'Laker Navy' to compete in Dad Vail Regatta

Rowing team expects big results despite setbacks at home

By Emanuel Johnson | 5/14/11 2:06pm

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Cracked earth shows where the Grand River crept up toward the boat house. The docks had to be removed from the water.

by Eric Coulter / Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Grand Valley State University rowing club traveled to Philadelphia Wednesday and is currently training for Friday’s start of the city’s annual Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, the largest collegiate regatta in the U.S.

But before the team could take off, there were a few issues at home that needed to be resolved. During the final week of the Winter 2011 semester, the club’s boathouse, situated on the Grand River, sat island by a flood that submerged the walkway under five feet of water.

The water has already subsided to normal levels, and GVSU head coach John Bancheri said the team made a seamless effort to secure equipment and reduce damage to the boathouse. Until the water subsided, the men’s and women’s teams each took turns in 12-hour shifts watching the boats, making sure none were lost to the river.

“We were able to get everything secured to deal with the flooding – it was seamless,” Bancheri said. “That’s one of the things that I love a bout Grand Valley – it’s just a school with an entrepreneurial spirit. Stuff happens, and we just rolled with the punches and did what we had to do to make it work.”

As for the actual competition, in which the Lakers will compete against schools and programs across all divisions and conferences, Bancheri said he has high expectations. The Lakers will enter more than 70 athletes across several different races, more than the team has in any previous Dad Vail Regatta.

One of the races the Lakers will most look forward to is the Varsity Women’s Eight in which the women’s team, ranked No. 1 in the latest American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA) polls, is expected to make a big impact.

“You’ve got five seniors in that boat, a lot of experience,” Bancheri said. “They’ve got gold medals at that level, and they know how to go fast. They’re prepared, and I believe they’re capable of medaling, if not winning the whole thing.”

On the men’s side, the Varsity Men’s Eight was ranked No. 5 in the most recent ACRA polls. Bancheri said in their race, as in all of the other races the Lakers will take part in, staying focused on the task at hand will be key in surviving against tough competition.

“I think the team that is the most poised and the most relaxed is going to win, because there’s going to be a lot of pressure at this type of event,” he said. “Our men and women aren’t just racing against club teams – they’re also racing against Division I scholarship programs. We’re the only club sport at Grand Valley that does that.”

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