One of Jacksonville University’s most successful programs is going international.
Earlier this month, the JU Women’s Rowing Team announced that it will compete across the pond in one of the most prestigious regattas in the sport.
“We’re going to the Henley regatta just north of London. And it’s one of those things that for programs that are successful, they get the opportunity to go over and compete internationally,” Coach Mike Lane said.
The Royal Henley is an annual competition bringing in more than 2,000 athletes from around the world.
Established in 1839, the regatta is one of those iconic competitions that brings chills to athletes
“Henley is insane,” senior Gabby Huxtable said.
Huxtable knows the magnitude of competing internationally.
“It’s literally built for rowing. I’ve never been I’ve seen like a lot of pictures and videos of people racing there. And so I’m really excited to see like what they have to offer,” she said.
But not just any school can come and drop their boat in the water.
Lane will be traveling to the event for a second time. The first time, he went as a recruiter.
Now, he brings his own team who caught the attention of the regatta committee.
“Well, you have to have a successful rowing resume to get there. And obviously, the success we’ve had, we’ve competed at the NCAA championships seven out of the last nine years, just coming off that great finish that we had last year. So that resume has allowed us to take this trip,” he said.
But in order to understand the magnitude of this milestone, you have to understand the humble beginnings for some of these athletes.
Senior Hannah Gagnon has been able to represent JU all over the country. But her journey in rowing started much differently.
“Were in high school, I rode out of the dirt parking lot, and how to wet launch with no dock. So being able to see myself from when I started when I was 13 all the way till now being able to go international to such a prestigious regatta is really exciting and really fulfilling,” Gagnon said.
As for Huxtable, while the international competition is nothing new, representing her university at this level will be a first she won’t forget.
“I’m from Australia, so I’ve raced internationally before. And it is something that like, is crazy. Having people from other countries is just such a big motivator you want to like show, first of all, off your school, but also, I mean, show off your country. And so I mean, I’m not American, I take big pride in being from Jacksonville. So I’m so excited to represent JU, internationally,” she said.
The trip across the pond will be a first for some, but for Anne Geurts, it will be a trip back home.
“We’re going to Netherlands first, like, obviously we’re going to attending ever got out there probably. And I’m going to see all my friends from home. And my parents are obviously going to come to England too, because it’s only like three hours away. So this is gonna be really, really exciting,” she said.
No matter where these girls compete, Lane said watching them on the water is the best part of his job.
“It’s all about the student-athletes and my greatest joy is watching them be successful not only on the water but, but in life. And so, so yeah, I’m, I’m over the moon to take these guys on this trip to represent JU at the on the world stage,” he said.
As this team continues to make waves, Lane said there are still goals down the road for the program.
“You know, we’ve, we’ve reached unprecedented heights recently, and it’s continuing to get faster, a Top 20 program in the country, Top 15, Top 10. You know, I think that’s obviously from a competitive situation. That’s what what our goal is we want to be, you know, with that top group in the country, from programs from all over and, but we want to continue developing the holistic student-athlete. And so a trip like this is going to give these kids an experience of a lifetime and we want to continue doing things like that,” Lane said.
This year’s regatta will be July 2-7, but the team will head over early, spending a week in Geurts’ home country, the Netherlands.
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There, the team will train and compete in practice races before the prestigious Henley.
As for the boats, they will not be making the trip.
The team is packing light, renting the 45 more than 50-foot boats for the competition