Rowing Club propelled by novice talent

By Adam Knorr | 9/25/13 6:21pm

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When the novice men of Grand Valley State University’s Rowing Club take to the water this weekend,
they’ll be without every single one of their rowers from last year’s roster. But isn’t that always the
case?

GVSU Rowing, like many other collegiate sports, features two levels of competition—a varsity team
and a junior varsity team. The rowing world, however, refers to junior varsity teams as “novices.” The
2013 novice rowers for GVSU are, like most other years, inexperienced, yet positively brimming with
potential.

The roster is filled from top to bottom with freshmen—only seven of whom have prior rowing
experience. One such athlete is freshman Rob Hiner, who rowed competitively for four years in high
school at Ann Arbor Pioneer. As Hiner pointed out, rowing for a novice squad provides challenges not
usually faced in collegiate athletics.

“It’s been a little slow relearning the basics of rowing with the rest of the team,” Hiner said. “It
required a bit of patience at first, but now that everyone has learned the basics, we can start moving
faster.”

The first chance to showcase their improvement will come on Saturday as the novice Laker squad is
slated to participate in the Grand River Challenge—an annual regatta hosted by the Grand Rapids
Rowing Club. Rather than competing strictly against other collegiate novice teams, GVSU will race
against high school and masters crews alike.

The Grand River Challenge will serve as a trial run for a squad that features multiple competitors who
have only been rowing for a mere four weeks. The Lakers will use this weekend to attempt to smooth
out the ripples that are bound to come from a new crew of rowers working together.

“This weekend will be many of the guys’ first regatta, so it’s all about showing them the ropes,” Hiner
said. “It will be their first chance to row on a real race course. I expect that we’ll do great at this
regatta and that we’ll continue to get faster throughout the year.”

GVSU hopes to have the kinks worked out by Oct. 21 when it heads to East Lansing to race in-state
rival Michigan State University. Slightly farther down the road looms Nov 2., marking an equally-
important match against the University of Michigan in Ypsilanti.

According to novice coach Hugh McKeegan, the attrition rate for GVSU novice rowing is rather high
from year-to-year. He estimates that if the fall season opens with a group of 30 to 40 men, only six to
eight will remain four years down the river. Regardless, McKeegan calls all athletes to give it a shot,
citing that it’s still not too late in the season to join with a group of men who he believes have winning
potential.

“We’ve got a lot of good size and power, and they’re really starting to gel and work well as a team,”
McKeegan said. “I’m excited to work with this group. They love to work hard and get better every day.”

aknorr@lanthorn.com

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