Rowers ‘go for broke’ in San Diego

The GVSU men and women row in a past regatta. The teams raced in California.

The GVSU men and women row in a past regatta. The teams raced in California.

The Grand Valley State University rowing team shook up the collegiate rowing world this past weekend when it traveled to California for the first time in the club’s history.

Both the men’s and women’s teams participated in the San Diego Crew Classic on March 27 and 28.

The women’s team competed in the Jessop-Whittier Cup, the most prestigious event of the weekend. The team was stacked up against Division I rowing powerhouses such as Harvard University and the University of Virginia.

“These gals chose to row against the best, and that took guts,” said GVSU head coach John Bancheri. “We’re a club sport; every single one of those gals learned how to row at GVSU and they went up against the best recruits in the nation.”

In the first heat, GVSU edged out both Harvard and the University of California-Davis by a total of 0.5 seconds at the finish, sending the team to the grand final.

“Once we got to the final, we knew that we had nothing to lose,” said senior Samantha Morgan. “This was the only race this season that no one expected us to win, so we just had to go out there and not put any pressure on ourselves.”

GVSU held true to that strategy and started fast, keeping contact with the leaders for the first 500 meters. However, the team could not hold the pace for very long and crossed the line in sixth place.

Bancheri noted he could have employed a better strategy that might have earned them a better place, but chose to test his team’s willpower.

“It wasn’t the smart way to race, but sometimes you have to take a chance and see what you can do, and this early in the season, what do you have to lose,” he said. “We already accomplished something major by knocking off Harvard the day before. You know their coach was not happy, but she came up and congratulated me, and that means a lot.”

Despite the sixth-place finish, Morgan was pleased with the weekend’s results and the fact that GVSU was the only club team ever to compete in the Jessop-Whittier Cup.

“We felt a little disappointed because we are not used to losing, but we kept our heads up since we accomplished something no club team has ever accomplished before,” she said. “We got a lot of racing experience we can use in the future, we put our name out there and it was a lot of fun.”

The men’s team also traveled to California for the Crew Classic and competed in the Varsity Cal Cup. The team won its first heat, then finished in second place to Trinity College in the final.

“We knew Trinity was going to go out fast and hold their sprint until they have a boat length on every one,” Bancheri said. “We wanted to stay in contact, but they took off at the start like a hot rod.”

Trinity finished 5.3 seconds ahead of GVSU. While the Lakers wanted to win, they took away something more valuable, noted sophomore Marco Benedetti.

“Beating Trinity would have been the only way we were ecstatic, but we really thought it was as good of a race as we could have had,” he said. “This is a regatta where the top teams in the country lie, so we saw a lot of teams we don’t normally compete against. The whole weekend went really smoothly for everyone.”

[email protected]