Written by Student-Athlete; Anna Foster.
With the winter semester winding down these past two weeks, the Laker Navy wrapped up their last few weeks of training and the end of the spring racing season. Along with retesting the 2k distance on the ergs in the last week of practice, the 4 squads competed for more points in a series of technical challenges! These challenges included: time to dock the boat, how quickly athletes could spin 180o in the 4 and 8, time to de-rig and rig the 8, a steering challenge for the coxswains, how far the boats could glide without an oar touching the water, and the crowd favorite - coxie surfing! Each squad also got together to take a creative team photo. After a fun last week of practice at the boathouse, the Laker Navy was excited for one last race to conclude the spring season!
On Saturday, the 24th, athletes gathered for the final intersquad regatta. To best simulate what a typical regatta would be in a normal season, athletes raced over the standard 2000m distance and competed in heats, petite finals, and grand finals. The first races of the day were in the Novice 4+, with Team Haley and Team Melissa's crews both winning first in their heats. The next race of the day was the Men's 2x final, decisively won by juniors Eddie Pfannes and Will Van Houten of Team Eddie. Team Eddie also placed first in their heat for the Varsity 4+, preparing to face Team Melissa's crew in the grand final. Up next, the Women's 2x final was one exciting race to watch! Coming into the last 500 meters, Team Melissa's crew was leading the pack. But with one last burst of effort crossing the finish line, the powerhouse duo of senior Erin Vielbig and junior Emili Barth from Team Eddie took the lead to win the race! As Erin's last race as a GV rower, it was a special moment for these ladies and the rest of Team Eddie. Next up came the Novice 4+ finals, with Team Haley taking first for the third week in a row. The Varsity 4+ crews then raced once again, a thrilling finish that saw Team Melissa just taking first from Team Eddie by less than a second! In the final race of the season, Team Melissa's Mixed 8+ crossed the finish line first, followed by Team Haley, then Team Jaydon, then Team Eddie. With all racing completed, Team Melissa once again walked away as the winner of the day with 70 points, followed by Team Haley with 62, Team Eddie with 58, and Team Jaydon with 46. After a long season of dedication from the athletes, we are proud to announce Team Melissa as our spring champion with a total of 300 points! Team Haley finished in second place with 241.5 points. The battle for third place was a close one, with Team Eddie finishing with 222.5 points and Team Jaydon with 222 points. We are so proud of the hard work that all athletes demonstrated in this strange and unusual season!
After a successful day of racing from his squad, captain Eddie reflects on what he and his team have accomplished. He says, "April 24th was a strange day for the team this year. All of our squads had finished up our last practice the previous day, signing up for their boats to take out on the water and preparing for our final race of the season. There were also far fewer races for the day, only five events in total, compared to the previous week's 13 events. Lastly, the team would be competing for 500 meters longer than the two previous regattas, 2000 meters from start to finish. Despite all the changes, the squad took it in stride. My squad did the best we could with what was given to us and put out our best effort on the water. While our scores may not have reflected the best outcome for our races, our team improved significantly over the course of the semester. Personally, I would like to acknowledge the hard work that our novices put in over the course of the semester. From the beginning to the end of the semester, you could feel the difference in skill level that was built with their hard work.
"I would like to acknowledge both our Men's double (Van Houten and Pfannes) and Women's double (Barth and Vielbig), that put on a wonderful show during the race, taking first place for both their events, as well as an honorable mention for our Varsity four (Van Houten, Pfannes, Groessl, Gilbert, and Bulow), which took second in the Grand Final for the event. However, these results are not everything. What matters is that everyone put in the effort and had fun out there. I am happy to see how everyone did during our last race day and look forward to seeing how the team will continue to grow with time.
"Of course, I must acknowledge a few members of my squad that will not be able to return next year: Erin Vielbig, Will Van Houten, and Audrey Bulow. I truly am glad that I was able to have known every single one of you, and as you go off on your own adventures from here on out, I hope you won't forget us in the time to come.
"To finish up, I would like to say that I truly enjoyed every moment with my squad together, from beginning to end, from taking a long steady state row to posing for our photo in our own rendition of the Last Supper. It truly has been an honor to be your captain and hope that you have enjoyed this season just as much as I enjoyed it with you."
Later in the afternoon on the 24th, the team once again gathered to celebrate their accomplishments at the annual GVSU Rowing Banquet. It was an exciting chance to see our athletes all dressed up instead of in their normal uniform of spandex and visors! While this banquet was different from past years where we have dined with friends and family joining our celebration, we are grateful for the opportunity to come together as one and recognize our accomplishments throughout the season and the year. Members of each squad had taken the time to vote for which of their teammates was the most valuable player and the most improved player. Most valuable players were those that, though not necessarily the fastest member, were always willing to go above and beyond for their team; whether filling seats at practice, volunteering for another race, or arriving early to practice to help prepare equipment, these athletes consistently contributed selflessly to the good of their squad. The MVP awards for this spring season were earned by McKenzie Sandel, Noah Lasky, Hailey Engvall, and Erin Vielbig. The most improved player awards were given to those athletes that had shown substantial improvement and growth throughout the year. These MIP awards were given to Sam Sommerdyke, Trey Zichterman, Zoe Kalleward, and Margaret Jastifer. We want to thank each of these athletes for their hard work and dedication to this program! Finally, the banquet gave us a chance to recognize our graduating seniors, Erin Vielbig, Melissa Frank, and Noah Lasky. Each had the opportunity to deliver a senior speech and address the team one last time. Through their words, you could see the ways that being a part of this team has changed them and how they will carry these lessons to continually improve themselves throughout the rest of their lives. The impact they have left on this program and their teammates throughout their 4 years of rowing is immeasurable; from the bottom of our hearts, we thank them for everything they have done and wish them the best of luck and all our support for their future adventures.
With another successful racing season and finals week under their belt, athletes welcome the reprieve of the summer! Over the next few months, they will take the time to reconnect with friends and family, work a summer job, maybe take a few summer classes, or even pick up a new hobby. Regardless of where life may take them over these next few months, our teammates will continue to train and look forward to our hopeful return to the water and racing come the fall season. Thank you to all of our athletes for your hard work these past months. Enjoy your well-earned rest and, as always, continue to pull for the Laker Navy!