1979 Season

Randy Jablonic
Randall Jablonic
  Beau Hoopman
Mike Gasper
 Results | Summary | Photos | W Winners 

Season Results

San Diego 3
Midwest 1
Cochrane 3
Eastern Sprints 8
IRA 2, Ten Eyck

Season Summary

To draw attention to the crowded locker quarters for the men and women's crews at the boathouse, 25 UW women rowers marched into Athletic Director' Elroy Hirsch's outer office, disrobed and changed into their practice clothes.

The UW men's varsity eight ( 15:42 ) finished fourth at the Head of the Charles in Cambridge , MA , behind Dartmouth (15:31.9), Brown and Princeton . UW freshmen coach Neil Halleen, age 34, finished ninth in the championship singles competition and varsity coach Randy Jablonic finished 32nd in the masters singles - 35-40 year old category. A record setting crowd of over 80,000 witnessed the fall's largest regatta. More than 3,000 participants competed. UW's varsity eight boating: Joel Bertocchi (cox), Mike Gasper (stroke), Paul Lambert (No. 5), Bill Olson (No. 6), John Olsen (No. 7), Dave Moecher (No. 4), Ned Kline (No. 3), Jim Seefeldt (No. 2) and Al Erickson (bow).

March 10, the UW Rowing Banquet for 1979 was held at the Park Motor Inn in Madison , with Athletic Director Elroy Hirsch in attendance. The Badgers were the beneficiary of the gifts of two shells from former oarsmen. The first (and the first ordered by a university) - a Robinson made from a combination of tough DuPont fabric, called Kevlar; epoxy resins and stainless steel costing $7,800 and christened the Richard E. Tipple - was donated by John L. Morgan and David C. Falk, both of whom rowed under then Freshman Coach Tipple. The second - to be christened the Dad Vail , the former UW head coach - is a Schoenbrod model made in Bideford, Maine, a gift of Howard H. Rogers (No. 2 seat, UW '11), who rowed under Coach Vail.

In the seventh San Diego Regatta on April 7, 1979 , a 2,000-meter course on Mission Bay , Harvard stroke Gordie Gardiner said, “We knew Brown was dangerous and when Wisconsin won their heat…well, I think they surprised us and themselves. The strategy was simple. Penn always gets a big start, Wisconsin is steady throughout and Cal charges at the finish. Penn false-started. Another would force disqualification. They got off slow, then caught a crab after 500 meters. Psychologically, I think they were hurt,” said Gardiner. “If a crew that blasts away at the start has to sit and wait…and then the crab…”

Exit Penn - to fourth, its worst finish ever here. Next Wisconsin moved into second, the Badgers new blood-red Kevlar-and-epoxy shell making a move a 500 meters. Wisconsin was in its new shell “The Richard E. Tipple.” (The shell, weighing 180 pounds as compared to a Pocock weighing 300 pounds, would later be presented to the team in Madison at its March 10, 1979 annual banquet by donors John Morgan and David Falk to honor their freshman crew coach. The Robinson light-weight racing shell would be damaged in shipping from California to Wisconsin .) Harvard pulled a power 10, then a power 20 and it was ahead by open water by 750 meters. By that time, Cal had moved into second. But not even Silky Sullivan could have run down Harvard's lead this time.

Wisconsin 's earlier victory against Penn, Brown and Washington in the heats represented the first win for Merritt Robinson's new and controversial shell – a concoction of Kevlar fabric and epoxy. The 62-foot shell weighs 180 pounds. Harvard worked with one of the first four Robinson's last spring. Yale bought one and Penn used one in their heat with Wisconsin . Jablonic said, “In every area, there can be improvement. But, if I were to make a prediction, I'd say this boat will revolutionize rowing.”

The Badgers (6:20.6), who stayed with Harvard much of the race, dropped off in the final two hundred meters and finished two lengths back, behind Harvard (6:12.5), and a length behind Cal (6:16.9), while Penn (6:23.7), Brown (6:24.4) and Navy (6:24.6) finished behind Wisconsin . The Los Angeles Time (erroneously) reported the varsity eight event results as follows: Harvard (6:12.5), Cal, Penn, Brown and Navy.

Coach Randy Jablonic reported that the Badgers had god practices on Mission Bay after arriving Wednesday afternoon, but pointed out, “The workouts were just too few.” He added, “We rowed well, but our lack of water time showed.”

Rowing in the varsity eight at San Diego were Cox Joel Bertocchi; Stroke Michael Gasper; 7 John Olson; 6 David Zweig; 5 Paul Lambert; 4 Dave Moecher; 3 Patrick Frayne; 2 James Seefeldt and bow Allan Erickson.

In one of the worst snow-fall winters in Madison - 70 inches fell, ice remained on Lake Mendota until April 19, one of the latest dates in history for which the lake had become rowable. Ice remained on Lake Mendota until April 19.

At the Midwest Rowing Championships on April 28, Wisconsin 's varsity eight set a course record on the 1,850-meter Lake Wingra venue with a time of 5:25.1 (formerly 5:25.5 set by UW in 1973). They defeated Wisconsin “B” (5:33.1), Wichita State (5:43.3), Notre Dame (5:50.7), Duluth Boat Club (6:17.4) and Kansas (6:21.8). The varsity boating was: John Olson, Bill Olsen, Patrick Frayne, Dave Zweig, Paul Lambert, Mike Gasper, Allan Erickson, Dave Moecher and Mike Kleckner (cox).

UW's JV-8 (6:04.0) was also successful, defeating Wayne State (6:20.8), Notre Dame (6:28.0), Duluth BC (6:46.8) and Wichita State (6:51.8).

The freshmen eight event finished as follows: Wisconsin (5:47.2), Purdue (5:52.3), Wisconsin “B” (5:58.5), Minnesota (6:20.3), Kansas State (6:21.9) and Grand Valley (6:24.1).

The open 4+ was won by Purdue (6:29.5), followed by Wisconsin “A” (6:32.8), Detroit BC ( 6:34 ), Minnesota (6:38.1), Wisconsin “B” (6:48.3) and Nebraska (7:42.9). Wisconsin won the freshman four + over Purdue (7:24.4), Oklahoma State “A”, Wichita State, Wisconsin “B”, Nebraska and Oklahoma State “B”.

The Cochrane Cup was held May 5 in Madison over a rough 2,000-meter course on Lake Mendota . Dartmouth took an early lead through the first 500 meters of the race as all three crews (MIT and Wisconsin ) were evenly matched. Dartmouth and MIT were both rowing at 35 strokes per minute, while Wisconsin was at a 38. MIT, which rowed a steady race throughout, caught Dartmouth at the 1,000 meter mark and opened its lead to a half a boat length going into the final 500 meters of the race.

Dartmouth (6:08.4) put on a late sprint at about the 450 meter mark and just nosed out the Engineers of MIT (6:08.5) by a foot to capture the Cochrane Cup; Wisconsin (6:12.0) was third. Wisconsin Coach Randy Jablonic summarized his crews performance, “We scrambled in this race. We rowed at a high stroke and rowed roughly. We just got caught with our pants down. We had a lineup change early in the week and it was the first time we used our new shell since San Diego .”

Since 1961, nineteen consecutive annual Cochrane Cup competitions have been held among Wisconsin , Dartmouth and MIT. Of these, Wisconsin has won ten, Dartmouth five (1966, '68, ‘'70, '78 and '79) and MIT four (1961, ‘62, ‘65 and ‘72).”

The same day, in an exhibition race, “Jabo's JV squad beat Coach Halleen's frosh by a length over the 2,000-meter course.”

In the Eastern Sprints on May 13 in Worcester , Wisconsin 's varsity (6:22.2) finished th (2 nd to Syracuse (6:21.0) in the petite final); the championship was won by Yale (6:09.0), followed by Harvard (6:12.0), Dartmouth , Brown, Navy and MIT. The Badger JV-8 was 5 th , with the order of finish: Yale (6:25.4), Northeastern (6:28.8), Harvard (6:29.3), Syracuse (6:29.7), Wisconsin (6:34.8) and Boston University (6:40.5).

In an exciting race, the freshmen - passing Cornell and Harvard in the last 500 yards - finished third, which event result was: Yale (6:34.2), Northeastern (6:35.8), Wisconsin (6:37.0), Cornell (6:37.5), Harvard (6:40.9) and Dartmouth (6:46.3). The frosh boating: Steve Manicor (cox), Bill Supernaw (stroke), Dan Royal, John Struer, Steve Shenkenberg, Karl Sachten, Chuck Williams, Brian Steinbrecher and Doug Berninger (bow).

May 26, the annual crew picnic was held on a perfect day. Phil Healy won the “Pickle Boat Captain” award for the second consecutive year.


The IRA's :

One member of Wisconsin 's 1979 varsity eight remembers training on Lake Onondaga in Syracuse before the IRA's, with Coach Jablonic alongside in his launch shouting instructions. At one point a small fish jumped into the coach's launch and the whole crew saw it. What else to do to rev up his rowers? Coach bit its head off. “There was no alternative. Actually, it was the only thing to do under the circumstances,” said No. 7 seat, Al Erickson.

On May 29, sportswriter New York Times William Wallace interviews UW Coach Jablonic's son, John, No. 4 seat in the Badger varsity eight. The younger Jablonic was asked how it felt to row for dear old Dad. He gulped. “It's not easy,” replied the son. “he treats me just lie the others. But because I'm who I am, I feel I have to do better than everyone else, try harder. If I make too many mistakes, he'd have to pull me out of the boat in a hurry or the others would think h was carrying me.” The Wisconsin captain, Al Erickson, interrupted with a tease. “John,” he said, “there will always be a seat for you in our boat.”

John was further questioned by Wallace, “When the day is done, does the Jablonic family leave the rowing at the boathouse? “Not really,” said John. “I lived at home my freshman and sophomore years, and crew was pretty much the number one topic. I moved out when I became a junior last fall and it's better. A lot of tension has been eased.”

The eight-seat races were exciting races for Wisconsin , which placed 2nd , 2nd and 1st in the varsity, jayvee and freshman events, respectively.


The Varsity Eight race:

The Brown crew of intellectual giants who do not have much time for sport won the IRA varsity heavyweight championship today for the first time in its history (the Browns elevated the sport from club status in 1962). It was done the hard way. The Bruins rode a stunning race starting out in last place among the finalists and moving up steadily over the 2,000-meter course.

In the final 200 meters David Gangwish, the stroke, asked for a final effort from his teammates and they came through. The Bruins passed Wisconsin , which had led from the start, and beat the Badgers by 1.4 seconds, a margin about a quarter of the length of their 64-foot fiberglass shell. The winning time, 6 minutes 26.4 seconds, was unspectacular, partly because of a headwind, but the water on the Onondaga Lake course was smooth. It was Brown's first varsity eight title at the IRA's.

After Wisconsin , came Syracuse (6:28.5), which finished with a rush to catch Dartmouth (6:28.6), the favorite. The Big Green held on for fourth place, ahead of Cornell (6:30.5) and Northeastern (6:35.7).

Syracuse captain and No. 7 oar Bill Purdy said, “You don't expect Brown. But when a headwind comes, they're there. They're a headwind crew: leg-oriented.”

Al Erickson, No. 7 in the UW varsity eight crew that day, remembered with lingering frustration the fact that no one in his boat saw Brown coming up strongly in the outside lane 6 (sic, lane 5).

-Sportswriter William Wallace

Dartmouth , third in the Sprints, behind Harvard and Yale, looked to be the favorite in the final event. Besides their physical advantage, they had a bed-ridden coach to motivate them psychologically. Pete Gardner, Dartmouth 's varsity coach, was hospitalized before the regatta with an inflammation around the heart. Dartmouth predictably displayed a “win it for the Gipper” mentality. The Syracuse press loved it.

Sick coach or no, Dartmouth came to Syracuse to race and they proved it by winning their heat. In Friday's races, Syracuse and Northeastern qualified from the first repechage. The closest race of the regatta by far was the second repechage. Only 0.4 seconds separated the first three crews. Brown was eventually declared the winner with Cornell and MIT, second and third, respectively. The times were 5:53.e, 5:53.6 and 5.53.7!

A clear sky and a disappearing haze accompanied the grand final on Saturday. After a clean start, the crews took 500 meters to sort themselves out. By that time, Wisconsin had moved into the lead and had ¾ to a length on Dartmouth . The boats stayed that way for most of the second 500, with Brown following Dartmouth and then Syracuse , Cornell and Northeastern bringing up the rear. Brown began at the 1,000 what Northeastern and Wisconsin in the previous races had waited till the last 500 to do. Nothing Wisconsin could do countered Brown's steady march through them. Some Brown oarsmen were to say later that they were a headwind crew and when they felt the wind on their backs as they progresses, they knew it was theirs. Judging from the way they moved, no one was in a position to argue.

In the last 500 it came down to how far away Brown could get from Wisconsin . It turned out by almost ¾ of a length. Wisconsin meanwhile had their hands full with Syracuse and Dartmouth , who were fighting for the second place spot together. Wisconsin eventually held those two crews off for second place as no more than the width of a blade separated third place Syracuse from fourth place Dartmouth . Cornell, who was in the chase for third till the last 250 meters fell 1.9 seconds off the pace and wound up fifth, way ahead of fading Northeastern.”

-Jirak, Paul, “I.R.A.,” The Oarsman , Vol. 11, No. 3, May/June, 1979, p. 45.


The Junior Varsity race:

The shoe was on the other foot (from the earlier freshman race) in the jayvee race with Randy Jablonic's Wisconsins trying to steal it after there was a 17-minute delay at the starting line due to an equipment problem in th Orange shell.

Wisconsin wrested the lead after the Orange streaked away from the starting line. And the Badgers overstroked their foes all the way down the course, as Buzz Congram's Northeasterns pursued them. It looked like the makings of a Badge sweep, until Stroke Steve Brown began to take it up. The Boston crew cut into the lead, and with about 250 meters to go, the New Englanders took over, and they managed to stave off a rallying Wisconsin as they crossed the finish line.

-Arnie Burdick, Syracuse Herald-American June 3, 1979

Yale was a conspicuous entrant in this event. Their presence was explained after a careful perusal of the program. It turned out that they were all lightweights and, in fact, they were the lightweight varsity Eastern Sprints champions. But in competing against heavyweights, they admitted their handicap and entered the second varsity level race.

The lightweights showed their talents on the first day as they qualified with a 4.3 second margin over the second place boat. In the other heat, heavyweight sprints runner-up Northeastern won by 5.6 seconds over the second place crew. Friday's tail wind brought the winning times in the repechages to six minutes flat as Syracuse won their repechage n 6:00.5 and Wisconsin theirs in 6:00.0. Cornell and Dartmouth were the second place teams in the two repechages.

Saturday's conditions turned against Yale as their hopes for victory decreased with each increasingly stronger gust of wind. The start of the second varsity final was delayed 20 minutes after the Syracuse four man broke his oar (of fiberglass construction) during the warmup. The oar was replaced expeditiously but the bent top back brace required lengthier repair. The disruption apparently has little effect on Syracuse . After the start, they jumped to a lead over Wisconsin , with Northeastern and Dartmouth close behind. Wisconsin went by Syracuse at the 500 as Northeastern stuck to Syracuse 's side, a few seats down. By the 1,000, Northeastern had passed and gone ½ length up on Syracuse . Wisconsin had only a few feet on Northeastern.

Yale had as tough a time with the wind as with the competition. They were fifth most of the race and occasionally challenged Cornell for fourth, but they never got anywhere. Back in the lead, Northeastern was still ½ length down on Wisconsin going into the last 500 meters. Unfortunately for themselves, Wisconsin 's second varsity could not duplicate their freshmen's sprint. Northeastern was the team that followed that example as they moved steadily past Wisconsin . Northeastern moved from ½ lenght down toalmost ½ length up in the 500 meters. They finished an even second ahead of Wisconsin . It was nip and tuck for third as Syracuse nipped at the right time and Cornell tucked at the wrong time with the result being a 0.3 second advantage for Syracuse at the finish line.

-Jirak, Paul, “I.R.A.,” The Oarsman , Vol. 11, No. 3, May /June, 1979, p. 45.

The second varsity final was won by the Northeastern (6:37.3) crew, followed by Wisconsin (6:38.3), Syracuse (6:44.3), Cornell (6:44.6), Yale (6:46.3) and Dartmouth (7:01.3).


The Freshman Eight race :

Wisconsin 's freshman won at the Syracuse IRA's in time of 6:50.9 by overtaking the Orangemen in the last couple of strokes.

All three heavyweight eight finals, before 15,000 enthusiasts, were decided by one-third of a length or less with the first five varsity finishers separated by only one length. Earlier, the Badgers from Wisconsin had nipped front-running Syracuse I the last two strokes to beat the Orange frosh by a half-second (seven feet) and moments later Northeastern's junior varsity came from out of nowhere to overtake the leading Badgers to win by a mere deck.

In the photo-finish freshman affair, Drew Harrison's Orange Cubs, striving for their fourth straight IRA success, had led from the stakeboats to the last couple of strokes. They rowed a high beat all the way down the course, overstroking their competition. The Orange Cubs made their big move at the halfway marker, getting open water, but a couple of hundred meters later, the badgers began moving. Stroked by Bill Supernaw, they came with a “Whoosh.” With perhaps 100 meters left, it didn't look like the Badgers could do it. But the powerful, big Midwesterners just powered their way to look the orange in the eye and with just a stroke to go it seemed like the Badgers had their oars in the water as the two young crews glided over the finish line.

The judges called for the photographs and after a thorough look, the Badgers (6:50.9) had outphotoed the Orange .

-Arnie Burdick, Syracuse Herald-American June 3, 1979

Northeastern was favored going into the IRA's. They were 1.5 seconds behind Yale at the Eastern Sprints and Yale was not in the regatta. But Wisconsin also had to be considered a top contender. Third in the Sprints, 1.2 seconds behind Northeastern, they are traditionally a late-blooming team. Due to frigid weather in the Mid-West, they rarely, if ever, have as much water time as their eastern rivals: a factor which may have proved beneficial in the long run. AN then there was Syracuse . They usually have a lackluster match race season and peak for the IRA's, achieving a great deal of success with that plan of attack. They have won the last three freshman eight titles, were second the previous year and third the year before that. They followed that pattern perfectly again this year. While they failed to qualify for this year's Sprints grand final, they won the petite finals handily. So it appeared that the home course advantage, which in this case means knowing that the bells and fog horns let loose in the last 500 meters are in your honor, Syracuse seemed to have the makings of another title winner.

Wisconsin and Northeastern both qualified for the finals on the first day. Syracuse and Brown were first and second, respectively, in the first repechage. On their way to qualifying, Cornell broke the freshman course record. Thursday's times were consistently fast as a tail wind blew all day, but Cornell was the only crew to beat any course record.

On Saturday, Cornell proved it was fast without a following wind. They blasted out of the start with Syracuse. Those two and Wisconsin and Northeastern all mixed it up for 1,000 meters at which point Syracuse must have figured it was time to go. They began to move away from the hitherto pesky Cornell, lengthening their lead gradually during the third 500. Just as Syracuse moved, so did Wisconsin and they passed Cornell too. But it seemed the Syracuse boat smelled blood and were set for the kill. They were one length up on Wisconsin and as the Syracuse shell approached the 1,500 meter mark, the horns and bells began to resound. Wisconsin looked just about out of it. But according to the coxswain, Steven Manicor, they were sticking to their race plan. Even though Wisconsin was afraid that Syracuse had an insurmountable lead, said Manicor , Wisconsin had confidence in their closing sprint. As it turned out, bells and horns were no match for a crew's confidence in themselves. Translated, that means Wisconsin ate up Syracuse 's one length lead n the last 500 and began sticking its bow in the lead every few strokes, At the finish, Syracuse fans were cringing and counting on “the angle” to pull the team through for victory number four. Most spectators, and even the oarsmen it seemed, were in the dark as to the winner. When a sudden outburst of cheers erupted from a till-then exhausted and silent Wisconsin shell, no announcement was needed.”

-Jirak, Paul, “I.R.A.,” The Oarsman , Vol. 11, No. 3, May /June, 1979, p. 44-45.


The order of finish was Wisconsin (6:50.9), Syracuse (6:51.4), Northeastern (6:56.5), Cornell (6:56.6), Navy (6:57.1) and Brown (7:04.4). UW Freshman Coach Neil Halleen's crew had done very well.

Eight championship events were decided and Wisconsin won the overall regatta and the Ten Eyck Trophy with 214 points to 208.1 for Syracuse and 181.45 for Northeastern. UW's varsity 4 - had placed 3 rd and the freshman 4 + was 4 th . Eight different schools won one of the eight men's heavyweight events.

A crowd of 15,000 was on hand as Syracuse placed second, third and third in the freshmen, second varsity and varsity races, respectively, among the eight-oared crews. Wisconsin did better with a first and two seconds, respectively.


  1979 UW Frosh* Class Age Height Weight
Bow Doug Berninger ‘82 18 6'1 ½” 182
2 Brian Steinbrecher ‘82 19 6'2 ½” 200
3 Charles Williams ‘82 19 6'3” 232
4 Aaron Jacobs ‘82 21 6'3” 185
5 Steve Shenkenberg ‘82 18 6'6 ½” 190
6 John Streur ‘82 19 6'3 ½” 200
7 Dan Royal ‘82 20 6'2” 190
Stroke Bill Supernaw ‘82 19 6'3 ½” 185
Cox Steve Manicor ‘82 19 5'5” 115

*Boatings from the Eastern Sprints.  


Advice to coxswains:

A coxswain may not necessarily win a race, but he can lose it. We lost to Brown in the final three or four strokes by four feet in 1979 IRA varsity eight finals because we didn't see Brown coming up strongly in lane 6.

Firstly, a cox has to pay attention to the coach and the coach's game plan so as to follow it accurately as the ‘coach in the boat' on the water. Another help is to watch for who's blade is late into the water and who's is early out. He has to say something to remind that rower to sharpen up his cadence.

Accurately and crisply describing where you are in the race is another important responsibility of the cox. Also, when doing '10's' and '20's' some motivational ideas help. Doing 'motivational 10's' for the "stadium steps" or for "running with the rope on the ice" is another way to rally the rowers and seek to create that ‘rush' of adrenaline needed at a certain moment.

And steering goes without saying. Not only can the rowers see a zigzagging across the course, but they can feel the drag hit the boat if the rudder adjustments are frequent and hard. Picking a point on the horizon and ‘keeping a point' can't be stressed enough.

-Telephone interview with Al Erickson, November 13, 2000



Brown over Wisco
Her American 6-3-79

Brown over Wisco


Frosh IRA Winners

Frosh IRA Winners



Joel Bertocchi
Donald Dey
Allan Erickson
Michael Gasper
Ned Kline
David Krmpotich
David Kufahl
Paul Lambert
Kenneth Lawrence
John Olson
William Olsen
Swift C. Corwin, Jr.
Michael Gitter
Christopher Landry
Vern Frol
Peter R. Gajentan
Phillip T. Healy
Mike Kleckner
Chris Lesbines
Dave Moecher
John Rooney
Clayton Ryder III
Dave Schultz
Paul Schroeter
Jay Starrv
Michael Stemo
Bill Supernaw
Mike Vrabec
Daniel Wilms
David Zwieg


return to top

contact the webmaster