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Grand Valley State University's Beacon Since 1963, Allendale, MI
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Rowing looks to duplicate last year’s success

Grand Valley State University was founded in 1960. Four years later, Professor Charles Irwin offered a course in rowing. Several men signed up, and GVSU’s first rowing crew was born.

Fast forward almost 50 years and Irwin has been replaced by Head Coach John Bancheri. The group of inexperienced students has been transformed into teams of skilled collegiate athletes, and, of course, the agenda has changed for the Lakers.

Bancheri, who is in his eighth year of coaching at GVSU, leads both the men’s and women’s Varsity 8 squads. The 2013 outlook is promising for both Laker crews as they come off strong showings in 2012.

The spring rowing season opened out of state, as the team traveled to Oakridge, Tenn., to get its form back for the upcoming season. The Lakers did not compete in the traditional sense over the break, but rather worked on the little things that will help them glide to victory for the season.

“We just got back on the water to perfect our technique,” said senior captain Chad Condon. “Training and physical endurance happened during the winter. Spring break was about focusing on our ability to move the boat.”

The men’s rowing team boasts an experienced lineup this year with five returning V8 athletes. Ten seniors are listed on GVSU’s roster of 21 rowers, all of whom are attempting to earn one of eight spots on the varsity crew.

The Lakers are highlighted by Condon, who sits four-seat, a central position that requires power. Another bright spot for GVSU is the return of junior Robert DeWeerd, who will rejoin the team after returning from naval deployment in Afghanistan.

In 2012, the GVSU men were able to secure a third-place finish in the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association (SIRA), a fourth-place finish in the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA), and a strong seventh-place showing at the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, the largest intercollegiate rowing event in the U.S.

“Last year was a fantastic season,” Bancheri said. “Our men were just a couple seats off of Michigan in the ACRA. We’re looking forward to another good season.”

Despite having a group of strong rowers, the women’s Varsity 8 team will have its work cut out for it this season. The Lady Lakers left a strong mark on the 2012 campaign, ending the season as SIRA and ACRA champions, while finishing fourth at The Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta.

The women’s crew is led by senior captain Carey Mankins, who sits stroke seat. Mankins is joined by five other seniors on a team that returns half of its rowers from last year’s strong V8 team.

GVSU will compete in its first heats this weekend as it heads to northern Virginia to take on other rowers in the Occoquan Sprints.

“It’s going to be good competition,” Mankins said regarding the sprints. ”Drexel (University) is going to be there and we are usually close with them.”

The Lakers will look to improve on their final standings from last year when they finished as runners-up in the MACRA.

Earning these accolades does not come without hard work, as the teams put in the work equivalent to most varsity sports on campus.

“I think the biggest shock to people is how much time we put in,” Mankins said. “They know it’s a club sport, but we practice just as much as the varsity teams. We’re out there six days a week working on our sport.”
aknorr@lanthorn.com



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