1986 Season

Randy Jablonic
Randall Jablonic
  Tom Tryon
Tom Tryon
 Results | Summary | Photos | W Winners 

Season Results

San Diego 5
Midwest 1
Cochrane 1
Eastern Sprints 3
IRA 3, Ten Eyck

Season Summary

The Badger 1987, Vol. 100 coverage of “Sports” was unique; not a single word of text coverage appeared for any sport. The section on athletics was only pictures. (Crew appeared on pgs. 118-9.)

September 27, 1985, the groundbreaking for the Phase I ($154,000) expansion of the boathouse was celebrated. “Contributions from many generous rowing alumni and friends provided the funds to complete Phase I. Phase 2 and 3 – to complete the indoor tanks, conditioning and locker room facilities – will need about $820,000. The next phase of the fund-raising campaign has been dubbed “The Race for the Boathouse.”

At the Head of the Charles in October, Princeton collided with Wisconsin, resulting in an 18 th place finish for UW among 40 boats. “In a classy act, the Badgers received a letter of apology from Princeton signed by every member of the team.”

October 27, UW raced in the Head of the Milwaukee.

Winter practice was in Melbourne, Florida, beginning December 27. On February 8, another Midwinter Crew Classic was held in the UW Fieldhouse and spring training was on the Rock River in Newville, Wisconsin from March 21 to 30.

In March 1986, construction crews completed Phase I of a boathouse expansion plan - the new boat bat ($154,000). A new brochure promoting the “Race for the Boathouse” project, offering more information from WRA board member Dave Storm, was mailed around this time. The next steps - Phase II, the rowing tank and training facility office ($428,000) to enter construction in 1988 and Phase III, the locker room ($391,000) to enter construction in 1992.

From mid to late March, the Badgers practiced on the Rock River (practice here over spring break started around 1978).

At the April 5 San Diego Crew Classic, the varsity eight finish was Penn (5:35.00), Cal (5:38.66), Navy (5:44.79), Washington (5:46.18), Wisconsin (5:46.55), Princeton (5:48.76) and Cornell (5:49.15).

April 12, the Annual Rowing Banquet was held, honoring Allen Walz and his 1946 crew.

April 21, at the Redwood Shores-Stanford Classic Invitational in Redwood City, CA, a series of rotating eight-oarsmen one-on-one (dual) events over 2,000-meters were held. The results were: Cal (5:41.79) defeats UW (5:46.60); UW ( 5:58) defeats Stanford ( 6:02) and Wisconsin (5:46.00) defeats UCLA (5:53.09). Stanford was the host of the first-ever Classic, but lost all four of its varsity dual events.

April 26 was the Midwest Rowing championships on Lake Wingra. The varsity eight order of finish was: Wisconsin “A” (5:19.0), Purdue “A” (5:28.2), Wisconsin “B” (5:37.4), Purdue “B” (5:40.6), Cincinnati and Kansas State. In the freshman eight event, the finish was: Wisconsin “A” (5:25.3), Purdue “A” (5:31.2), Kansas “A” 5:42.1), Wisconsin “B”, Michigan “A” and Purdue “B.” The frosh 4 + won their event defeating Mendota R.C., Wichita State, Chicago, Cincinnati and Northwestern. Purdue men’s coach Kevin Sauer said, We were right near them at the start, but Wisconsin just took off. I think that by the end of the year ( Wisconsin) will be the best in the nation. I think Jablonioc has something in this team that he hasn’t had since the 70’s.”

May 3, in a strong headwind creating difficult racing conditions, Wisconsin (6:48.4) led from start to finish and won the Cochrane Cup on the Charles River in Cambridge, by two lengths over MIT (6:56.3) and then Dartmouth (6:57.5). “It didn’t seem to affect the Wisconsin (varsity) eight at all as it coasted after gaining open water through the halfway mark, leaving MIT and Dartmouth to battle for second. MIT furiously churned out 41 strokes per minute to nudge out Dartmouth for second.” In the JV-8 event, UW (6:56.0) defeated Dartmouth (7:09.0) and MIT (7:38.0).

On May 4, Wisconsin (6:16.2) defeated Northeastern (6:18.9) on the Charles River by 2/3 of a length. UW’s JV-8 (6:34.7) also won, this one a close one, against Northeastern (6:35.4.

At the 41st Eastern Sprints in Worcester on May 18, the winner was Penn (6:10.6), followed by Harvard (6:11.5), Wisconsin (6:13.2), Yale (6:15.6), Brown and Navy. The JV-8 (6:16.0) won the consolation final (7 th overall); the grand final was won by Harvard (6:06.0). The freshmen from UW (6:24.8) were 5 th, behind Harvard (6:07.5), Brown, Navy and Penn (6:19.3), and ahead of Boston University. Four of the six top varsity shells at the Sprints were West-German mad Empachers, setting off a transatlantic battle against the Stamford, CT-based Vespoli shells.

The annual picnic was held May 24 at the UW Boathouse. The “Pickle Boat Captain” award, for an outstanding contribution by an oarsmen who has rowed at least three weeks in the pickle boat (the 3 rd, 4 th or 5 th varsity eight), was voted to John Murer.

May 31 in the Walsh/Fisher Cup competition against Navy on the Seven River, Wisconsin won five of six events, with the freshman eight of UW losing to Navy. In the Walsh Cup varsity eight race, UW’s time was 5:33.5, in a 11/2-length victory over Navy at 5:39.3. The pairs and the Varsity 4 - events were not held.

The John Stratton Cup scheduled for June 1 against Syracuse was canceled this year. Syracuse would not waive the cost of early by the Badger squad and UW could not afford to pay the costs themselves.

The June 1986 issue of On Wisconsin (p. 5.) described the on-going capital campaign, “The Race for the Boathouse,” to raise the needed $820,000 to finish Phase II and III of the boathouse expansion.


In the IRA’s:

In one of the IRA varsity eight qualifying heats on Thursday, the Badger’s Bryan Hanson, No. 7, dislocated his right shoulder during a semi-final heat, yet Wisconsin still won to qualify for Saturday’s final. The dislocation followed a disruption by the wake of a spectator’s triple-deck cabin cruiser, which had somehow avoided security and wandered onto the course. Race officials, in hindsight, agreed the race should either have been delayed or stopped.

Hanson was able to row one-handed with his left while feathering with his injured right arm and to help the Badgers – Hanson’s teammates picking up the slack - come from a half-length behind and beat Cornell to qualify for the finals. At the finish, Hanson was in shock - his shoulder was swollen, his muscles spasming and his eyes glazed. Jablonic took him immediately to the University Hospital.

Also during the qualifying heats, the Brown JV eight rammed the sheriff’s launch, which was anchored about 100 meters from the starting line and broke in half.

IRA results in the varsity eight - Brown coxswain Milissa Galazzi called for the Bruins to make their move on Penn over the third 500 meters of the 2,000-meter race. Third place Wisconsin also made a run at the Quakers, but the effort came too late in the course, according to Badgers coach Randy Jablonic. Brown crossed the finish line at 5:50.2 to Penn’s 5:51.8 to Wisconsin’s 5:51.9, followed by Navy (5::57.1), Syracuse (5:57.3) and Boston University (6:01.6).

Along with the JV-8 title (Badgers at 5:56.8, followed by Brown (5:58.2), Princeton “B” (6:03.3), Princeton “A” (6:03.6), Cornell (6:07.0) and Navy (6:08.7)), the Badgers (6:55.6) also won the Open Four + (Mike Farrar (cox), Chris Farmer (stroke), Chris Johnson, Scott Lynch, and John Righini (bow)), defeating Princeton (6:59.8) and Navy (7:03.5). Senior cox Mike Farrar thus had the distinction of winning a national championship double.

UW took second places in the varsity 4 -, the Freshman 4 + and the Pairs without coxswain.

Wisconsin won the Ten Eyck Trophy with 327 points to Brown’s 317.9 (UW’s first since 1980). A reversal of the JV result would have given Brown the Ten Eyck.” (No New York Times coverage of the races was found).

On June 13, the Wisconsin State Journal wrote of the men’s varsity eight, in an article before Cincinnati’s National Intercollegiate Varsity Eight Invitational Championship, “They’ve been told they are unbeatable by UW men’s crew coach Randy Jablonic. Their nemesis and great rival, Washington coach Bob Ernst thinks they may be the fastest boat in the history of the sport. Other coaches and crew members have called them names that are unprintable.”


  1986 UW JV-8 Class Age Height Weight
Bow John Tucker ‘88 20 6’4” 170
2 Brian Griesbach ‘88 20 6’1” 220
3 Tom Tyron ‘86 22 6’5” 205
4 Jonathan Murer ‘87 21 6’4” 195
5 Michael Risse ‘86      
6 Patrick McDonough ‘88 20 6’5” 180
7 Thomas Thornton ‘88   6’1” 180
Stroke Joe Cincotta ‘88 21 6’2” 161
Cox Mike Farrar ‘88 21 5’4” 120


In Cincinnatti:

UW Men’s and Women’s varsity eight crews each won collegiate rowing national titles in the Cincinnati Regatta at East Fork State Park in Bantam, Ohio.

Sports Illustrated’s coverage read,

Wisconsin athletic director and football Hall of Famer Elroy (Crazy Legs) Hirsch undressed a few defensive backs in his time, but no woman had ever walked into his office and taken her clothes off. Never, that is, until one day in 1980 when a Badger rower named Jane Ludwig led the women’s crew in there to do just that. She and her teammates were protesting having to share a locker room - divided in two by a canvas curtain as an interim solution - with the men’s crew. In time, the women were given their own temporary quarters in the basement of a nearby dormitory.

It was the fifth year that Cincinnati had hosted the men’s collegiate nationals, but the first in which the women determined their champion at the same regatta.

Sports Illustrated continued:

Among the several things one should know about rowing is that it so exalts suffering that participants wear T-shirts bearing such slogans as FIRST YOU DIE…THEN THE TERROR BEGINS. ‘It’s asinine,’ says Wisconsin coach Randy Jablonic, ‘to spend 4,800 hours of training for 48 minutes of racing.’

The five men’s varsity race figured to be a five-way affair - with everybody but Wisconsin having a shot. Four boats received automatic bids and had all their expenses paid - Brown, Harvard, Penn and Cal - for major races won earlier in the season.

During the long drive to Cincinnati, Jablonic and his van of rowers encountered several dead animals. ‘The rowers decided they’d leave behind a wanton disarray of bodies (at Cincy),’ said Jablonic, whose crew then decided to then christen its shell Carnage. Any Badgers, someone asked? ‘We would not run over a Badger,’ said Jablonic.

As for Crazy Legs, he gets two pieces of deep-dish silver for the trophy case. And some peace in his office.

Norman Hildes-Heim’s Bantam of the New York Times described the IRAs and Wisconsin's comeback during the last 500 meters. This article is copyrighted, please contact the webmaster for access.

Norman Hildes-Heim, in an evening telephone interview September 6, 2000, remembers he had to walk out into the water to talk with Coach Jablonic for his article in the New York Times, as Jablonic didn’t seem to want to leave his boys and come back to shore for the interview. Mr. Hildes-Heim rowed on the lightweight crew at Harvard.

The UW women’s varsity eight boating was: Amy Krohn (cox), Sarah Gengler (stroke), Cindy Eckert (No. 7), Carolyn Potter, Carol Feeney, Katy Drissel, Mary Beth Blanding, Laura Graf, Kathy Haberman (bow).


  1986 Varsity Class Age Height Weight
Bow Eric Moeller ‘88 21 6’5” 180
2 David Evenson ‘87   6’5” 195
3 Christopher Schulte ‘86 22 6’3” 180
4 Mark Berkner ‘87 22 6’3” 202
5 Dan Gehn ‘88 23 6’5” 210
6 Duncan Kennedy ‘88   6’8” 196
7 Bryan Hanson ‘88   6’1” 195
Stroke Kevin McAleese ‘88   6’3” 190
Cox Ray Mejia     5’5” 115


Sports columnist Tom Butler reminded us of the poem:

Oh, sing me a song of college days
That tells where I may go;
Chicago for her standards high,
Purdue for jolly boys,
Northwestern for her pretty girls,
Wisconsin where they row.

The poem was popular more than 60 years ago and University of Wisconsin rowers, men and women, made it ring true again this spring by winning national championships. On June 30, Butler wrote in the Wisconsin State Journal (Section 2, p. 2) another column about the poem above, this time commenting on how many letters are triggered by his mention of the poem. Many writers each remember different versions of the poem, origins of which, Mr. Butler did not offer, other than to repeat that it first appeared ‘60 year or so’ ago.


The Royal Henley Regatta:

June 17-26, the UW crew trained for the Henley at Dumonts Otter Bay Resort on seven protected miles of Owen Lake near Cable and Drummond, Wisconsin. Lunches were eaten at Eagle Knob Resort on Lake Owen and the dinner feast each night was at Rasmusson’s Lakewoods Resort on Lake Namakagon. Drummond is near Cable Wisconsin, about three miles north of Telemark.

UW entered a pair and an eight team. While training, the South County Journal captured a few of Coach Jablonic’s thoughts of interest. Says Jablonic:

Rowing offers a unique opportunity for the amateur athlete to rise, not only from beginning in the sport as perhaps a college freshman or in some high school that offers it, but going all the way to the Olympics, an opportunity which many other sports don’t often times offer.

Rowing has the second largest number of athletes in the Olympic games (after track) because there are so many events. And each event is so grueling that it is impossible to row more than one event.

The eight-oared shell boat is about 60 feet long, weighs 237 pounds and will support almost ten times its weight in crew. The boat is built much like a model airplane: a thin shell wrapped around a light frame. The shells are designed only for speed. Today’s boats, instead of being wood, are mostly space-age materials like epoxy, Kevelar, stainless steel and carbon fiber. A good racing shell costs about $12,000. Oars cost $200 each.

During the training for the Henley, Jablonic explained his objectives while at the camp in the woods of Wisconsin. “We got back to nature,” said Jablonic. Three squares a day for nine days. And plenty of rowing to burn off the calories. No bridges, no troubled waters, no MTV. Just eagles and otters and bears, oh yes. Stay clear of the muskrat. Acknowledging the mental letdown after the nationals, everyone needed to take a deep breath. His oarsmen needed a time out., a break in the action, a pause to refresh and recharge. “We left Lake Owen feeling like we accomplished something - we improved our technical ability,” said Jablonic. “We’re not going over there for potluck. We’re going over there to win a regatta. We’ll take on anybody they put in front of us.”

As for the Henley, “it’s a very social and elite affair,” explained coach Jablonic. “There are rules and regulations. If you’re a lady, you’d better have a skirt on or they won’t let you in. Floppy brim hats are for the ladies and men wear straw hats and bow ties and sport coats.” Caterers were preparing their usual mountains of strawberries and getting ready to pour 45,000 pints of Pimms and 4,800 bottles of champagne.

At the Royal Henley Regatta, Wisconsin lost by 1½ lengths in the semi-finals to the British national eight, Nautilus, which went on to narrowly defeat Penn in the finals of the Grand Challenge Cup.

Wisconsin’s doubles, rowed by spares John Tucker and Joe Cincotta, was defeated in the heats of the Silver Goblet competition by six-time British champions representing the Leander Club and the Marlow Rowing Club.

In Row Wisco of October 1, 1986, an unidentified author (perhaps Coach Jablonic) wrote, “Participation in the Henley Regatta leaves its character on an oarsman like an indelible dye on a piece of cloth. To have rowed at Henley is to realize that not to have rowed at Henley is like not having rowed at all. It is the fulfillment of recognition, of applause, of win or lose in the absolute sense.”


What makes a good coxswain:

Its really funny because we always joke about how anybody can be a coxswain. But unless you have a guy who can make quick decisions and not make dumb decisions, it won’t go. If the coxswain isn’t a confident person, the rest of the crew isn’t either.

'We have a coxswain (Ray Mejia) this year who really took control of the boat,’ said Dave Evenson, the No. 2 man. ‘The night before the Cincinnati race in the hotel room Mejia stepped through the entire race, stroke by stroke, with the oarsmen. That was really neat,’ Evenson added. “He’d say, Now we’re at the 70-meter mark, Penn is four seats up and we’re going to take it up one stroke.” And it worked out just the way he called it.’

And you really need that the last 500 meters when you’ve got tunnel vision and can’t see and you’re hurting, sweat is everywhere and your legs are burning. If he’s up there saying ‘OK, we’re going! We’re doing it!’ That’s what you need to put you over the edge.

‘He has the quality that a good jockey has,’ Jablonic said of Mejia. ‘He knows when to drive the horse, when to pull out the whip and hit’em on the flanks and how hard to lay that whip on, so to speak. In rowing the whip is verbiage, telling them succinctly and precisely without getting into a great deal of conversation. You don’t have time to converse in six minutes with your team.’

Dave Evenson, No. 2, interviewed in the Wisconsin State Journal, July 5, 1986 , Sports.


In the summer of 1986, on August 9, Norm Sonju, former head UW crew coach for 22 years, died in Poulsbo, Washington. Sonju had coached at Madison from 1949 to 1968.



Woman's Varsity 8

Woman's Varsity 8


Win at Cincinnati

Win at Cincinnati

Win at Cincinnati

Win at Cincinnati

Win at Cincinnati


Varsity 8

Varsity 8


Varsity 8 with names

Varsity 8 with names


Woman's Varsity 8 with names

Woman's Varsity 8 with names


JV 8 after winning IRA

JV 8 after winning IRA


Cincinnati Enquirer article

Cincinnati Enquirer article


Pictures from Navy, May 31
R Stewart - Rowing The Experience

Pictures from Navy, May 31

Pictures from Navy, May 31

Pictures from Navy, May 31



Steve Adamski
Mark A. Berkner
David Evenson
William Filip
Brandon Foss
Daniel Gehn
Timothy Greger
Bryan Griesbach
Christopher Johnson
Jon Jonsson
Scott Lynch
Kevin McAleese
Raymond Mejia
Michael Risse
David Rugolo
John Tucker
Gregory Werner


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