Upon arriving at on campus, Tanner - the lifelong athlete and MSU sports fan - found himself in the unfamiliar position of not having a sport to play. As if fated, Jordan Gooch (’18) lived just down the hall and suggested trying out for the Crew Club. Tanner was “surprised by everything” that he saw, and initially felt completely out of his depth. Three years later he still chuckles recalling his fixation with the sliding seat – he couldn’t believe there were sliding seats in all the boats. Tanner soon found his footing; his teammates included many former swimmers which helped him feel more at home, and the more he learned the more he saw parallels to freestyle swimming: in both strokes you need to maximize your reach, have rhythm, and relax the non-essential muscle groups. At the end of the season on a particularly snowy day, Tanner finally felt like he got it and fondly remembers feeling the boat surge by all eight in the snowfall.
These days Tanner has found his niche, on the water and off. He is a team leader and MSU Crew Board Member as the Fundraising Chair and he has found his academic calling in Digital Marketing. When he’s not at practice, Tanner is probably hanging out with two long-time roommates; Jordan Gooch who got him into the sport, and Zach Klucevek who joined the following year. With his junior year winding down, he is very excited about everything the team is poised to accomplish this Spring, and his internship with Allison Transmission this summer. Look for Tanner at races – he’s probably wearing some camo and he’s definitely smiling.
Ben’s road to MSU was not always a sure thing. In high school, he wasn’t quite sure where he wanted to go, what he wanted to study, or how big of a school he wanted to attend. He seriously considered attending Wittenberg University with a student population of less than 2000. The one thing he knew for certain was that he wanted to row; that priority – along with an interest in both ecology and graphic design – narrowed down his choices, and eventually he selected Michigan State. In retrospect, this was a fortuitous choice, as MSU is the only college he was considering which offers his current major of Forestry.
With the second semester of his senior year upon him, Ben has become especially contemplative about his four years in East Lansing. He has great memories from his freshman year: the dorm lifestyle of constantly being surrounded by new people and new friends, the awe-inspiring spectacle of collegiate rowing regattas like Dad Vail, and the new freedom of living on his own (which he assures he used exclusively in the pursuit of good decisions.) He also enjoys recalling his move to varsity as a sophomore, and the narrowed focus of the Crew Club from a new Head Coach. He thinks about the changing of the guard his junior year, when his class became the elder statesmen of the team and he earned a seat in the top boat. Now, Ben is excited for the promise of his senior year. He loves how far both he and the Crew Club have come in four years, and how close the team has grown this year in particular. Ben can already proudly name every novice on the roster this year thanks to increased novice-varsity bonding; he also observes a gritty, determined “dogfight” mentality throughout the team during tough workouts. As much as Ben has enjoyed the past four years, it almost seems he wishes he were a freshman so that he could experience it all over again.
One of Zac’s first priorities upon arriving at MSU was to find a new sport; he knew he didn’t want to just sit around and play videogames when he wasn’t in class. At Sparticipation he met Crew Club senior Cody Gall, and the rest is history. Now Zac is an avid rower, putting in the sweat and the work this Winter in hopes of a successful Spring. He fuels up for his workouts primarily with meals he cooks for himself (he lives off campus), but admits that he will indulge in Hungry Howie’s from time to time, drawn by the siren call of the ranch crust pizza. When he’s neither in class nor at Demonstration Hall working out, more often than not you can find Zac working to uphold his king of the court status on the basketball courts at IM West. Given his determination and pedigree, I would count on Zac coming through both on the court and for the Crew Club!
At the start of his second semester at MSU, Silas decided to explore rowing as a new athletic outlet, he reached out to the coaching staff and the rest is history. When asked for his quintessential rowing experience, he was torn between the atmosphere at Dad Vail and getting on the water for the first time (Spring Training 2016), applying all the erg work to the water, and then seeing the Varsity 8 flying past.
When neither rowing nor studying, Silas has done everything he can to live his MSU experience to the fullest. He has taken part in painting the rock all three years (twice for crew, once for his house) and makes regular trips to El Azteco for their chicken fajitas. Silas is living proof that hard work can get you anywhere you want in life. MSU and the Crew Club are lucky to have him, and look forward to everything he will do these next two years.
Outside of the classroom, Alex is a man of many talents. He was a three-sport athlete in high school (cross country, swimming, and volleyball) and has been singing since 3rd grade where he got started with the Church choir. He also sang bass in “Mod 21”, his highly competitive high school a cappella group. His singing career culminated in the 2016 Sing Strong competition, in which Mod 21 won the Choice Award for Best Original Composition. These days, when not in the classroom, the lab, or the boathouse, Alex is probably relaxing with some League of Legends. Work hard, play hard!
Of course, Alex’s first choice when it comes to playing hard is training with his new friends from the Crew Club. One thing he has noticed is the variety of shapes and sizes that rowers can come in, and how anyone can be successful if they put the work in. As part of this year’s inaugural “Big Brother-Little Brother” program (pairing Varsity and Freshman/Novice athletes) Alex is paired with Kyle Ristow (our May Spotlight Athlete), who is quite a bit smaller than Alex. Kyle has shown Alex that size isn’t everything, frequently getting the better of his (big) Little Brother in their shared workouts. As the Fall season fades into the rearview mirror, Alex is looking forward to the Spring. He is excited about the talent and potential of his novice class, wondering aloud (along with the rest of us): Just how fast can this novice class go, and how high can they place at Dad Vail?
Rowing is not Colleen’s only talent – she is also an accomplished Irish Dancer. She has been training since she saw a school performance in first grade, and competing since the third grade. In 2015, Colleen was able to compete in the World Championships! The passion for dance also traveled with her to MSU. Colleen finds time to practice with the MSU Irish Dance Club once per week in addition to her Crew Club practices. For any local fans of Irish Dance or basketball, you can see Colleen (and the rest of the MSU Irish Dance Club) perform as part of the pregame show at the Detroit Pistons home game on November 8th.
Love of dance aside, the sport of rowing is Colleen’s consuming passion. She already has a wealth of experience to draw upon, and is equally quick to help a teammate or lend them one of her many handy coxswains’ manuals as she is to ask questions when she needs help. In her career so far, Colleen views her junior year in the Mercy High School Women’s Lightweight 8 – highlighted by a win over rival Pittsford and a 4th place finish at Scholastic Nationals – to be the high point. She is ready for the challenge of the next four years, and has big plans for her time in Green and White. Asked to elaborate on those plans, she doesn’t miss a beat: “I want to cox the 1V… and I think we can get a medal at ACRA within the next four years.”
A three sport (football, baseball, and wrestling) athlete in high school, Ryan was looking for something to do when he arrived on campus. After exploring various options he was encouraged to check out the Crew Club on the advice of his older cousin Molly Visel (GVSU ’14), an All-American on their rowing team. She told Ryan about the fun and the work, the blood, sweat, and tears, and of her trip to the Royal Henley Regatta in England. He strolled into practice in January 2016 and hasn’t looked back since.
Outside of practice, Ryan is most likely studying for his Environmental Engineering classes or chowing down at Lotsa Pizza. His choice of major is inspired by seeing the damaging algae bloom both at Portage Lake and on the Grand River, and his heartfelt desire to be a part of the solution. Ryan is hoping for an internship with the Department of Natural Resources or similar organization this summer so that he can begin to put his knowledge and skills to work. Focused study requires brain food, and Ryan’s go-to is Lotsa Pizza. The build-your-own pizza bar is the best he’s ever seen (he recommends the bbq chicken, banana peppers, and ranch).
Last year’s trip to ACRA stands out as Ryan’s best moment in rowing so far. While the crew was young and ultimately unready for that race, the experience gained made it all worthwhile. Speaking to Ryan about the experience, he pauses for a moment, mentally putting aside the result, and visibly brightens. “We got so much closer as a group on that trip,” he says, “And we learned so much seeing that level of racing firsthand.” Knowing what it takes to make the leap he is refocused, rededicated, and ready to go – equally as excited by the work he and his teammates must do as he is by the anticipated reward.
The Athlete Spotlight will be on hiatus through the summer, and resume when the team returns in September. If there are questions you'd like to ask our athletes in future spotlights, or anything else about this that you feel can be improved, please let me know. We have one race left this season - the ACRA Club National Championships in Gainesville, GA Saturday and Sunday May 27-28 - we hope to see you there.