Bucknell wins bronze in 2v, gold in 3v to finish 6th overall at 2022 ACRA National Championship

Last week, Bucknell closed its season at the ACRA National Championship in Oak Ridge, TN. Since the creation of ACRA in 2008, the team has based its success on the performance at this regatta. Pre-pandemic, just three teams had earned more medals in eight-oared events than Bucknell: Michigan, Virginia and Grand Valley. Aware that it could feasibly surpass one of these teams, the Bucknell men approached the weekend with a reputation to uphold.

Heading into Friday, the mantra for each boat was to focus on the race in front of it and to take the regatta one step at a time, which for the varsity eight meant placing top two in its heat. Needing to defeat both Irvine and Purdue to automatically advance to the A/B semifinal, the 1v leveled itself with these crews halfway through the heat. In the final stretch, however, Bucknell struggled to keep pace and would finish third, assigning it a spot in the repechage later that afternoon. While an additional race may not have been ideal, the 1v unequivocally welcomed a back door into the semifinal. Despite the large threat posed by Vanderbilt in the repechage, Bucknell established an early margin that it successfully held at bay for the remainder of the race. With a spot now secure in the semifinal, the 1v entered Saturday with an opportunity to qualify for the grand final.

Slotted into lane six for the semifinal, Bucknell was poised to spoil someone’s regatta from the edge of the course, an idea that seemed plausible for the first half of the race as the boat found itself locked with Purdue for third and just a half length behind UCLA. But like the previous morning, the front of the pack committed to a speed in the final 500m that Bucknell could not match. Ultimately the crew finished fourth and was relegated to the petite final the following day.

Sunday’s petite final featured boats that Bucknell knew all too well from the regular season – namely Rutgers, who had edged them by 1.1s on 4/16 and 0.4s on 4/23. These crews were primed for a tight finish and they did not fail to deliver as Rutgers once again snuck its bow ball by Bucknell on the final stroke of the race, snatching second place by only 0.1s. With a third place finish in the petite final, the Bucknell 1v solidified itself as the ninth fastest in the country.

1st Varsity 8+ – PETITE FINAL
Virginia – 6:05.9
Rutgers – 6:08.6
Bucknell – 6:08.7
Bowdoin – 6:09.8
Delaware – 6:12.6
Washington State – 6:15.8

1st Varsity 8 – 2022 Hudson S8.32 SHARK Super Predator
Coxswain: Izzy Mersky, So.
Stroke: Phil Onffroy, Sr.
7: Andrew Viola, So.
6: Zach Gerhardt, So.
5: Conor McNichols, Fr.
4: Jack Fiala, Jr.
3: Dirk Puleo, Fr.
2: Thomas Stone, Sr.
Bow: Aaron Swope, Sr.

The roadmap to the grand final was much simpler for the second varsity eight. All the boat had to do was place top two in its heat, which it achieved with ease Friday afternoon. Having demonstrated impressive speed the entire spring, Bucknell knew it could medal, but was less certain about how the podium order would unfold. It would find out Sunday in the grand final against most of the usual ACRA front runners plus George Washington, a new player recently stripped of varsity status. Fast-forwarding to the final, just three seats separated Bucknell, Michigan and GW at the 1000m. As time elapsed, crews inched forward while others fell back. Bucknell found itself somewhere in between, crossing the line in bronze to cement itself as one of the strongest 2v’s the program has ever produced.

2nd Varsity 8+ – GRAND FINAL
George Washington – 6:03.5
Michigan – 6:06.0
Bucknell – 6:09.0
Notre Dame – 6:11.8
Virginia – 6:14.9
Purdue – 6:19.1

2nd Varsity 8 – Class of 2020
Coxswain: Max Silverman, Sr.
Stroke: Luke Lambropoulos, So.
7: Nathan Peot, So.
6: Sen Zelov, Fr.
5: Christian Sieck, Sr.
4: Andy Thompson, Fr.
3: Kevin Carney, So.
2: Ryan Spallone, Fr.
Bow: Luca Arvanitis, Fr.

Given the quality of training leading up to ACRA, the third varsity eight had developed a level of confidence essential to running with the best in the country. Little did it know at the time that it was, in fact, the best. The heat Saturday morning dropped the first hint, as Bucknell exploded from its stake boat to establish an open water lead in the first 500m which it guarded closely for the remainder of the race. Despite a convincing win, the crew adamantly reserved emotion until the conclusion of the grand final the next morning.

Prior to Sunday, no Bucknell 8+ had ever won a National Championship. Eager to change this narrative, the 3v hit the start of the grand final even harder than it had the day before. Once the crew sensed open water, it seized the opportunity to drop the hammer and never looked back. The moments past the finish line were consumed by audible elation and splashing water as each member embraced their next closest boat mate.

3rd Varsity 8+ – GRAND FINAL
Bucknell – 6:17.4
Michigan – 6:22.1
Virginia – 6:24.4
Purdue – 6:44.0

3rd Varsity 8 – Class of 1985
Coxswain: Emma Minadeo, Jr.
Stroke: Aidan DeWitt, Fr.
7: Nick Caravias, Sr.
6: Dominic Canale, So.
5: Dan Van Syckle, Jr.
4: Will Amrhein, So.
3: Ryan Daly, So.
2: Brian Skeels, Jr.
Bow: Brent Mankin, Jr.

While a medal was not in the cards, the novice four had a weekend that did not lack excitement. In three days, it raced four times, won twice and made up at least 17 seconds on the field. Between the heat, repechage and semifinal, this crew quickly learned how to race, and they proved it with a dominant victory in the petite final to finish seventh of 26 overall.

Novice 4+ – PETITE FINAL
Bucknell – 7:16.9
UC Berkeley – 7:20.3
Notre Dame – 7:23.7
Penn State – 7:23.8
Purdue – 7:23.9
Washington State – 7:44.6

Novice 4+
Coxswain: Ben Weggeland, Jr.
Stroke: Mason Cametas, Jr.
3: Miles Kline, Fr.
2: Zenable Adisalem, Fr.
Bow: Graham Knox, So.

The pair entered the regatta with tempered expectations, mostly seeking a fulfilling last experience as Bucknell oarsmen. By all accounts they got one, sticking themselves in the action for as long as they possibly could in the C final. Best of luck to Cian Nowak ’22 as he begins his career in New York City and Will Kernodle ’25 who will enlist at the United States Military Academy next fall.

2- – C FINAL
Texas – 8:18.8
Grand Valley – 8:30.2
Virginia – 8:33.8
Murray State – 8:53.9
Bucknell – 9:38.4
Arizona State – DQ

Stroke: Will Kernodle, Fr.
Bow: Cian Nowak, Sr.

Boat accolades aside, the team walked away from Oak Ridge feeling as though it had exceeded expectations across the board. Placing sixth overall in men’s team points more than justifies this sentiment – it is proof that in the post-pandemic era, Bucknell is back.

Men’s Points (66 total teams)
1 – Michigan
2 – Virginia
3 – UCLA
4 – Purdue
5 – George Washington
6 – Bucknell
7 – Notre Dame
8 – UC Irvine
9 – Orange Coast
10 – Minnesota