‘Laker Navy’ prepares for busy April

Courtesy Photo / John Bancheri
Members of the GVSU Crew during their Spring training

Courtesy Photo / John Bancheri Members of the GVSU Crew during their Spring training

Kevin VanAntwerpen

As classes kick back into gear at Grand Valley State University after a week off, the GVSU rowing team has found a new gear of its own after taking the entire team and crew – a total of 94 people – to Bentley’s Resort in Osprey, Fla. for two separate competitions during spring break.

The team practiced every day and participated in the Georgia Tech Dual in Gainesville, Ga., with the men winning one of three races and the women coming in second to Penn University in each of their four competitions.

“It was a scrimmage regatta. During the races, we had a chance to go back, make adjustments and move people around, so we really learned a lot from it,” said GVSU head coach John Bancheri. “It helped us develop a pecking order for who will be in the varsity boats this spring.”

The team tried to balance time off and time in the water, but the trip down to Florida is nothing new for the upperclassmen on the team.

“I love every second of it,” said senior rower Laura Marshall. “You’re with your best friends and you’re doing something you love, even if it tears at you sometimes. We have enough time to do what we want, so we never feel like we’re giving up our spring break. But it’s still always focused enough to train.”

Most days the team rowed about 20-30 miles, Bancheri said. They also participated in psychological training, which included watching rowing videos and setting goals for the coming season.

“Both kinds of training are equally important,” Bancheri said. “It’s important to be both mentally and physically prepared.”

Moving the entire team from Michigan to Florida was no easy task. Bancheri said traveling makes him feel like P.T. Barnum of the famed Barnum and Bailey’s circus, transporting an enormous crew from place to place across the country.

Logistics coordinator Tyler Sellmer likened the rowing operation to a football team that moves its entire stadium when it travels. Even when all 94 members of the team and crew help in the packing operation, it still takes several hours.

“We pack up our entire boat house,” he said. “It’s like 25 boats and everything we need to take care of them. That also includes a couple motorboats for the coaches. We needed, like, an entire acre to store all our equipment on site.”

But in the end, Bancheri said he thinks the hard work is worth it.

“I’m really proud of the program,” he said. “It’s just the best job in the world. We’ve got all these great kids and great support – we have alumni support, parental support, institutional support. It’s just all around. But the best part about it is knowing the experience that all these student athletes have had. It’s not about the racing. In the end, we all want to win, yeah. But it’s all these experiences that they’ll talk about the rest of their lives.”

As the warm weather approaches in Allendale, so does the GVSU rowing team’s spring season. The rowers are slated to compete in four separate regattas in April, and the team will be in Michigan waters for the first time on April 2 when the Lakers host the Don Lubbers Cup Regatta.

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