Men's crew caps a stellar season with world-class competition
By William Bowman
Two weeks in London, participating in a nearly 200-year-old competition that ranks among the most prestigious athletic events in the world, added to an already strong foundation for the Bucknell men's crew club-varsity team heading into the 2017–18 rowing season.
The University's national runner-up varsity 8 led a team of 16 rowers that Coach Dan Wolleben took to the Henley Royal Regatta in June. Bucknell lost by one-and-a-quarter lengths to second-place University of London's A team, yet the experience was memorable for the student-athletes and their coach.
"To be able to go and race in the Henley, on the Thames River where our sport started, is prestigious in itself," Wolleben says about the Royal Regatta, first held in 1839. "Add the fact there are Olympic gold medalists and some of the top crews in the world competing, and it's pretty special."
"For a rower, it is the biggest and most prestigious regatta in the world," says Dillon LaFata '18, a captain during the Bison's last season, which concluded with a second-place finish at the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA) National Championship Regatta in Gainesville, Ga.
Wolleben says the team peaked at the perfect moment — at the ACRA finals during Memorial Day weekend — to earn an invitation to Henley. "I kept telling our guys, ‘We're right where we need to be.' Each round they were still learning how to race better together." The Bison surged past ACRA national powers Michigan and Virginia in the final strokes to finish second. That result vaulted Bucknell into a prestigious group of 22 crews who were awarded automatic bids into the regatta, rather than having to fight it out for the 10 final spots.
"Competing at Henley changes the perspective of how we view our competition," says senior captain Mike Pallotta '18. "It is another level of competition, so this experience will change how we approach each day at Bucknell."
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