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College teams flock to Lake Lanier for American Collegiate Rowing Association national championship
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Members of the University of Texas’ rowing team train Thursday at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue in Gainesville. Seventy teams from across the nation are expected to come for the American Collegiate Rowing Championship.

American Collegiate Rowing National Championship

When: 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Lake Lanier Olympic Venue, Gainesville

Tickets: Free admission, $10 parking fee

Gregg Hartsuff took out a screwdriver as he worked on a trophy in the bed of his truck, carefully putting the cup back together after disassembling it for the long drive down from Ann Arbor, Mich. It’s a labor of love for the University of Michigan men’s rowing coach, who has led his team to seven straight American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA) national championships, including four since the tournament moved to Gainesville.

Now, the challenge is making that eight straight this weekend against the largest field of competition in tournament history.

“We’ll do what we do, but everyone else is prepared,” said Hartsuff, who has coached the Wolverines club team since 1994. “There is an art to peaking, and I know my team’s ready to hit their best, but that doesn’t mean everyone isn’t as well.”

A knight, a camera crew from California and the all-time most successful coach in collegiate club rowing will converge on Gainesville’s Lake Lanier Olympic Venue to kick off the eighth annual ACRA National Championship Regatta.

Admission is free to all spectators, but the parking fee is $10.

The venue is expected to play host to 1,389 individual athletes from 70 teams and at least 295 event entries, one of the largest turnouts in the event’s history since its inception in 2008.

Lake Lanier Rowing Club president John Ferriss said he’s seen the venue’s standing in the rowing community rise each year since ACRA moved its tournament site from Oklahoma City to Gainesville.

“Because it’s a national championship, we get to do things that we wouldn’t if it was a regional race,” said Ferriss. “It expands the profile higher, and we get to do things to make it a better regatta and experience.”

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Sir Matthew Pinsent will preside as a referee this weekend as a part of the US Rowing Referee Exchange Programme. Pinsent picked up his second Olympic gold medal at Lake Lanier during the 1996 Olympic Games, Britain’s lone gold medal that year.

Since retiring in 2004, Pinsent was knighted. He has since dedicated his career to rowing commentary with the BBC, including coverage of the 2012 London Games.

Ferriss said Lake Lanier is growing in stature each year, especially because of what the racecourse offers. The venue allows for eight lanes of racing, instead of the typical six, has little to no wind, and is straight for more than a mile and a quarter.

“Sometimes, we take it for granted, what we have here, but people from other places, they love it,” said Ferriss.

That’s what Brandin Grams, a former oarsman at California State University, Long Beach, is excited for. As the races get started at 8 a.m. Saturday, Grams and a team of alumni from California will be providing live streaming video for people all across the country to watch the event.

The live stream is available on http://livestream.com/row, and can be accessed by using the Livestream app on a phone or tablet. Viewers who use a Roku set-top box on their television can also watch the stream, according to Grams.

This is the second year Grams has streamed the ACRA championships at Gainesville. The stream attracted 15,000 viewers over the course of the weekend, according to Grams, including many from around the United States.

“People like to see the results right away, so we hope to have scrolling results coming in on the bottom of the screen, as well,” he said. “We’re not going into this blind this year, we have a good idea of what to expect.”

The expectation on the racecourse is that Michigan will win its eighth straight ACRA title at Lake Lanier, where Hartsuff once visited in 1996 as part of the venue staff. The Wolverines coach was ACRA’s president for the first six years of its history.

Following this weekend, he’ll coach the U.S. team at the World University Games in South Korea. Hartsuff, who holds the most wins in the history of college rowing, leads a 19-man team made up of the best oarsmen from Michigan, Purdue, UCLA and several other universities across the nation.

But for now, his focus is on Virginia, which has provided stiff competition in Gainesville the past few years.

“From a regatta management standpoint ... it’s superb,” Hartsuff said of the course. “If it’s good enough for the Olympics, it’s good enough for us.”

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