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.