Rowers ‘privileged’ to compete at Head of Charles Regatta

Courtesy Photo / Alex Vanderark
The Mens team slides up to the catch in unison during the Head of the Charles Regatta

Courtesy Photo / Alex Vanderark The Mens team slides up to the catch in unison during the Head of the Charles Regatta

Greg Monahan

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More than 9,000 athletes from 21 different countries competed in the Head of the Charles, which takes place in the Charles River separating Cambridge, Mass., from Boston and is the world’s largest two-day annual regatta. About 2,000 boats compete in one or more of the 60 total events, and Grand Valley State University sent both its Varsity-8 men’s and women’s teams.

The GVSU women’s team finished 19th out of 30 in the top division available to collegiate teams, the women’s championship eights division, completing the three-mile course in an even 17 minutes. The team beat out Yale University, Boston University and the U.S. Naval Academy.

Women’s rower Vanessa Dean said the team was happy with its placement, especially considering the level of competition they faced.

“I’d say we wanted to make top-20, that was our overall goal and we did that,” she said. “So we’re really pleased with the result, and this is good for us moving into the rest of the season. We have a benchmark now, we know where we need to go, and I think we’re going to be even faster moving forward.”

The men had similar success in their event, finishing eighth out of 42 in the men’s collegiate eights division and crossing the finish line in 15:22.

Senior rower Brendan Sawyer said the team made the most out of the entire trip, making sure to take in the eastern seaboard while they had the chance.

“This is definitely one of my favorite regattas,” he said. “This one is a lot of fun, we get to come out here and spend some time in the city of Boston, we get to do one race and see how we matchup against a lot of these East Coast schools.”

The teams took a 15-hour bus trip – each way – to compete in the event, which has been running since 1965. Junior rower Marco Benedetti said both GVSU squads were honored to compete in the event.

“It’s really a privilege to get to row in this regatta,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest regattas in the world, there’s thousands of competitors and hundreds of thousands of spectators, so to go for a university like Grand Valley it’s great to be able to represent the school on such a big stage.”

On the long trek back to Allendale, it was Dean who squashed any question of whether the 30-hour trip was worth the ride, even if both teams competed for less than 20 minutes and missed a couple days of class.

“It definitely affects (schoolwork),” she said. “But I think we can all agree that it is always well worth it. Always, every time. There’s never a doubt in our minds that it’s worth it to miss class.”

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