach outing today – seagulls, shark’s teeth, and crazy team games – we’re down to our last day and a half in Florida. I, for one, will miss the (relatively) warm weather and liquid water of Osprey when we get back to Michigan on Saturday. That being said, this camp will hopefully provide us with some good momentum going into the second half of winter training.


Day Six- Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Sarasota Scullers

Kaitlyn Van Boven ‘15
Major: Mathematics and Elementary Ed
Hometown: Fremont, MI

Today may have been the hardest day both physically and mentally, but it was the kind of day that makes Grand Valley Rowing successful. We started out a little earlier than normal to get everything in today. This morning we had the “Circle Bowl” This was the perfect way to show how much each of us has improved on the top inch, which has been the main focus of this trip. The faster you apply pressure to the front of the blade in the top inch, the faster you can turn the boat in a circle. The winners of the bowl won pizza from Coach. Fun competition is always a good thing especially when food can be won. After a delicious lunch we then hit the beach for a couple hours. I enjoyed reading in the shade. It was a great way to relax and prepare myself mentally for the “Hour of Power.” Thanks to the Sarasota Scullers, we were able to use their very nice ergs and complete the hour of power at their rowing training center. The “Hour of Power” is exactly what it sounds like. It is an erg piece where you go as hard as you can for an hour. Although it is one of the hardest pieces in the rowing world, it is very beneficial. Before our erg piece, Coach B read a passage from the book The Boys in the Boat to help us remember how important erging and working hard is. Not everyone can handle the workouts we do, but that is why we are so successful. We train hard. After our erg piece, we went out on the water for a quick flush workout of circle drills. It ended early due to lightening. We have one more practice tomorrow morning before we head back to the snowy Michigan weather. I can’t wait for all this hard training and workouts to pay off in the spring. Medals are won in the winter.

Varisty Mens Four

Nate Biolchini ’14
Major: Business
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

Today was a very long day, we were on the water early for the am session, in small boats as usual, working on the top inch at the catch, and had lots of fun in the “circle bowl” in which we tried to make a full circle in as few strokes as possible. The wind made it a bit of a bear but we all had similar numbers which I feel shows that we have all progressed well this week. We then went back to the hotel for lunch and headed to the beach shortly after that. A lot of us hung out in the shade and rested up for the beast of a workout that is the hour of power, but a few of us got the sun and waves that we could after we realized it was a whopping 3 degrees outside back home. After the beach we took a quick nap at the hotel and then headed to the Sarasota Scullers training center where the battle of athlete vs. erg took place, we all made it, some went further than others but as a team we conquered the piece and it was a relief when it was over. We then went straight to the rowing venue to get some more water time, and did circle drills for a while until the lack of light and threatening storm clouds rolling in forced us to take it in. We all trundled off the bus, discussing dinner and our mutual muscle aches and of course blistered hands. Overall it was a long day but we came out of it better than we were yesterday, both mentally, physically and technically.

GV Novice Men

Brandon Moore ‘17
Major: General Management and Marketing
Hometown: Lake Orion, MI

The morning started off bright an early getting on the water by 7:30. The sun had just come up and the GV crew was ready to row! The water was calm and we enjoyed a steady state row down the channel. As we approached the turning point the winds picked up and the waves were making it a challenging row. It was fun learning how to row on rough waters, making each crew work together to make the boat stable. It might have not been the best conditions, but somehow everyone got off the water soaking wet and a smile on their face.

Lunch was served when we arrived back at the hotel thanks to Debbie and Patrick Dolan, Coach Alyssa’s parents. They provided great food after each morning practice that hit the spot every time. With full stomachs, the team loaded the bus to head to the beach one last time. The winds calmed down and it turned into the perfect day to be in the sun. We all were soaking up the warm Florida weather before we head back to blistering cold of Michigan. Much of the team was on the shoreline collecting seashells and sharks teeth that had washed up to bring back as a souvenir. Everyone left the beach replenished and ready to get back on the water, It was nice to relax and hangout with the team before the workouts later in the day.

Practice continued later that day at the Sarasota Sculler’s training center. The facility was very nice and had top of the line ergometers which each athlete enjoyed. The crew completed an hour of power where everyone pushed their hardest on the erg. It was a tough workout but the GV crew pushed through. After the time on the erg everyone headed back to the boats to stretch out and get a few more meters in. This was the hardest day of practice by far, but it was still fun and full of many laughs and memories.

Erin Enk

Erin Enk ’17
Major: Exercise Science
Hometown: Plainfield, IL

Today was the last full day of training for the winter rowing training camp, and it was a good one at that. The Laker Navy was up bright and early this morning for breakfast, then headed off to the launching site for our first practice. The Novice Women spent the majority of the time working on drills to improve our blade work, and the coaches seemed to be pleased with our progress. We got caught in a fairly strong headwind, but we ended up using it to our advantage as it gave us resistance to help us lock into the drive of the stroke. We got off the water at around 10 am, then headed to the hotel pool for lunch. Once we all got a quick bite to eat, we loaded up the bus and headed to the beach.

After a relaxing two hours of wading in the water and napping in the sand, the novice team headed over to do our first Hour of Power on the ergs. Though it was challenging, we all pulled through it with flying colors. Afterwards we headed back to the launching site for a short technical practice on the water before heading back to the hotel for the night. Overall, today was extremely productive and quite fun; definitely a day well spent.


Day Seven- Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Team Osprey Beach Photo

Costas Ciungan ’14

Major: Legal Studies

Hometown: Grosse Ile, MI

This years Winter Training Trip concludes with a team stronger and technically better. Tim Duncan once stated “Good, Better, Best . Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.” That is the exact culture we are building in Grand Valley Rowing Club. Every athlete always striving to be the best they are capable of becoming both academically and athletically. Rowing is not a sport that can be done alone and it has been a pleasure to come on this trip for my fourth and final time as a rower. Between the equipment, the coaching, the coxswains, the other athletes, and the many blogs, it is evident that this is not a one person production, but a team effort both in terms of learning from each other and getting better as a team. This Winter Training Trip has been a great success and we owe it to all of our supporters and donors who give to our great program, our success is truly yours. Through out the week I have seen athletes improve in Posture, Timing, Control, Balance, Bladework, and the development of touch as many had an opportunity to analyze their rowing and get individual coaching attention including myself.

This week the varsity was in Pairs, Fours, and Eights; the men only in fours and pairs. In Pairs the Varsity did circle drills working on elements of their stoke and coaching not only their own blade but their team mates as well. The Varsity also did long steady state rows with technical work in pairs and fours. The women’s and men’s team both had a mix of older varsity members and a developmental group of newer rowers in regards to experience. The result was a lot of learning, as older rowers helped the newer rowers, and as a result, a stronger team. In addition, the entire team completed an hour of power at the Sarasota Sculler’s rowing training center.

The Coaching was another aspect that made this Winter Training Trip a success with seven coaches who came to teach, correct, and help develop great technique and better rowers. Coach Bancheri was instrumental for having everyone start back at square one, focusing on posture and timing and how those aspects allow for the mastery of control and balance. We broke down the rowing stroke and further developed the understanding of how every aspect of rowing flows together. We had on-land chalk talks where rowers demonstrated to each other different aspects of the stroke, such as hydrodynamic lift and the “rabbit punch.” Many athletes, especially the younger group in terms of experience, learned how each aspect builds upon the other. I was thrilled with the amount dedication and focus each athlete demonstrated, and to see each athlete helping others out.

As for myself, I was happy to see a great group of my teammates help one another, learn from one another, and develop better technique. I feel that many developed a sense of rhythm and touch as many novice rowers saw improvements in their rowing and learned a lot over this winter training trip. This attitude and culture of our team to never give less than your best and to always stay in the pursuit of perfection was evident in the athletes’ attentiveness during chalk talks and video review along with thoughtful questions and a desire for feedback.

This year was slightly different for me because I am now the president of the rowing team and not the web manger – that posts all the blogs and pictures for the team during the trip. This year I only assisted the new web manager, David Blythe, who has done great work. I am so thankful as a senior officer and assistant web manager to have came on this trip for four years and to post the blogs; to share with all of our supporters of the many great endeavors, adventures, and lessons our athletes here at Grand Valley Rowing are learning in both rowing and about life. This tradition will continue as younger athletes develop, grow, succeed, and become the team leaders and officers the team will need in the future. Thank you to everyone who made it possible from our supporters, donors, coaches, and to especially our student-athletes. My team and I are thankful and are looking forward to the great New Year and rowing season ahead. Keep pulling for the Laker Navy.

Sarasota Scullers Team photo

Nick Maodush-Pitzer ’16
Major: Elementary Education and Mathematics
Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Valley crew’s week of training concluded this morning with a good old-fashioned favorite practice of Coach B’s: the Vader Row, a three hour “tour” of the Intra-Coastal Waterway. It was the type of row that the athletes on this team have learned to appreciate as the embodiment of Coach B’s most popular adage, that Milage Makes Champions. With bodies tired from a week of training in Florida sun and a strong wind coming from the north, we headed out from the Sarasota Scullers boathouse and down the channel we have become so well acquainted with this week, keeping in mind all of the technical points Coach had us focusing on throughout the week: getting every extra inch of reach our bodies could find at the top of the stroke, starting the drive with a jump of the legs, keeping the torso taut in the middle of the stroke to set up for a strong impulse, and the final whip of the back and arms to finish the stroke with as much chutzpah as our bodies could muster. Heading south on the ICW we were able to enjoy both the current of the outgoing tide and the 20 mph headwind pushing us along. The varsity men, rowing in two 4+’s, were challenged, as we have been for many practices this week, to keep pace with an 8 composed of our National Champion women’s team counterparts. We battled downstream for nearly an hour and a half, with the leading bow ball often being the one attached to the boat with the greatest river current advantage. And inevitably, the trailing boats received some much-needed prodding from Coach B, whose ability to notice and correct improper technique in any boat helped to keep the practice competitive. Needless to say the competition was hot, even with the wind keeping us in the boats a wee bit cold. Once we stopped we were able to enjoy a few minute break to munch on snacks we were encouraged to bring along. Bananas, apples, pears, and even small cereal boxes made their way around the boats to quench our hunger in the middle of our long practice.

We then made our way back upstream, into both the current and the headwind. At times, it felt like being back home on the ergs as we rowed hard but did not move very far. As we continued on and were counting down the channel markers until we would be able to wet dock for the final time, Coach let us test our engines, rowing into the headwind at stroke rate in the high-20’s for the last 1500 or so meters of the day. Then for the final hurrah, Coach B had all of the boats that headed out in our group pull even with the freshmen and JV 8’s for one of his patented “WHATEVER IT TAKES TO WIN!” pieces. We had about one minute to prove which boat could push the hardest that they possibly could, and at a stroke rate ranging in the mid-30’s the 5 men (coxswain included) in the Rachel Ring eeked out a slight victory. After that last piece our bodies breated a sigh of relief. We love practice, but we also know how to appreciate the recovery necessary to let our bodies recuperate and prepare us for another champion-building practice. From there it was back to shore to wash the saltwater off our boats and de-rig for the last time until spring break. After de-rigging we headed back to the hotel for lunch, once again provided everso graciously by Kelly and Debbie and Patrick Dolan. Stomach’s filled we went back to our rooms to pack up for the last time, triple checking that nothing was left behind. With the bus loaded with all of our bags, we headed back to Sarasota Scullers to load the trailer and say our final goodbyes to our boats, who we will see again in March after 7 weeks of intense training back home on the ergs and in the weight room.

As we sit on the bus now, dreading the thought of returning home to subzero temperatures, we can reflect on the week that was. It started for the varsity with a couple practices of circle drills in pairs, getting back into the “swing” of things. As the week progressed and we got more comfortable being in boats for the first time in a month and a half we packed on the meters, both in pairs and in 4’s. While the technical gains were significant, a lot of other good things were happening around Grand Valley’s boat trailer. Personally, I was able to enjoy the company of and get to know many of the novice men that I previously had not been too familiar with. It was a pleasure, both at practice and while hanging out and boogie woogie-ing in downtown Sarasota for New Year’s, to get to know such a great group of hardworking, charismatic young men that I will be able share boats with next year, and who will be the face of Grand Valley’s rowing program for years to come. Just hearing about the freshmen practices after getting off the water makes me hopeful for them this upcoming spring season. These gents truly could be some of the most successful that this rowing program has ever seen, and watching them improve this week has probably been the highlight of this training trip for me. And sharing this week with them, as well as the rest of the tremendous group of athletes that comprise this proud rowing team, has me excited to be back home to train for the spring racing season.

Love practice or loathe it, with all the meters we logged this week and will log in the coming months, I think it would benefit any sports team to think about something Muhammed Ali once said: “I hated every minute of training, but I told myself: don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” The sooner we suffer and get past it, like through a training camp such as this in the middle of winter, the sooner we will be ready and deserve to be champions.

Next stop: San Diego.

Novice women Team photo

Brittany Gronda ‘17
Major: Advertisement & Public Relations
Hometown: Tawas City

Today was our last and final day in Florida. It seemed like the weather was preparing us for the frigid weather we would be returning to in Michigan because it was pretty cold and windy the entire practice. Since the plan was to be on the road by three, our morning practice went about an hour longer than usual. Heading out on the water there was a nice tail wind which made our long distance seem not as bad. The way back was made difficult due to a strong headwind. All together the novice women’s boat rowed three straight hours, which was the longest and most difficult row we have had since joining GVSU crew.

Once we arrived back to the hotel, a very nice lunch was provided to us and a group picture was taken by the pool. By that time everyone was anxious to finish packing up and hop in the shower before jumping on the bus for a 24 hour ride home. From the hotel we went back to our launch area and loaded up the trailer that would be taking our boats to where our spring break training will take place. Only seven more weeks on the erg until we make our return to Florida for the sun, sand, sea, and the boats. The crew got back on the bus and we are on the road right now.

Hopefully the saying “mileage makes champions” is true because this week has been full of many miles, sweat, blisters, and improvements. Even though there was a lot of work, there was also a ton of fun, laughter, and smiles to be had by all. I’d say that winter break 2013-2014 technical training in Osprey was a success.

 Team photo

Dominic Fisher ’17
Major: Cell and Molecular Biology & Chemistry
Hometown: Ada, MI

Today we got up and headed out from the hotel at around 6:45am, in an attempt to get to practice early so that we could launch on time. Despite our attempt to launch at the regulated time of 7:30, we ended up finally getting on the water at 8:00. After getting on the water we were having a good time on the water waiting for our coach. While we were waiting for our coach to catch up to us on the water, another rower in our boat started to eat the cereal Apple Jacks while we were preforming balance drills. This caused our entire boat to erupt into laughter and we had to stop practicing the drills because we needed to get ahold of ourselves and stop the tears from streaming. Afterward, our coach caught up to us and we began rowing by alternating six’s until we caught up with the varsity rowers. On the way to the boat launch my favorite part of the week occurred when during one of our pieces, dolphins appeared right next to our eights and fours. It was amazing to see dolphins appear from beneath our boat in the middle of a piece.

After we got off the water, we de-rigged the boats that we had used during practice and we loaded them onto the trailer. We then went back to the hotel and proceeded to the pool deck to take a photo for the hotel to put in their next brochure because they said that we were model guests. I then went to my room and finished packing all of my clothing and my laptop away. We then packed up the bus and headed back to the Sarasota Scullers boat launch for one final sweep for trash, to double check the strapping of the boats and the finalization of the trailer loading. We had one last speech from Coach B where he told us a lot of things about the week and gave us a general review of the week, but at the very end he told us he was proud of all the work we had been putting in. That is the only thing you can ask from your coach. We are now on the bus ride back from Florida and I know that this break was exactly what I needed. I had my form picked down to the bare minimums and rebuilt even stronger.  This winter training break also allowed me to become a better rower as a whole in terms of form, power application and overall power. I am thankful for this trip and all that it has given me.

 Team photo

Kelsey VanAmberg ’15
Major: Psychology
Hometown: Manistique, MI

We have all heard Coach Bancheri say a million times that “mileage makes champions.” On this winter training trip, we have definitely put that philosophy to use. Today our workout was a long 3 hour steady state row on the Intracoastal waterway. But this training trip has also taught us many other things that make champions in the rowing world… Dedication to a team and something bigger than yourself. Hard work towards goals that we set for ourselves and each other. Trust in our coaches and teammates. And above all, a true passion for the sport.

Once in a while on this team you have a moment in which you realize what it really means to be a part of the Laker Navy. The whole team finishing an hour of power erg piece with absolutely everything they have even though we didn’t really want to sit on an erg for even a minute while in Florida. Lining up every boat on the water and sprinting the last 30 seconds of practice in an all-out “whatever it takes to win”. Having the dedication to give up a week spent at home relaxing with family to spend 48 hours on a bus and over 5 hours a day rowing and training hard. Being close with your teammates to the point that they feel like family. Setting goals for yourself that at first seem impossibly difficult, but constantly working hard and never once giving up on them. And the indescribable feeling when you finally do reach those goals. This is what it really means to be a part of Grand Valley Rowing.

Winter training is all about goals. Setting goals for the spring season, seeing what it will take to reach those goals, and the never ending pursuit toward them. We work hard all winter, with our sights on the San Diego Crew Classic, Dad Vail, and ACRA, among others. With the conclusion of this winter training trip, I am so excited to see where this season takes us. Seeing the athletes on this team, men and women, novice and varsity, push themselves and their teammates to be the best that they can be, is truly inspiring. Now we head back to Allendale, to the snow and cold, to get back on the ergs, get back in the weight room, and continue to train. After seeing what we did this week, I can’t wait to see what we can do this spring.


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