Boys Varsity Crew
Game Summaries & Headlines.
The 2020-2021 school year was a master class in perseverance and opportunism. EGR Crew earned an A+ on its final exam this weekend at Scholastic Nationals in Philadelphia.
The boys' four's story started about eight months ago. With few local schools competing in the fall, EGR Crew headed up to Lake Leelanau. At that regatta, Coach Brian Chorney met Glorious Gate Rowing Association (Indiana) founder John Hoham. Hoham invited East Grand Rapids down to Fort Wayne a few weeks later to compete in the inaugural "Row the Mama Jo" regatta. While looking at the team competing at that regatta, Chorney noted the Pioneers had already raced most of the teams competing in Fort Wayne--the exception was Culver Academies, one of the premier rowing programs in the Midwest. EGR had been primarily sculling (rowing smaller two-oar per rower boats) for much of the fall, while Culver exclusively had been sweeping (one-oar per rower boats). EGR did a three week crash course in sweeping with hopes of hanging with Culver. Hang they did. The Pioneers passed the test with flying colors, winning the varsity fours and eights in Fort Wayne.
After a phenomenal race in Fort Wayne, the Boys Varsity Four (Stroke-seat Liam Jenkins, 3-seat Benson Lam, 2-seat Ian Craigie, bow-seat Sam Gamble, and coxswain Emma Hefner) all pleaded to Chorney, "That was awesome. Can we PLEASE row this boat in spring? If we can clean a few things up and really focus on this boat, we think we can take this boat to nationals."
Fast forward to this spring. The same crew had earned seats in the varsity four. After a slow start to the spring, the crew started to find their form in early May, winning the Midwest Scholastic title and earning an automatic bid to Nationals--mission accomplished.
The crew then shifted their focus from making nationals to competing for a top spot at nationals. Nationals featured four first round heats on Friday, with the winner of each heat heading to Saturday's semi-finals, 2nd-4th headed to Friday afternoon's repechage (a second chance race, for crews to make semi-finals), and 5th and 6th place crews from each heat eliminated. However, the national championship went nothing like anyone would have expected. Unsure of where they would fall, the Pioneers pushed hard. In a tightly contested race, the EGR boys pulled ahead of Unionville High School (PA) to win their qualifying heat.
On Saturday, in addition to facing each other, crews were met with temperatures in the upper 40s, 15 mph winds, a very strong current, logs, and driving rain. The boys finished third in their semi-final heat and set their eyes on the Grand Final. Race officials had different plans, though. Recognizing the impact of the weather was not befitting of a national championship regatta, the race organizers invalidated the semi-final results and decided to award medals based on Friday's heats, which saw the Pioneers pull the second fastest time of all crews in the event, earning the silver medal--second in the nation!
Liam Jenkins, the sole senior in the boat and fastest rower in program history, appreciated the irony in having the final race of his pandemic-laden high school career erased by weather. More sentimentally, sophomore coxswain Emma Hefner shared "From the first regatta to the last, and every practice in between, there was never one moment when I doubted how far this boat could go. [These] guys made all the morning practices worth it and all the never-ending rainy regattas fun. I could not be more proud of how hard everyone worked to get this far. This was truly an amazing and emotional roller coaster ride that I wouldn't want to go through with anyone else."
The other boys crew from East competing was the boys lightweight quadruple sculls (stroke-seat Drew Sherman, 3-seat Joren Lentz, 2-seat Sumio Wessely, and bow-seat Beckett Kreitzer). All four boys are sophomores competing in their first competitive spring season. The boys rowed hard to finish third in their qualifying heat, and they were awarded 5th after Saturday's final was canceled.
What a team. What a year. Row East!