Bucknell Varsity Makes History at ACRA

The Bucknell Varsity 8+ Poses with their new racing shell: "Class of 1985"

The Bucknell Men competed at their final event of the year on Memorial Day weekend at the ACRA Club National Championship Regatta in Gainesville, Georgia on Lake Lanier – the site of the 1996 Olympic Games.

The Bucknell Varsity 4+ fought hard throughout the weekend, placing 5th in the opening heat against Dad Vail Bronze medalists Penn State and WIRA Gold winners from Western Washington. After a tough Repechage, the V4+ Comprised of Cox Paden Troxell, Sr. Stroke Tory Sansom, Jr. 3 Seat David Brundage, Frosh. 2 Seat Taber Gifford and Soph. Bow Ethan Zubkoff went on to win the D Final over crews from Washington University and Purdue.

The Bucknell 2V came into ACRA training with the goal of building upon their Silver medal performance at the ECAC – but an illness in the boat forced Varsity 4+ stroke Tory Sansom to race in 2 events throughout the weekend. Even in adverse circumstances, the Bison 2V comprised of Soph. Cox Laura Even, Frosh. Stroke Billy Tyler, Jr. 7 Seat Paul DeGegorio, Frosh. 6 Seat Tyler Whitehead, Sr. 5 Seat Marc Burian, Frosh. 4 Seat Tyler Bogaczyk, Sr. 3 Seat Tory Sansom, Sr. 2 Seat Andy McLaughlin and Frosh. Bow Seat Taylor Cotter fought hard, advancing directly into the Grand Final from their heat on Saturday. The 2V was in medal contention at 800 meters in but after a boat stopping crab the crew struggled to gain an effective rhythm in the strong tailwind during the Sunday afternoon Grand Final, finishing 8th overall.

Competition in the Varsity 8+ promised to be fierce, with Dad Vail Champion University of Michigan favored for gold with other perennial powers from University of Virginia, Notre Dame, Grand Valley State and Purdue also contenders in what has been the deepest Varsity 8+ field to date for the ACRA.

The Bison Varsity 8+ Crew comprised of Jr. Cox Wade Payson-Denney, Soph. Stroke Jackson McCarron, Sr. 7 Seat Michael Sena, Jr. 6 Seat Ryan Lum, Fr. 5 Seat Alex Moore, Soph. 4 Seat Connor Corwen, Sr. 3 Seat Veton Celaj, Soph. 2 Seat Matt Sisto and Soph. Bow Seat Chris Seery were able to advance to the grand final with relative ease, finishing comfortably in 2nd place behind the University of Virginia, 5 seconds ahead of third place UC Irvine in one of the three semi-finals held on Saturday. Other advancing crews from the remaining semi-finals were Michigan, New Hampshire, Notre Dame and Grand Valley State. The remaining 2 spots in the Grand Final would be decided via two Repechages, which were won by Michigan State and UC Santa Barbara – with Boston College being awarded lane 0 in the Grand Final after leading their Repechage and being interfered with by the wake from a passing recreational boat. These events set the stage for a truly epic 9-Boat grand final on Sunday afternoon.

Conditions were very fast with a strong tail wind from the north and a medium chop on the course, with all 9 boats aligned, the race started cleanly and provided a wealth of tight racing between 9 fast crews. The first 500 saw Michigan and Grand Valley State jump out to an early lead, with UVA, Bucknell and UC Santa Barbara fighting for third. By the 1000m mark, UVA had surpassed both Michigan and Grand Valley to gain the lead, while Bucknell had moved into 3rd, in hot pursuit of Michigan going into the 2nd 1000m. With UVA holding the lead, Bucknell junior coxswain Wade Payson-Denney commented on the push to move into 2nd place:
“Jackson (stroke) let out and epic war cry and we took off. I stopped looking at the rating at that point, but the launches following us said we were at 39 spm by then”.
Freshman 5 seat Alex Moore recalls the surge during the 3rd 500:
“I was just waiting for Michigan to pick it up and cruise through us but it just never happened, and we kept inching away’.

The Bison men carried their momentum in the last 500 to draw within 3/4 Length of UVA - who won with a course record time of 5:40.9, with Bucknell following in 5:42.9 and Michigan finishing 3rd in 5:44.8. Cox Wade Payson-Denney recounts the finish:
“I didn’t realize how close we finished to UVA until I saw the results… I splashed water up into the boat and soaked in the moment (pun intended). It took a while to sink in, but it still feels great”.
Sophomore Stroke Jackson McCarron elaborated on the season ending effort:
“The boat really came together at the right time. We're a young crew and it took us all season to find a lineup that could throw down on the racecourse. Our racing season had been inconsistent at best, but we ended it the right way. We're returning six guys and we're really stoked to race together next year.”
Head Coach Al Monte shared a similar opinion of the final:
“We set out to have our fastest race possible and leave it all out on the racecourse – to realize our potential when it mattered the most, and I believe we accomplished that goal... Most of all I'm just happy for the guys, they really deserve it.”

The ACRA Silver matches the previous result in 2010 as the best in program history, with 5:42.9 being the fastest time set by any Bucknell 8+ to date. The future looks bright as the Bison crew will return the vast majority of the Varsity and 2V crews, comprised mainly of promising freshman and sophomores – with outstanding leadership from a small but dedicated junior class setting the tone for what is sure to be an exciting 2012-2013 season!

Video coverage of the V8 Grand Final:


Full ACRA results can be found here: