The Grand Valley State University Rowing Club challenges its student-athletes to reach the highest level to which they aspire both academically and athletically, while continuing to build and sustain a nationally competitive intercollegiate rowing program.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hometown: Allendale, MI
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Athlete:Matthew Collins, Three Seat, Men’s A 4+ Year: Junior Hometown: Grand Blanc, Michigan I chose Grand Valley because: of the welcoming environment that the campus provided as well as the size and opportunities that GV gives its students. If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: appreciate the small things, like the van rides or the team dinners. Those are the things that you will remember forever.
As I awoke from our first night in the most prestigious rowing town in the rowing world,I can’t wait to see what we experience across the pond. Due to the fact that we lost two hours from our recent training trip in Greece and the British sun pierced through the skylight in our room, I woke up a few hours before we had to leave for practice. I was the first member of the team but, slowly but surely, the rest of the men came down to enjoy some crossaints and Frosties (the Frosted Flakes of England). After 2 hours of enjoying breakfast and reminiscing in our trip to Greece, we made the 10 minute journey to practice. Having seen the River Thames yesterday evening, I expected to not be taken back by it this morning, but that wasn’t the case. The crisp air made the water ripple and it was absolutely breathtaking. The men’s A four got on the water, preparing for today’s assignment: four 2 minute pieces at race pace. As we have a new boat that is more responsive, every stroke we take matters, especially those at race cadence. After some successful pieces combined with some things to work on moving forward, we put the boat away next to racks and racks of others.
After coming back to the house we are staying at, we all prepared our own combination of sandwiches, scones, and fruit. The combination of two-a-day practices across two countries and a 12 hour travel day yesterday meant that my body was in desperate need of a nap. After trying to tune out the music marathon the rest of the men’s team was playing in the speakers across the house, I was able to catch a few Z’s. After waking up, the men’s A four and men’s pair headed to the water for our second practice of the day as we don’t have a qualifying race to get into the regatta because we received a bid. Being able to be automatically entered in the regatta is incredible and I wouldn’t have imagined being in this position when I picked up an oar for the first time 3 years ago. We reduced the practiced to only one lap of the race course which focused on skill at low rates in order to get the feel of the boat.
After practice, the men’s team pooled some pounds together so we could head to the market and make a house dinner. As we enjoyed the feast of pasta and chicken with an amazing sauce made by chef Noah Lasky, we cheered on the Three Lions of the England Football Team in the World Cup. I grew up loving soccer so I will always turn on the beautiful game. Hopefully the England progresses far so we are able to go to a local restaurant in the next round so we can experience the soccer culture here. The night was topped off by the singing of Happy Birthday to Jessie Hasenau and Sal Bancheri whose birthdays have occurred since we left for Europe. As I chowed down on the brownie cake and enjoyed every calorie I could, I am looking forward to experiencing every ounce of rowing culture in Henley and culture in general in England. Pull for the Laker Navy!
Athlete:Melissa Frank, Three Seat, Women’s V8+ Year: Sophomore Hometown: Oswego, IL I chose Grand Valley because: I liked the color blue. If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: you get out of rowing what you put in.
Today was our first full day in Henley! And today I got my luggage from the airport which they lost on our way from Greece to Henley, which was almost as exciting as the team being able to sleep after a long day of travel yesterday in order to rest of for our time trials tomorrow. The woman’s eight got to the boat house today at 9:30 am rested and ready for a row. We set off to do our pre-race fartlek. Being in our new boat felt, good yet a bit wobbly at time partly because we’ve been training in a larger boat with larger oar handles for the passed week. The high rates 250 meter pieces felt powerful with good ratio, even Coach said our last pieces at a 36 looked as if we were at a 32 or 33. After the row many of us stopped at a local market with baked goods, fresh fruit and vegetables to bring back to our houses. For the rest of the day we stay at our house and watch movies, because we were specifically told to stay on our butts, until dinner for which we went downtown to a pasta/pizza restaurant for some pre race day carbs and also for us to have some good team fun and laughs. We then stopped at a small super market to grab a treat and head back to our houses for a team meeting and to sleep!
Athlete:Jacob Spiess, Three Seat, Men’s B 4+ Year: Sophomore Hometown: Whitehouse, OH I chose Grand Valley because: I met the team at a regatta and visited GV. I loved The school and decided to go here. If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: If you do the same thing everybody else does, you’ll never get faster than anybody. The extra effort is what makes winners succeed.
Today would probably go down as my most well-traveled day so far. I started off the day waking up in the 5-star Limneon Resort in Kastoria, Greece. At 4a.m. we all woke up and prepared for the journey ahead. The first trip was a bus ride to the same airport we arrived into Greece. After flying to Istanbul again we took another flight to the London-Heathrow airport we also went through on our way to Greece. However, the reason for this being my most traveled day in history is the not only did I travel through the country sides and mountains of Greece but we also drove through the farmland and such of England as we finally head to Henley, the reason we started this trip.
Finally, after a long bus ride, two plane rides and another bus ride later we finally arrived in Henley at the course. The sight took my breathe away as the sun stretched over the Thames River and the water was perfect for practicing. After we settled into the housing we went to the race course and saw the boats we rented for the racing. I knew we were getting brand new boats but it was also exciting seeing it for the first time. The slides were unused, seats unstrained by rowers past. We were so excited to get out on the water that we hurried through the rigging and the oars and finally got out on the water.
Today was something I’m going to remember for a long time. Having to leave Greece was sad but being in Henley was something else. Being a rower for as long as I have you tend to appreciate an area where rowing is part of the culture (probably why regattas seem so fun). Here the whole place just screams rowing tradition, culture and experience that many are not so fortunate to experience. I am looking forward to the following days with immense optimism and excitement not only for the racing but the entire Henley experience.
Athlete:Allyson Hicks, Bow Seat, Women’s Spare 2- Year: Junior Hometown: Holland, MI I chose Grand Valley because: it has a wide variety of major/course options, which was helpful for someone who came in Undecided. GV was the biggest school that I looked at, but it was able to have the offerings of a big school with the small school feel. If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: rowing is going to teach you a lot more about life than you’d expect, and it’s a great way to find your niche on campus.
Today was one of those days that seems to never end: a travel day! We woke up this morning in Greece at 4:00am, and had the bus loaded and headed for the airport by 5:00. The resort graciously provided us with a meal for during our travel which was certainly appreciated by all of us. Most of us slept during the bus ride to the airport, and were therefore well rested for yet another thrilling round of checking bags and going through security.
Our flights to Istanbul and London both went well, with an added bonus of birthday girl Jessie Hasenau getting a gift of personalized headphones from the airline! We arrived at Heathrow with a fun blend of exhaustion and excitement, not really noticing the two hour time shift. From the airport, we all loaded into a bus that took us to our respective housing assignments (after some shuffling to figure out who went where). We got ourselves settled, and headed for the course.
Once at the course, it was a cluster of figuring out who was rowing which boat, and the oars all had to be adjusted. It took some time (and some more shuffling) and then we were able to launch. Emily Gilbert and I used the same pair that the men did. This meant that we had to spend some time on land, walking the course while we waited for our boat that was on the water. Using the men’s boat also meant that we did our Henley course as our first time in a starboard stroke lineup. It went very well, and being able to row down a course that I had only seen previously on livestreams was a great experience.
We rounded out the day with a large group that all went out to dinner together to refuel, something that was necessary on a day’s diet of airplane food. A step beyond just satisfied, we all returned to our homes for the next couple of weeks, ready to get some rest for the day ahead. We’re all excited to see what the next couple of weeks will hold!
Athlete:Rachel Keller, Four Seat, Women’s V8+ Year: Junior Hometown: Carol Stream, IL Quote: “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week you’re going to have something special.” – Jim Valvano If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Try and row all four years, it’s worth it.
Today is our final day in Greece! I have had such an incredible time in Kastoria, I know my teammates and I will never forget the amazing hospitality that we experienced here. We started off the morning at 7:30 with one final breakfast before we left for the boathouse. No hotel breakfast will ever compare to the breakfast at the Limneon Resort. We got to practice and luckily the rain held off for us as we had a two hour row of steady state focusing on the front end with some bob drills and 20 strokes on 20 strokes off pieces.
After morning practice, we went into town to thank the youth rowing club for letting us borrow their boats for the week. We exchanged gifts and they gave us a tour of the boathouse. We also got to meet the Olympic bronze medalist in the women’s lightweight double from the 2012 London games. A short drive away was the Vice Governor’s office, there we met with him and exchanged some kind words and gifts. It is a really cool feeling that Grand Valley has left its mark on this beautiful city and I hope I am able to return someday.
Our final practice in Greece was a nice swing row to the boathouse to return our eight that we borrowed for the week. There were many pelicans that joined us on the row. Overall this has been an incredible training trip, my teammates and I will never forget the hospitality that we had here in Kastoria, Greece. We are very excited to head to London tomorrow morning to race at the Henley Royal Regatta this week.
So long from Greece!!
Athlete:Aidan McCoy, Bow Seat, Men’s B 4+ Year: Sophomore Hometown: Chicago, IL I chose Grand Valley because: Fantastic school with great academics, and my high school coach rowed here as well. If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: You’re stronger than you know.
As I come to a groggy rise from my bed at 7:30AM, the light drops of rain give me the wake up call I need to start the day. I dress into my practice gear right away, and notice the emptiness in my stomach has a craving for Greek yogurt. The hotel breakfast is as promising as always, with feta cheese as the main ingredient for almost everything. I devoured my yogurt and eggs with a smile on my face, and prepared for a wet and rainy practice. On the water, we practiced some general steady state rowing, with a few hard strokes thrown in for good measure. After practice, we met at Evan’s rowing club and their members. The Nautical Club of Kastoria was very welcoming and happy to see us. They gave us a quick tour of the boathouse and erg room. The erg room was very impressive, equipped with a lot of weights and a full indoor tank to practice technique.
For our second stop of the day, we gave a visit to the Regional Vice Governor of Macedonia. The politician was also very welcoming and warm as we entered the impressive office. He explained how happy he was to see the Grand Valley Rowing Team practicing in Kastoria, and humorously apologized for the weather. We took a nice photo, and presented him with a few gifts on behalf of the team. For our second practice of the day we did more steady state in order to row the boats we had borrowed back to their respective boathouses. I ended the day with a final gyro from my favorite corner place in Kastoria, and fill my stomach with the symphony of flavors that I had fell in love with for the last time. My experience in Kastoria has been truly life changing. Although that may sound cliché, I do mean it. As this was my first time traveling internationally, Greece was everything I hoped it would be and more. I have made memories here that I will cherish for a lifetime, and I hope this is not the last time I get the opportunity to visit this beautiful city.
Athlete:Brandon Roberts, Two Seat, Men’s A 4+/big> Year: Senior Hometown: Dearborn Heights, MI If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Stick together.
Good evening from Kastoria, Greece!
This amazing week in this absolutely surreal location is coming to a close and everybody is pretty beat up about it. This is easily the most breathtaking place, much less rowing venue, that I have ever been to in my lifetime and I am really sad to be leaving. From the rolling hills on every side of Kastoria to the monasteries on top of the mountains in Meteora, Greece. Its people will be deeply missed.
My roommates and I woke up in the morning at or near 7:30 am and spent about half an hour attempting to get out of bed. But sure enough, at 8:05 am we were out the door and on our way to breakfast in the resort before heading out to practice. I was not sure what to expect out of this morning’s practice, so I tried to eat pretty light. We got to the Nautical Club of Kastoria (as the locals call it) and put our boat straight in the water for what we had not yet realized was about to be 2 and a half hours of rowing. We began practice with bobs, then bobs to the catch, then bobs with a slap square. At that point, my boat had to start creating ways to challenge ourselves because the other drills had gotten easy. But alas, two more hours of steady state later, combined with a few pieces at race pace and we were back on the dock, safe and sound.
The team got back to the hotel around noon, just in time for lunch. After a big lunch consisting of grilled chicken, peppers, spinach pie, and greek yogurt, I decided to retire to my room for some a much-needed nap.
Since my boat got the bid for Henley and does not have to race a time trial, coach B got to throw a few more practice sessions at us since we do not necessarily need to begin tapering until later in the week. With that being the case, the rest of the team headed into town to watch Elliot, Matt, Ben Williams, and myself do more race pieces in the pouring rain while Coach Costas, our coxswain Lauren, and our Guest Coach Evan Tsourtsoulas chased after us in the launch. Full disclosure, I was having a blast. I was broken and sore and tired afterward, but it was fun nonetheless. We cut the cool down a little short because the weather was beginning to get the best of us and we headed back to the dock before we took on too much water.
Dinner could not come soon enough. Alongside the Greek national team, we feasted on what I believe was a greek pasta with beef tips and more greek yogurt. After dinner, I got the opportunity to trade some of my rowing gear with some of the Greek national team guys and I got a pretty sweet uni out of the deal. I decided to wind my night down by spending it laughing uncontrollably with a few of my friends in one of the other rooms. Sufficed to say, I had a pretty phenomenal day.
A huge thank you to the coaching staff, all of the donors who got us here, as well as all of the friends and family I have back home who are cheering me on from the sidelines. I would also like to thank our hosts, Evan, Dimitrius, and Tina Tsourtsoulas for making this both a training camp and a vacation that I will remember (and surely embellish) for the rest of my life.
See you in England!
Athlete:McKenzie Sandel,Two Seat, Women’s V8+ Year: Freshmen Hometown: Grosse Ile, MI If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be:Positive attitudes = Free boat speed
To start taper off right the GVSU team made sure to eat a big breakfast provided by the Limneon resort. Shortly after, we began our daily adventure to the boat club where we rowed around the perimeter of Lake Kastoria which is approximately a half marathon! (roughly 21,000m) I enjoyed today’s practice because while the main focus was on form, we also got to incorporate speed work by lining up the boats every 10-20 minutes and doing 40-second bursts!
Because taper began today, my boat only had morning practice. However, the Men’s Varsity A 4+ is not on taper yet and unfortunately had to practice in the pouring rain but you know what they say, “It’s a water sport. You are bound to get wet at some point.” So while the men braved the wind and the rain, the rest of the team went into town to grab some coffee and sit under a canopy to watch them practice. They looked great!
When 6 pm rolled around we regrouped and drove home for dinner and when we finished up eating we began to write our thank you letters to all of our amazing friends and family who supported and helped us get to where we are today.
Today was a day that the ladies and gentlemen of the Laker Navy will never forget.
Our morning began with a brisk practice out on the lake, one designed to test our peak physical
fitness. After grabbing a quick breakfast at the Limneon, we made our way down to the
Nautical Club of Kastoria and got ready for our pieces. The plan was to do two 2k races,
however, with the weather deteriorating, we ended up doing one 2k and three 750 meter
pieces. We were all pushing ourselves to our maximum physical potential, while also trying to
focus on the training we received while we’ve been here. Coach was adamant to see us pushing
each other, and was especially excited to see the way that the A4 was racing with such
intensity. After a long and successful practice, we met back on land to take boat photos on the
dock. We also had the opportunity to meet the Vice President and Event Coordinator of the
Greek Rowing Federation, which was an incredible honor.
We returned to the hotel to shower and eat a quick lunch before heading off on our spectacular
adventure in Meteora. A two-hour bus ride there was well worth the amazing view that we
were able to experience. The first place we visited was the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, and
this was my favorite part of the day. After climbing several hundred stairs on the side of a cliff,
we made it up to the monastery itself. There was so much amazing history there, and thanks to
Dimitrios Tsourtsoulas, one of our gracious hosts, we were able to get a full understanding of
the amazing history behind the monasteries themselves. The incredible art and culture that was
saw inside was something truly beautiful to behold. Dimitrios told us so many amazing
historical facts about what we were experiencing, which truly was what made the experience
However, the most amazing part of the entire excursion was the view of the cliffs and the town
from the edge of the monastery. I have been stunned by very few views in my life, but this was
one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. I am very afraid of heights, but I could not
possibly resist standing against the railing and taking in the sheer majesty of what was around
me. I loved every second of it. After a few photos and visiting the museums of the monasteries,
we headed back into town for dinner.
After grabbing an excellent dinner and some pastries, as well as stopping to pet our new dog
friend, McCreery, we headed back to the hotel. Today was a day filled with culture and
incredible experiences, and it made me realize how much I’ve changed as a person throughout
my years on Grand Valley’s rowing team. I have become more open to new experiences, and
more excited to experience other cultures. Today was a perfect example of the amazing
experiences that this team can provide for people who choose to participate in this amazing
sport with these amazing people.
Can’t wait for another great day with the Laker Navy.
Greetings from Kastoria!
It was another fun filled day in Greece! We got up around 6:50 to go get a light breakfast before
leaving for the boathouse. We had planned to do 2×2000 meter pieces against the junior team
here but the water was too choppy for them to row over from the other side of the lake. We
did one of the 2000 meter pieces before shorting the distance to 750 meters on a part of the
course that was much less choppy, and did three of those. The pieces got better every time and
our times kept dropping as the women’s 1V found their rhythm and got back into the swing of
going at higher rates again. Overall, it was a productive morning with lots of improvements
made. I’m still in awe every time we launch of the beautiful scenery surrounding us and that I
have the opportunity to row in such a beautiful country (Thanks Mom and Dad!). After we
docked the team headed back to the hotel to quickly shower, change, and pick up our lunches
prepared by the wonderful resort we are staying at before heading on our charter bus and to
our excursion for the day Meteora! The drive there was absolutely beautiful. The mountains are
perfectly silhouetted against the sky that gives the whole country a very rustic feel. As we got
closer to Meteora giant cliff faces appeared from seemingly nowhere, rising into the sky almost
1300 feet. It looked like a setting from Avatar! As a geology major, I was pressing my face
against the bus window like an excited little kid, in complete awe of this natural phenomenon. I
took a ton of pictures that I plan to email my geology professors at Grand Valley to gain more
insight on how these stunning formations occurred. From the bottom of these mountains we
could see buildings sitting on the very top of them, looking out over the whole valley. These
were the monasteries that we traipsed up the mountain to tour. The roads were incredibly
windy and I was amazed that our charter bus could make it up these giant and curvy hills but
we made it to the top! The first monastery we went to was perched on the highest peak I could
see. We were dropped off at the base of the monastery and then climbed about 310 (give or
take a few) stairs to get to the main building. The climb was worth it as we walked along the
ancient halls that seemed to be perfectly preserved. The main sanctuary was full of beautiful
paintings of the original saints and many other religious figures. There was a museum full of
Plato and Aristotle’s original works as well as many other ancient scrolls and absolutely
stunning wood carvings. The oldest thing I found was dated all the way back to the 9 th century!
Which isn’t even that old compared to the rocks the monastery stood on, they dated back 30
million years. My favorite part of this monastery was a look out point that gave a breath-taking
view of both the city below and the other surrounding monasteries perched on their own
mountain tops. I felt truly blessed in that moment to be here in this wonderful country with
some of my best friends.
After we toured another monastery we headed into town to eat dinner. I split saganaki and
spaghetti with Rachel Keller. We both agreed that it was a fabulous meal. The restaurant was
decorated with a lot of cool and authentic trinkets that made me feel transported back to
ancient Greece. We also had the opportunity to meet a senator of Meteora as we were leaving
dinner which was very cool! He was very pleasant and wished us good memories and fun times
for the rest of our visit. After dinner, the whole team went to a bakery to pick up some
authentic Greek dessert. I got 4 pieces of baklava, my favorite Greek dessert! It tasted delicious.
We then loaded the charter bus back up and journeyed back to our resort, where some snacks
were waiting for us. Overall, this was my favorite day of the trip so far and I can’t wait to see
what the rest of this trip holds! Bye for now!
Athlete:Jessica Hasenau, Five Seat, Women’s V8+ Year: Junior Hometown: Livonia, Michigan My best race was: San Diego Crew Classic 2018 If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: This is not a normal club. If you put in the work you will find yourself with some amazing opportunities.
We put in the milage yesterday to wrap up a long week of training and travel, so a day to recover was much needed. We spent the day at the highly recommended beach in Thessaloniki, Greece and we began bright and early with a big team breakfast. After that we loaded up on the charter bus and headed to Sahara Resort Beach joined by our amazing hosts Tina and Evan.
It was a long 2.5 hour bus ride, but well worth it. The drive down through the mountains had breathtaking views overlooking the Greek vineyards, bridges stretching over large valleys, and tunnels that cut right through the mountains. Once we got there the resort felt like one of those places you see in a magazine or commercial getaways full of cushioned beds, straw umbrellas, nautical rope swings, and the blue ocean just meters away.
The Aegean Sea was very beautiful and is one of the most memorable bodies of water Grand Valley Rowing has taken me to on our travels. We had a great time jumping in the waves and a few of the rowers even took out a jet ski for a short while. We were also able to spot Mount Olympus in the far distance. The team was able to enjoy a relaxing day together away from training as we sprawled out on lawn chairs and giant bean bags. It was a nice way to enjoy our one day off training for recovery before our pieces with the Greek Junior national team tomorrow morning.
On the way back we stopped for food in Thessaloniki at Casmos Mall around 7 pm and picked up some authentic street gyros that tasted way better than any gyro I have had. Then we went back to Kastoriá. I had so much fun today and still cannot believe we are in Greece having these fantastic experiences. Just 3 more days here in Greece and 5 days left until the Royal Henley!
Athlete:Salvatore Bancheri, Stroke, Men’s 2- Year: Freshmen Hometown: Allendale, MI My best race was: this year when the Freshmen 4+ took silver at MACRA. If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Stick it out.
Today the whole team headed to The Sahara Resort in Thessaloniki, Greece. The beach was beautiful and we all got umbrellas and chairs on the beach next to each other, which were like mini cabanas. The water was very nice and warm but also very choppy, good thing we were not rowing on it. Many of us swam and hung out together on the giant beach bags that were all over the beach. It was really nice to all be together as one team. Darby and I decided to go jet skiing, the water was very choppy and windy but it was beyond fun. For dinner, we went to the mall in Thessaloniki and got Gyros. A gyro from Greece is like no other with fresh fries inside.
We ended the day with a beautiful sunset journey back to our hotel in the bus. The sights on the way to and from the beach were breath taking. The mountains and cities around Greece are spectacular and there are no words that can describe the views we are experiencing. All in all, it was a great day and I look forward to racing and visiting the Meteora Monastery tomorrow.
Athlete:Audriana Boerson, Seven Seat, Women’s V8+ Year: Junior Hometown: Grand Haven, MI My best race was: San Diego Crew Classic 2018 If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: It’s hard, it hurts, but it’s all worth it.
Here in Greece you can begin the day by watching the rising sun peek over the top of tall mountains, and that’s just how I began my day. I know, I know, college students are expected to sleep in, and enjoy any chance of shut-eye they can get. But not many people get to watch the sunrise over Greek mountains, so I took my chance and got up with the sun.
After a team breakfast we headed out to the boathouse to get our first workout of the day in. The day was already hot, and we were sweating as we launched our boats. We began practice by doing some skill-and-drill refreshers of what we had learned yesterday. The main focus was for us to apply quick, and efficient pressure at the catch. After the warmup the crews headed onto the course. We were joined by a very special guest today on the water, our host Evan’s friend and teammate Mikos, an athlete of the Greek National team, who placed second in single sculls at the World Cup. Mikos participated in 2k pieces with us. Today we focused on the idea that rate doesn’t equal power, and we worked on that throughout the four 2ks that we did today.
Immediately following practice, the Laker Navy donned our best GV gear and went to meet the mayor of Kastoria. Through the twists and turns of the Kastorian roads we made our way to their parliament building. The whole team was ushered into the clean building and were seated in a meeting hall. Here is where we meet with the mayor, we each expressed our gratitude, and ended our short meeting by presenting him with gifts in the form of a GV flag, and a Laker Navy shirt.
Following a short lunch break the Lakers were back to the road, this time our mission was to learn a little more about Kastoria. Our first stop was to cave beneath the city. The team travelled 350 meters through the mountain. We gazed at rocks aging back 6 million years, searched the still waters of the underground lake, and stood in awe of the stalagmite and stalactites formations. Next stop was to a thousand-year-old monastery. We learned about the different ages, and buildings associated with them, and the meaning to the churches around us. The most interesting thing, to me, was when the Ottoman Empire was invading Greece they wouldn’t destroy the churches of the Orthodox religion, instead they would scratch out the eyes of the idols painted on the sides of the churches.
Following our historic tour of the city we went out for our second practice. This practice was just a long flush row, where we worked on our boat, as a whole, and tried to feel the boat. The women’s 8+ was having a difficult time at first, but in the end, we began to feel the run of the boat on our strokes. This practice was good for the boat to come together and feel the boat, and to connect with our teammates in the boat.
Now we head out to Kastoria to explore the city at night!
We are all enjoying this wonderful trip and are looking forward to competing in the Royal Henley Regatta. Pull for the Laker Navy!
Athlete:Noah Lasky, Stroke Seat, Men’s B 4+ Year: Freshmen Hometown: Midland, MI I chose Grand Valley because: It’s a very affordable school that delivers a high quality education. If I could tell my incoming teammates one thing, it would be: Keep your head down and stay focused. Rowing doesn’t get easier, but you get faster.
The team got a nice surprise this morning, we were allowed to sleep in a little extra so we could eat the big breakfast. After breakfast we took off to the race course for practice. Morning practice was difficult, we did 4x2000m pieces at 22spm. We all gave our best efforts and had a successful workout.
After practice we went back to the hotel to have another delicious lunch. After lunch we took a brief trip to explore some caves and an old monastery. This was an awesome experience.
After our trip we got on with our second practice of the day which was a long flush row. Afterwards we all headed into town to enjoy the night.