Bucknell Ends Year on Promising Note at Dad Vails

All year Bucknell trained with the hope of a championship regatta in the back of its mind, but remained somewhat skeptical about the likelihood of one occurring or even receiving permission to attend. With the March announcement of the 2021 Dad Vail Regatta and the stringent COVID testing protocols to be enforced, Bucknell put in an appeal to compete. Out of the blue, in the final week of April, Bucknell’s Hail Mary of a wish was granted – the program had finally secured an opportunity to measure its speed on a bigger stage. For the seniors, an additional week of training meant more cherished strokes as a Bucknell oarsman, but for the younger guys it meant a chance to take a swing at some of the fastest programs in the country.

Beginning the morning, the Freshman/Novice 4+ took third in its heat. The boat established a comfortable open water margin on Marietta entering the final 500m, but struggled to reach another gear in crunch time when it needed to cement a spot in the grand final. Consequently Marietta moved through Bucknell to end its season. While the boat was disappointed, it felt proud to have pushed its physical limit and not to have taken a conservative approach. Significant breakthroughs were achieved over the last couple weeks that will undoubtedly carry into next fall. “Novice rower Ricky Osornio will be a beast next year” asserted Coach Leonardi, “book it!”.

F/N4+ (Heat) – top 2 advance to GF
Fairfield A – 7:13.6
Marietta – 7:25.3
Bucknell – 7:34.0
Fairfield B – 7:40.0
Stockton – 7:41.6

The JV4+ entries raced next. Needing to qualify for the grand final but not expend too much energy, the JV4A did its job by finishing second in its heat. The JV4B fought hard to cling onto contact for as long as possible, but finished last in its heat. The stern pair of this boat, which included two freshmen who learned to row in March, put in an admirable effort by coming down the course at 32+ spm. These newcomers will use this experience to motivate them next year as they develop the baseline fitness necessary to compete at the varsity level.

Fast-forwarding to the afternoon, the JV4A lined up for the grand final. Knowing its floor was a bronze medal, the boat started the race ambitiously with gold in mind. Through 1200m, Bucknell sat in 2nd place, positioned one length up on Drexel. But within the last 90 seconds, Drexel surged past Bucknell to finish ahead by five seats. Despite the color of the medal, a medal is a medal, and the boat felt elated. Special recognition goes to senior Sebastien Bickford who now owns two Dad Vail medals in the JV4 event.

Colgate – 6:52.7
Drexel – 7:07.6
Bucknell – 7:11.7
Virginia – 7:20.9
MSOE – 7:29.7
Temple – 7:32.2

Now onto the eights. Seats 5-8 plus coxswain were occupied by freshmen in the JV8+. This young boat launched while licking their chops at the idea of stealing a spot in the grand final. Minutes before the start, however, an underwater log tore off the fin of the boat. Rather than forfeiting the race, coxswain Izzy Mersky chose to give it a shot and utilize pressure from rowers to facilitate a straight course. This attempt proved impossible as the boat zigzagged through the first half of the race. With the next heat already underway, the Bucknell JV8+ was ushered off the course. Coach Dan filed an appeal to let the boat compete in the petite final which, fortunately, was approved.

Hours later, the JV8+ lined up in the petite final with a repaired steering system in place. Coming out of lane one, Bucknell caught the field off guard with a blazing start. Through the first 1000m, Bucknell traded seats with Virginia for first place. In the homestretch Virginia edged forward to finish ahead by four seconds. The boat felt good about its performance, having knocked off quality programs such as Delaware & Jacksonville and shrinking the April 17th margin versus Virginia.

Virginia – 6:14.4
Bucknell – 6:19.1
Delaware – 6:21.2
Jacksonville – 6:25.7
Coast Guard – 6:30.2
La Salle – 6:40.3

The V8+ marked the final race of the morning. Capped at 18 entries, this year’s field was much smaller than in the past, yet the strongest programs were still there. Qualifying for the grand final required beating two of Drexel, Colgate and Virginia. 1200m through, the boat sat in 3rd, even with Virginia but one length behind 2nd place Colgate. As the remainder of the race transpired, margins between crews became more defined. Ultimately Bucknell finished 4th, earning a spot in the petite final.

By 4pm, all boats, with the exception of the V8+, had concluded their season and were chowing down on some Wawa hoagies. The V8+ still had a petite final in front of it which featured serious speed across the board. Salivating at the opportunity to take down fast varsity programs and regular ACRA medalists, the V8+ threw the kitchen sink at the first half of the race, putting itself in a three-way tie between Delaware and Marietta. The boat kept pace for as long as it could and finished 3rd, just one stroke ahead of Georgetown.

Delaware – 5:42.0
Marietta – 5:46.8
Bucknell – 5:49.3
Georgetown – 5:49.5
Jacksonville – 5:53.3
Virginia – 5:54.5

May 8th solidified the 2020-21 season as an all-timer, a year that the program will proudly look back on and identify as a stepping stone towards the fastest version of Bucknell Men’s Crew. Given the speed displayed by those on campus this semester, the number of returning athletes next fall and the incoming group of recruits, the program is primed to soon qualify for the Dad Vail grand final and eventually win an ACRA National Championship. But for now, the departing seniors deserve maximum credit for developing a culture resilient enough to push through a pandemic and demonstrate such encouraging speed. Thank you and congratulations to those graduating this May – your contributions will be valued for a long time.

Varsity 8 – 2018 Resolute Midweight XT
Coxswain: Max Silverman, Jr.
Stroke: Phil Onffroy, Jr.
7: Andrew Viola, Fr.
6: Zach Gerhardt, Fr.
5: Davis MacKelcan, Jr.
4: Bobby Subak, Sr.
3: Kevin Carney, Fr.
2: Thomas Stone, So.
Bow: Jake Bardorf, So.

2nd Varsity 8 – Class of 1985
Coxswain: Izzy Mersky, Fr.
Stroke: Luke Lambropoulos, Fr.
7: Nathan Peot, Fr.
6: Cameron Baravalle, Fr.
5: Jack Ressler, Fr.
4: Jack Fiala, So.
3: Jackson Ingram, Sr.
2: Dominic Canale, Fr.
Bow: Aaron Swope, Jr.

JV4+ A
Coxswain: Emma Minadeo, So.
Stroke: Sebastian Bickford, Sr.
3: Brent Mankin, So.
2: Ethan Laurens, Jr.
Bow: Taylor LaRosa, Sr.

JV4+ B
Coxswain: Brody Mistrot, Sr.
Stroke: Cesar Spadea, Novice Fr.
3: Alex Luzetsky, Novice Fr.
2: Mason Cametas, So.
Bow: Cian Nowak, Jr.

Coxswain: Ben Kaller, Fr.
Stroke: Brian Skeels, So.
3: Dan Van Syckle, So.
2: Ricky Osornio, Novice Fr.
Bow: Dan Rigby, Fr.