Showcasing one of its deepest rosters ever, Bucknell places 6th overall at 2023 ACRA National Championship

©2023The Decisive Moment EVENT Photojournalism Bucknell Regatta, Candid Event

Culminating a season that had so far indicated yet another step forward, Bucknell competed at the ACRA National Championship in Oak Ridge, TN. While each boat entered the regatta with its own set of expectations, the team collectively targeted the same goal of placing as high as possible in the team points rankings. Among 72 men’s teams, Bucknell finished the regatta 6th – an impressive accomplishment for one of the smallest schools in attendance. Contributing valuable points towards this ranking were a varsity eight, second varsity eight, third varsity eight, varsity four and novice four. 

Last year the varsity eight placed 9th overall, a result the group felt pleased with given its youthful makeup, but as a more mature, experienced boat one year later, it hoped to qualify for the grand final and thus contend for a medal. This would be a challenge, however, as 30 boats subscribed to the event – six more than last year. To fairly accommodate one of the more popular events, the regatta committee decided to conduct a 1750m time trial rather than breaking the field into heats. The eight fastest boats would automatically qualify for the A/B semifinal while the remainder of the field would have to duke it out in a repechage. Unfortunately for Bucknell, it placed 10th in the time trail just 1.1 seconds behind 8th. With four spots still up for grabs in the A/B semi, the 1v would have to win its repechage later that afternoon, and so it did with a decisive victory over UC Davis.

Fast-forwarding to next day’s semifinal, the 1v attempted to play spoiler from the edge of the course in lane one. Halfway through the race, the boat found itself in 3rd, hanging onto a position that would be good enough to qualify for the grand final. Though as the race progressed, Bucknell gradually slid back to 5th, cementing it a spot in next day’s petite final. With the grand final no longer in play, the boat shifted its ultimate goal towards simply placing higher than last year. The crew would not settle for anything less than a 7th place national finish. During Sunday’s petite final, Bucknell would throw down its most complete race of the year, fending off Washington State with an epic sprint in the final 250m to take the win.

As part of a smaller event, the second varsity eight would only have to race twice: once in the heat and again in the grand final if fast enough to avoid the repechage in between. The heat unfolded exactly as hoped as Bucknell and Virginia broke away early to automatically send both crews to the grand final and the remaining boats to the repechage. Seeded sixth heading into the weekend, the 2v understood that it might have been outmatched by whoever was fastest on paper. Eager to shatter those expectations, the boat bravely attacked the grand final, putting itself in gold medal position for the first three minutes of the race. Inside the third quarter, however, Virginia and Michigan shifted gears to eclipse Bucknell. Ultimately the crew finished half a length behind Michigan, good for third in the country. This makes three consecutive years that the Bucknell 2v has placed third nationally. 

The third varsity eight approached the weekend aiming to defend last year’s national championship. Having already tested its speed against top-ranked Michigan earlier this spring, the boat conceded that it was an underdog of sorts but wore that identity on its sleeve. Winning Friday’s heat, Bucknell had secured a lane in the middle of the course for Saturday’s grand final. Thanks to an explosive start, Bucknell and George Washington each found themselves ahead of Michigan for the first quarter of the race. But that advantage was short-lived as Michigan was able to lasso in both crews around the halfway point. Michigan would eventually win by open water with GW in silver and Bucknell half a length behind in bronze.

The novice four followed an eerily similar progression as the varsity eight to close out their season. Among a field of 30 entries, it also placed 10th in its time trial, narrowly missing out on automatic qualification for the A/B semifinal. Nevertheless, the crew earned a backdoor spot into the semi by comfortably winning its repechage later that afternoon. Overwhelmed by the speed of the semifinal, the crew was not fast enough to advance, sending it to a petite final that proved to be one of the most exciting races of the weekend. Heading into the final quarter, Bucknell fluctuated anywhere between fourth and sixth place with all six crews maintaining overlap with one another. As time dwindled, Bucknell committed to a higher rate to overtake several crews in the final 250m and finish second, good for eighth overall.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the varsity four raced an entirely new lineup than what had been practiced in the weeks leading up to ACRA. With two new faces inserted into the boat at the last second, the varsity four was effectively a novice crew. But if there was one Bucknell boat that could exceed expectations, this would be it – and they did, going from 26th of 36 in the time trial to finishing 19th by the end of the regatta. The crew felt confident that it would have contended for a medal if entered into the novice category where it was eligible. Comparing times throughout the weekend, a case could certainly have been made.

1st Varsity 8+
7th of 30 finish
Petite Final
Bucknell – 6:02.3
Washington State – 6:03.1
Minnesota – 6:04.3
Orange Coast – 6:07.7
Rhode Island – 6:09.6
Purdue – 6:10.0

2nd Varsity 8+
3rd of 12 finish
Grand Final
Virginia – 6:04.6
Michigan – 6:06.0
Bucknell – 6:07.4
UCLA – 6:10.7
Purdue – 6:11.2
George Washington – 6:13.5

3rd Varsity 8+
3rd of 5 finish
Grand Final
Michigan – 6:22.5
George Washington – 6:28.0
Bucknell – 6:30.6
North Carolina – 6:49.2
Purdue – 6:58.1

Novice 4+
8th of 30 finish
Petite Final
Michigan – 7:15.6
Bucknell – 7:18.6
Boston College – 7:19.8
Liberty – 7:20.7
Florida State – 7:21.1
Georgia Tech – 7:21.8

Varsity 4+
19th of 36 finish
D Final
Bucknell – 7:09.9
Vanderbilt – 7:11.7
Arizona State – 7:12.9
Emory – 7:16.1
New Hampshire – 7:16.4
George Mason – 7:19.6

Men’s Points
6th of 72 total teams
1 – Michigan
2 – Virginia
3 – UCLA
4 – George Washington
5 – Purdue
6 – Bucknell
7 – Orange Coast
8 – Notre Dame
9 – Washington State
10 – Minnesota

1st Varsity 8+ – 2022 Hudson S8.32 SHARK Super Predator
Coxswain: Izzy Mersky, Jr.
Stroke: Andrew Viola, Jr.
7: Sen Zelov, So.
6: Kevin Carney, Jr.
5: Zach Gerhardt, Jr.
4: Conor McNichols, So.
3: Jack Fiala, Sr.
2: Ryan Genel, Fr.
Bow: Dominic Canale, Jr.

2nd Varsity 8+ – 2022 Hudson S8.32 SHARK Super Predator
Coxswain: Emma Minadeo, Sr.
Stroke: Ryan Spallone, So.
7: Dirk Puleo, So.
6: Chris Kirby, Fr.
5: Nathan Peot, Jr.
4: Will Amrhein, Jr.
3: Aidan DeWitt, So.
2: Andy Thompson, So.
Bow: Luca Arvanitis, So.

3rd Varsity 8+ – Class of 2020
Coxswain: Jack Lieblein, Fr.
Stroke: Mason Cametas, Sr.
7: Oliver Abusharca, Fr.
6: Graham Knox, Jr.
5: Tim Robertson, Fr.
4: Josh Raeter, Fr.
3: John Kirincich, Fr.
2: Kellen Paulsen, Fr.
Bow: Brent Mankin, Sr.

Novice 4+
Coxswain: Austin Carroll, Fr.
Stroke: Will Blumenthal, Fr.
3: Ethan Jones, Jr.
2: Travis Stanitis, Fr.
Bow: Chris Morale, Fr.

Varsity 4+
Coxswain: Josiah Kwok, Fr.
Stroke: Griffin Walsh, Fr.
3: Brendan Arnold, Jr.
2: Peter Nasto, Fr.
Bow: Garrett Van Blarcom-DeLuise, Fr.