Club rowing looks to continue success in fall season

GVL/ Archive
Grand Valley Mens rowing at the Lubbers Cup races in Spring Lake.

GVL Archives

GVL/ Archive Grand Valley Mens rowing at the Lubbers Cup races in Spring Lake.

Judson Rodriguez

In the athletic world, getting one person to do something technically sound can prove challenging enough, let alone with eight crew members. That is the job that Grand Valley State University’s John Bancheri has with the rowing team. GVSU jump-starts its fall rowing season this month in Marietta, Ohio with the Marietta Combine, hoping to build the base of a winning year.

“The bigger the base, the higher the peak,” Bancheri said. Rowing is an endurance sport that requires timing, replication and a desire to push the human body to its maximum potential. GVSU has etched out its spot in the rowing ranks by its commitment to winning at the collegiate level and the realization of team goals, with alumnus Sarah Zelenka reaching the Olympics in London this past summer.

Made almost entirely of walk-on athletes, the rowing team provides an outlet for students that want to be a part of a team but aren’t sure how they can fit a college-level sport into their time at school.

“When I came to Grand Valley, I was iffy on whether or not I would join the team,” said junior rower Shelby Welbaum, “When I joined though, I knew this was what I wanted to do.”Fall racing is a bit different from the spring, increasing to five kilometers. Spring events are sprints and are limited to two kilometers.

“Fall season is distance rowing 3k, 4k, 5k races, the better we perform at longer distances in the fall, the faster we can go for the spring,” said rowing club trustee Keegan Jahnke.

GVSU expects to improve vastly on its successful fall season last year in which the women finished third and the men finished fifth at the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston. The Head of the Charles is like the Boston Marathon of rowing, said Bancheri. The event, which will be held Oct. 20, features rowers from around the world. The collegiate level pits GVSU against the likes of Harvard University and Yale University, two of rowing’s elite collegiate programs.

“The Head of the Charles gives our kids an opportunity to represent Grand Valley at a very high level,” Bancheri said. Preparation is key when the stakes are as high as they will be this fall.

Club President Andrew Zwierzynski outlines what that preparation is like each day for practice.“First the crew takes a run from the RTC building to the boathouse, then we get the boat ready, drop the oars and make sure the boat is adjusted to fit the rider,” Zwierzynski said. ”Then we row for about two hours doing various drills.” In a normal day the team rows over 20 kilometers, the equivalent of 10.4 miles.

“It’s that kind of preparation that allows us to compete with the very best in our sport,” Zwierzynski said.

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