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The News Page: HENLEY 2006

My final Henley story and pictures can be reached by clicking HERE. David Greenspan

By The Team and Friends! _________________________________________________________

We've been away on vacation and most of the time couldn't get internet access easily, if at all. But now that we're home, and have had a chance to read all of your postings, we want to say how much we appreciate the efforts of everyone who contributed to LM"s great accomplishents, to the personal efforts of Brian, Kate, the men, and the Greenspans, to make it to Henley and to represent us there. We've loved the emails, and are very proud of you all. Sincerely, Miriam, Rick and Sarah Camitta

7/3 -- Moments before we leave. The regatta has ended and we are all completely and utterly exhausted.  The regatta was a scorcher.  As Steve put it, "I just can't get hydrated enough."  The men enjoyed the last couple of days watching the races come down the course and rubbing elbows with some well-known rowers and other spectators there in their 'below the knee' dresses and the men in their blazers. We cheered as many American crews on to victory as we could and also cheered those crews of friends that we met as well.  Princeton won the Ladies Challenge plate in one of the closest races we saw in the finals.  St. Ignatius won the Junior 8+ event for the Princess Elizabeth Cup in a dominating fashion. Afterwards, we all met and went to a nice final dinner as a crew and enjoyed each others company before getting on a plane in the afternoon today and head home.  For all of us, home was a word we could not wait to get away from so long ago.  Now it has become the great thing that we all are welcoming to return.  It has been a great two weeks here and it also has been an eye opening experience for the athletes as well. 

In looking at the regatta program for our race, the Prince Albert Cup, the Steward's words of it being the most competitive field they ever had for the event began ringing in my head.  The men's time was only 5 seconds off the course record for the event set last year.  This year the event saw that record smashed by nearly 25 seconds in the semi-finals (twice!!).  It made me realize that the steward was not kidding to me about the competition.  We are currently waiting for the bus to take ourselves and our oars back that the Stewards have set up for us to take.  The 2 men that will not be returning next year have greatly enjoyed their stay here and wish they could have raced in the bracket of their event, but have realized what it meant to get here.  The 3 men that will be returning next year have decided that they want to come back and want to help get the rest of the team here as well.  Not only for the experience of what Henley is, but to bring back one of those cups and forever have Lower Merion's name engraved on the cup itself.  Brian

6/29 -- Hello All, We apologize for the lack of communication from this end, but a lot has happened since our last posting.  As we did not qualify, the men, Kate and myself have kept ourselves extremely busy waiting for the rest of the regatta to begin.  Kate and Ryan went and spent a day at Wimbeldon, where they watched on center court Roger Federer play until the rain ended the game.  The rest of the men that day decided to tour the city of London and then look all through the town of Henley which we had not previously really had the chance to explore.  It is a small little town that has its modern touches and its own embracing of the past.  You feel a true sense of past history and history in the making here.  The locals are very proud of their town and country and invited us into watch many games of the World Cup Soccer games with them.  The men have been learning what it will be like away from home a bit too when they go to college.  Aaron has been learning from Steve how to make scrambled eggs and bacon.  I am not sure yet if he quite gets it, but its a process.  Will learned that the term "at the top of the road" does not mean that the top of the road is anywhere close, as he lugged his laundry nearly a 3/4 mile after he spilled astringent all over his clothing.  Chris has been doing his own thing and we have found that he can school all of us in shooting pool.  He is INCREDIBLE.  I believe that he may have run out of things to read here in Henley and is definitely on the prowl for a good book to read.  Will has been learning a lot about fashion lately from what I understand and Ryan has been his coordinator as it seems.  Actually, Ryan apparently has been telling everyone what they are allowed to wear and not allowed to wear since he is the only one that has kept up on the most recent trends.  Most of the time the men have been seen wearing the same thing such as the Henley polos or t-shirts that they had purchased or something to that effect.  Kate has been the official photographer of the trip getting about 300 pictures A DAY since getting here in England.  I have had the unfortunate thing of getting sick the last few days with some sort of sinus infection which has not been pleasant.  However, I was feeling good enough to go see the opening day of the regatta. The Greenspans have come over and joined us while we visited the town and University of Oxford.  It is an absolutely beautiful place to visit.  We saw the 1000 year old castle/chapel/prison that was a source of incredible history.  We walked around the different colleges of Oxford and saw the courtyards and areas of the place.  Each with a slightly different yet classical architecture that left you completely in love with the buildings and structure around it.  The men found a way to entertain themselves pretty easily and for the millionth time on the trip have come to understand exactly how competitive they are in general and with each other.  They began a jumping contest to see who could jump the farthest.  Now you have to picture this....we are in the middle of a huge dirt road that leads to the Thames River, just outside of Christ Church, where there is also a vast open grassy area and because one of them wanted to see if he could jump from a small hole in the road to another, it became a contest.  There began to be arguments of who went farther and who was jumping from what spot, so to make it official, I played the line judge to make sure whoever was jumping did not go over and Aaron and Lisa Greenspan played distance judges.  After a while, it became clear that the contest was between Steve and Ryan.  At which point, Ryan says, "this is ridiculous" and takes off the backpack that he apparently had been wearing during all of his previous jumps and clearly landed nearly 6 inches farther than Steve ending the contest.  These types of little competitive things have happened throughout the trip.  Going into playing the board game of Risk, it really showed in all of them as well.

Yesterday, Wednesday, the regatta began and most of the men decided they wanted to see London and see a play.  The Greenspans, myself and Chris wanted to see the first day of racing and all I can say is, it is the most incredible event that I have ever seen in the world.  Perfectly cared for green grass was the cushion beneathe our feet as we walked around the enormous white roof covered grandstands (called Enclosures) that were being built when we had arrived a week earlier.  We purchased tickets to have tea during one of the breaks in the regatta and watched some races.  The people were all dressed in the proper clothing, men wearing very colorful and sometimes multi-colored blazers or leisure suits while the women were beautifully dressed in the spring dresses that fell just below the knee.  Most of the women also donned fashionable hats and hair feathers to add to the classy taste that has become known as Henley.  Chris and I took a stroll around the entire enclosure setting finding many things including the trophy room, where the large and incredibly gorgeous trophies were that were complete with all the engravings of those athletes that had won the event and year.  There were some trophies that will definitely in the near future require the need to add on a base or two in order to keep this tradition going.  The Grand Challenge Cup (the oldest cup in contention at the regatta) had engravings dating back to the late 1800s.  It has had two bases added on to it since its inception. As Chris and I walked home from the regatta to prepare for dinner, we both agreed that it was one of the coolest experiences that we had both had.  There are no real words to describe the setting and atmosphere that this regatta exudes.  You realize while here that you are surrounded by the best in the world and that you took part in getting yourself recognized in some fashion by the best in the world.  It is exceptionally top class should be the ultimate goal of what each of us on the team should strive to participate in again and in the future strive to win.  These five men have set a very high bar of success and yet it can be topped.  They all realize that none of this would be possible without any of your support and also realize that they want to come back here if possible with Lower Merion.  We will have to work together more as a team than ever before to accomplish this and finally reach for goals that we think are not attainable and let ourselves go for those goals without any hesitation.  This team has already started something and have now began to make it possible with funding to do this more in the future.  I am truly looking forward to next year where we will be a name on the rivers and courses we row that people will look to see and worry about at the same time.  It is a fragile position that we hold now and the only way to keep it in our grasp is to never allow doubt of the possibilities that are out there for you in everything that you do. Thank you all for everything, Brian  

Hi David. I hope the boys are able to have some fun at this point.  Thanks for posting all the wonderful news/letters from all of them.  Despite not qualifying I hope they have all had awesome experiences. I looked at this amazing web site and while i located the town could not get to the river nor any photos.  I have actually been a spectator at Henley 2 X's while at college.  Truly an awesome experience but honestly remember the pubs & the people more than any race. Hope you all have a gr8 summer.. Sharon Pollak

Hi David , Thank you for sending out word, I meant to say something to Lisa when we spoke earlier to say I saw the [Main Line Life] article today, glad to know you also saw it.  I was going to send out a message to the other parents to let them know,  thank you for doing that.  There's also a picture of the boys in the sports section of The Main Line Times. It was taken at the send off when they are all poised in the back of the van with the hatch open...there's a small caption underneath. It's a nice photo of the 5 guys in their white shirts and maroon shorts... head off to JFK and become part of  ' The Magnificent 7 ' Adventure. What an emotional day,,..my nerves are shot and I'm on this side of the ocean!  I'm so proud of the whole group, I admire everyone of them and am glad that Chris has gone through the season with such a fun but focused 'motley crew'...a memorable time.   I looked up the US schools that rowed today, they appear to be New England boarding schools. Kent looks like they might be near a river and have their own  boathouse, that would be fun.  Belmont's page mentions they've been over in England 11 days and rowed in the Marlow Regatta on Eton's Dorney Lake. It's written they have a boat of 8, and two 4's racing in today's qualifier, "we will have our work cut out for us, but the boys are determined to do it".  Even though our boys aren't moving forward what an experience for 17/18 year olds...it will always be remembered. Thanks for holding the webpage together, it really is team central with info and photos.  Thank you also for all you do for the team, you and Lisa are real backbones.. because a whole family becomes a rowing family, another thank you to the entire Greenspan Clan. Ellen Policastro

Sorry to read that they did not qualify. I am sure they are diappointed but also pleased to have been asked to race. And for all of us it was a great race against the best..Reva Greenspan

Just want to send our heartfelt congratulations to Chris, Ryan Will, Steve and Aaron to a job well done. Kudos to Brian as well. They have all done us PROUD !!!!!!!!! Hoping you all enjoy the rest of your stay over in England. I think a big party is in order when you get back ! The Falck Family

David- Thanks so much for all of the updates - it's been exciting to read about the boys' adventures. They should be tremendously proud of themselves ! Thanks. Marcia Taylor

6/23 Well we have raced now and have seen what it is like to put ourselves against the best crews in the world.  There were 8 crews that were rewarded a 'bye' from the qualifier based on previous 2000 meter races that were done during their racing season.  Since we do not do 2000 meter races we did not earn one of these and had to race in the qualifier.  The men were ready for the race and were ready to put forth their best effort to qualify for the race.  Shoving the men off for the qualifier, I felt an enormous sense of pride for what they had accomplished to that point and also an overwhelming feeling of nervousness that I only remember as they were already coming down the course at the SRA National Championships.  I looked at the other crews that they were racing and they were gigantic.  Including the high school crews that had won very big name regattas both back in the US and also here in England.  I wasn't sure where we would place and if I overestimated their abilities in racing to even beat any crews.  I was becoming nauseous.  Crews began to come down the course and some were extremely good and some were just good.  This left very little room for any error on our men's part.  Finally, their event began to come down.  The crews were separated by 30 second margins for their time trial and were sent off on the coxswains call.  The crews that were coming down were huge and you could see them just pulling as hard as they could each stroke, wanting to get one of those very few 8 qualifying spots that were left that 20 crews were racing towards.  As the crews came down you could tell again the really good crews from the good crews.  You did not see any bad crews rowing here.  After what seemed to be an eternity, I saw the maroon and white blazing down the course.  They were in the process of getting passed by one crew, but were also gaining and nearly catching the other crew in front of them to pass.  As soon as they crossed the line, the men slumped over their oars in total and complete exhaustion.  You could tell they had given everything they had each and every stroke to gain qualification.  The men slowly and painfully made their way back to the receiving docks where they were greeted by one of the greatest rowers of all time, Sir Matthew Pinsent (four-time Olympic Gold medalist and 11 time world champion).  He asked Aaron for his excess weight that Aaron was required to hold for the race and Aaron had lost it in the boat so had to go searching for it in the coxswain seat, which brought smiles to all of our faces.  After about a 30 minute wait the results had been posted and verified.  Lower Merion did not make it through.  We placed 13th and about 20 seconds out of qualifiying, but only 5 seconds out of 10th place.  We needed the top 8.  The men came up short, but as Aaron said, "That was one of our fastest races."  Yes they were a little out matches but they proved that they could hang with the best in the world.  They rowed well and to the best of their abilities whenever it was called on them throughout the year and this was no different.  They lost to several university crews and beat several universities as well.  Despite not making it past the qualifier, we should all be proud of how the men represented you, the team and themselves here at the regatta.  It was just as one steward told me as we were getting our new empacher, the most competitive field they have had for the event ever.  I did keep this information from the men prior to racing because their nerves were already up there.  We should all be happy with their performance and finally be excited that Lower Merion has begun to make a name for itself on the international stage with getting an invitation here at the Henley Regatta as they do not give out invitations to many crews at all.  Not bad being ranked in the top 25 Under 20 years of age Heavyweight 4's in the world.  I can only hope that each year that we continue to build that we come closer and closer to winning this event and hopefully make our way to the Princess Elizabeth Cup in the 8+.  These men will cherish this opportunity that you have given for a lifetime.  Thank you to all, Brian 

6/23 -- Day Four: Because the race was in the late afternoon, we spent most of the day at home. We walked from Cromwell Road down through the town proper a few hours before four thirty, the time of our race. We were one of the few crews to have worn collared shirts and blazers, which, as I understand it, are mostly reserved for the later events. Nothing was terribly different; we said the same things and were to execute the same race plan, having practiced it the two days prior. Brian and Kate wished us luck and we launched. The heats began at something called Temple Island where unlike in the United States, rowers don't simply paddle across the starting line, but have two starts as it were-- one in which the marshal calls the boat and says "Go," and one in which the coxswain gets his point and actually begins the race. So waiting in the line before entering the marshaling area we were looking around at some of the other competition, which was not only heavy weight, but, barring five boats, including ourselves, were all college freshman-- some, because of the length of Great Britain's secondary schools, were easily twenty, but all of them, as Will said, "were ENORMOUS." Eventually we entered the course; the marshal said "Go"; Aaron took his point and himself said go. We all agree it was our fastest race in the Empacher and the fastest 2K of the season, generally a very well rowed race, with little to regret withstanding not making the next round. We knew it would, considering the competition, be hard, terribly hard, to make the next round; few of us, however, knew we were to do as well as we did. Of the twenty boats competing for spots we fell in the middle of the pack, beating approximately as many crews as we lost to. During the race itself Manchester University came even in the last 200 meters, passing us by the finish, but that boat had the largest rowers I had ever competed against, especially the stroke who could have easily been thirty years old. We finished in seven thirty, the exact number Brian had told Aaron to push for before the event. By far the highlight of the day, besides of course finishing and rowing as well as we did, was what happened when we took the boat into the docks. A marshal comes up asking to see Aaron's sand, which is at the very tip of the bow. Aaron says he can't get it, then asks me, then physically crawls in to get these two bags of sand. All the while the marshal is staring, being polite but clearly losing his patience. Aaron did his best to get the sand, and I, my best to hold the boat, but, as tired as we were gave him little attention. A moment after he leaves Steve turns around and goes, "Wait, wait, you know who that was...that was Matthew Pinsent." Matthew Pinsent happens to be one of the most accomplished rowers in England, having stroked the British four in Athens and won four Olympic gold metals. He was big, but not much bigger than some of our competition.    Chris Policastro

6/22 -- Hello All, Well we have had a few practices now on the course and the men are getting adjusted to the boat and living here.  It was a true culture shock for some of them as there is a water shortage over here, so everyone is EXTREMELY conscious of how much water they can use.  Apparently the government has threatened turning off people's water if too much is used.  This created a little bit of a problem originally with how we were going to shower and such, but we seem to have it all worked out at this point in time.  I know that some of them are also not used to not having immediate access to internet as well.  We have been going to an internet cafe to do our web surfing.  So far though, everyone is still remaining focused on the task at hand.  A couple of the men have not been feeling well with a sore throat and runny noses and such.  With the qualifier tomorrow and possibly the regatta on the 28th, I have removed them from racing at the Reading Regatta as I want them to rest as much as possible and also to avoid a heavy penalty for not removing them by today.  I know that this may cut their racing even shorter, but to keep the eye on the prize of racing and keep their health up as much as we can, I think that it is the smarter move.  The men would have raced at least twice should they have raced at the Reading Regatta, which almost certainly would have left them sick for the remainder of the trip.  We went shopping yesterday and I will let Ryan tell his story of what is going on, but my take on this place is that it is absolutely beautiful and the men will appreciate the regatta more and more as more people arrive to race and finally when the racing begins.  I have been told not to even think of driving in or around the town basically by the second day of the regatta.  This should be interesting.  We have been walking to most places as we are a 10 minute walk from the place we are staying to the course and town.  It is the walk back that seems to bother some since it is uphill. Well I will see you all soon and "cheers" to you all, Brian Conley

A satellite image of the course can be seen by following this link. (Finger's crossed). Click Here

6/22 -- day three: today, we got woken up at 7:15 by brian conley. we were pretty enthused and happy to see him. we quickly lept out of bed, ready to embark on the days journey ahead of us. after toasting 37 pieces of toast and eating 2 entire boxes of cereal we scurried down to the race course for a 9am practice. we had a very pleasant and calm relaxing morning row on the thames. afterwards, brian gave us permission to wander the town and basically reak havoc on the town of henley. instead, we sat in our bedroom and played magic cards, found random wireless internet connections and played a game of hide and seek in the garden. brian, was exhausted, so he did not play hide and seek, and kate just rolled her eyes at us. cp was reading his book and exploring the many antique shops and found "vintage postcards , that looked like they were from the turn of the century" -CP 12:10 pm June 22.  Will, was at the laundromat because all of his clothes were covered in astringent because the dumb idiot forgot to put the cap on the bottle (he called himself a dumb idiot, i'm not mean). he was not happy to find out it cost 4 pounds to fix his problem. so basically, we didn't all play in the garden, it was only ryan steve and aaron (the weird ones). Then at 3:00 we had another relaxing practice on the thames. It was supposed to start at 2:50 but brian overslept and didn't make it to the river until 3:00. we forgave him. Our practice was our best one yet here in England and we are confident in our qualifying race tomorrow at 4:30. (Our plans for the night are to order pizza, go to the grocery store and play magic, in case you were wondering. yes, magic cards. we have become nerds. our host mom thinks we are the strangest buggers on the planet. but, we are having a ton of fun so who cares what she thinks, right?) Hope everything is cheery across the pond!! Ryan Nalls

6/21 -- Day Two Today went pretty well (i can't use caps because english keyboards are weird).  we got up and ate breakfast at 730 because of mrs. chisom's 'out of the kitchen before 8' rule.  we went back to bed and slept until 1.  we didn't mean to sleep for 14 hours, but everyone was exhausted.  we hung around the room playing cards and being ourselves (which is always charming) until 3.  we went down to the course and rowed for the first time.  the tent where the boats are stored is enormous, and includes a fully-equipped locker room with running water.  we rowed to the top of the course and back down twice, but had to turn around before a third trip due to wind.  we're rowing in an empacher-- it rows as well as the m2, and i think we can make it move faster. everything on and around the thames is pretty awesome.  we took a run last night and got to see all of the surrounding neighborhoods--all of the houses are made of red bricks, and they're all really close to each other.  all of the people are very friendly and say 'cheers' a lot.  the food is pretty good, but as we learned last night, the sodas are excessively expensive (2.5£ for a glass--about $5 US.  no refills).  the only problem we're having is with the electricity.  so far our electric converters have blown out everything we plugged into them, including both of aaron's coxbox chargers and ryan's dvd player charger.  ryan and england are ''in a fight,'' but he should be ok.  Now we're in the internet cafe and getting ready to head to dinner.   Will Frey

6/20 -- Day One- After a relatively long wait in the terminal, which was spent playing cards and video games it came time to board the plane.  The plane was huge!!!  It sat two near the windows on either side and then five people in the center.  All of us were put in the center of the plane near to each other which was nice.  The flight was long, but comfortable.  A few of us got the luxury of sleeping.  Overall the trip over went smoothly and there were no problems.  The house is beautiful, one room for the rowers and one room for the coaches.  We each have a mattress in the room and blankets.  It is a little rugged and old school, but apparently people like Matthew Pinsent and Steve Williams from the English Olympic Gold Medal Four.  Mrs. Chisomm laid down the laws of the house but it seems that we will have a good time.  As for the town of Henley, its beautiful.  The whole traffic going the wrong way is confusing but we are all getting the hang of it.  There are a lot of places and so far today we have had trouble with little, except for always going into restaurants that are closed, even though they have their door wide open.   The race course is huge and unlike anything I have ever seen.  There are large solid posts that line the entire length of the race course and really makes it seem like a separated event from everything else.  We are all tired and jet lagged and we found our boat.  After first examination, the Fillippi that we were originally assigned, was in pretty poor condition.  Brian spoke with the regatta officials and got us a newer Empacher.  We are all excited to be here but just totally exhausted.  Steve Krajewski

 

6/18 -- It is the night before the group leaves on a journey that will take them to not only a place that has been spoken of for the past few weeks, but a place that every rower along boathouserow has talked about in their own quests over the more than 150 years that rowing has existed on the Schuylkill River. The young men, parents, coaches, families, and friends of the Lower Merion "Nation" have worked very hard to raise the money that was needed to make this trip possible, coming up just short of the goal by $1000. The young men have had double practices and fundraising to do ever since the original desire was made known that we were going to go forward with this journey. They were exhausted day in and day out, 'burning the candle at both ends' as my father used to say.

In their last practice on the Schuylkill River, the 5 young men sat in their hull that had brought them so much success throughout the year and looked at me as they waited to do their last piece from Girard Avenue Bridge to the lighthouse. During that small amount of time, I said to them that they were no longer rowing for themselves, but for all the people that believe in them and donated money, they were rowing for the other rowers on the team that pushed them throughout the year, they were representing Lower Merion and the United States. They were rowing under greater expectations than had ever been brought on them before. I stated to them that they were in the same position that they began the year---the Underdog! It was a position that they thrived on. They loved to prove people wrong every time they hit the water and Henley was going to be the same. "You will be sitting next to people that are 1 year older than you and probably 50 pounds heavier than you." It is the only expectation from everyone who has made this possible to give it your best each stroke of the race. When I finished, the focus in the boat was like nothing I had seen from them before. There was no smiling, but not because they weren't having fun, but because it was time to race. There was no looking around, but total focus on the person in front of him and on the point for which we were steering. In a short moment, they heard, "ATTENTION, GO!" It was the first five stroke starting sequence and then stay high until we have the lead. I put my launch at full throttle. The five men in the boat never looked at me, but they were holding me off for the next 40 strokes. They came down to their standard race pace and on that first stroke of doing that there was a large distance between the last puddle from an oar and the next puddle that was being made at the present time and with a powerful push of the already oxygen deprived burning legs and swing of the 4 aching backs the five young men fired away towards the finish (lighthouse).

What a great way to have your last practice on the Schuylkill than to have your best 60 strokes ever on the river be your last. As I write this, I am 13 1/2 hours away from entering the vehicle that will take us to the airport to cross "the pond" to England. Nervousness fills my veins just as much as the fire of wanting to get over there to race. It will be exciting and fun and we will be giving it our best as a thank you for all of your support that without which this could not have happened. Thank you for everything and keep watching for more information. Brian Conley

 

By David Greenspan _________________________________________________________

6/17/06 I need to start with a big THANK YOU to the private and corporate donors and the many anonymous individuals who gave to the program through the raffle, the fund raiser dinner, in cans posted in a number of shops in the area, and the car wash. As special thanks has to go to Kate Freeland, Brian Conley and their parents and the parents of the Henley athletes who have gone above and beyond in their brainstorming, organizing and raising the money necessary to get the boys over there this year. What a grand accomplishment. As of this writing, nearly $32,000 have been raised. With luck, more will flow in to the coffers and the full amount won't need to be spent so that the LM Crew Henley Fund can be seeded to grow for future LM athletes to use.

School is out, the boys are at practice, the car wash is tomorrow, and then they leave from the LM High School pool parking lot at 1:30 PM. There are 28 boats entered in their event, only 5 appear to be high school age, with the rest from college. They need to be in the top 16 to race on June 28. Our hearts go with them. What a hoot!

The Henley Royal Regatta Web site can be viewed HERE

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