Varsity women’s 8 takes gold at Knecht Cup

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter
Womens team in an eight pulling at the Lubbers Cup

GVL Archive / Eric Coulter Women’s team in an eight pulling at the Lubber’s Cup

Derek Wolff

After only hoping to finish with a medal in the Grand Final, nine women desperately raced to the finish line with a slim lead as opposing boats closed all around their slim vessel.

The Grand Valley State University women’s rowing team fought off a slew of Division I scholarship-funded programs to win gold in the Knecht Cup at Cherry Hill, N.J., on Saturday.

The Lakers won the women’s varsity eight race in the Grand Final, beating the likes of Division I varsity squads Duke University, Rutgers University, West Virginia University, Boston College and 13 other squads to earn the gold.

Despite being a club team from the north, the team’s strength all season has depended on the rigorous training schedule implemented in the off-season by head coach Jon Bancheri.

“John has a formidable and structured training program on the water,” said Dennis Kamrad, women’s team coach. “The athletes are prepared more than other programs. The expectations are exceptional and this weekend we were the fastest team by getting more strokes per minute and had the strength to do well. I think that has to be attributed to Jon’s plan.”

The work ethic and determination to succeed didn’t come without a price. The rowing team as a whole rigorously devoted time to two-a-days with early morning workouts during the winter, as well as taking shifts shoveling snow at 5 a.m.

The discipline and know how that came from that approach has benefited the team and allowed them to compete at the highest level, said senior captain Laura Marshall.

“It says a lot about our work ethic,” she said. “It’s fun to think about beating Division I squads, but I think the best thing is that we’re going fast right now. We’re faster than most of the other teams, and we want to race anyone, no matter who it is. We train to be the best and beat anyone we can.”

The Laker women are looking forward to the University of Michigan Women’s Invitational this weekend in Ann Arbor, but ultimately are focused on proving themselves when it counts on the national stage, with the ACRA National Championships in Gainsville, Ga., just a month and a half away.

“We realize that for all of the progress we’ve made, we cannot afford to get too comfortable,” said sophomore rower Amy Brunner. “We need to keep our eyes on the goal.”

The varsity men also made the Grand Final, finishing in sixth place to competitive crews Trinity, Temple, Delaware and Drexel. Temple eventually took the title, but not after the Lakers put up a close fight against Drexel for fifth.

The Laker men are ranked 28th in the nation right now, while the women are ranked 39th. While those numbers include Division I varsity squads as well as club squads. The women are currently the top club team in the nation.

“We have great kids, a very good system and great university support,” Bancheri said.

The men will compete this weekend against the University of Rochester at the Bass River Recreation Area in Ottowa County, Mich.

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