Darnton and Shore, the 2016 Pairs Matrix winners (Photo Credit: Benji Bear Photography)
2016 Pairs Matrix

October 1, 2016

ANN ARBOR, MI  – As alumni reunited at Argo Pond to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Michigan Rowing program, a distinctive fall racing tradition was coming to an end. The Pairs matrix has historically been used alongside a 10-kilometer erg test to decide which team members would travel to Cambridge, Massachusetts for the Head of the Charles Regatta.

Consisting of multiple heats over a span of three days, top oarsmen are placed into flights, with each flight featuring four starboards and four ports. Each oarsman rows four, 1000 meter pieces in each shell matched with a corresponding partner that rows on the opposite side. Additionally, each oarsman is expected to row in the stern of the boat as the stroke seat, and the bow twice using foot steering to guide the boat down the river. Often, the ability to steer the boat in a straight line is crucial to garnering the fastest times of the day. Therefore, a keen awareness of both the stroke rating (which is capped at 34 strokes-per-minute) and position on the river is necessary in order to be successful.

During the matrix, boats are sent off in twenty-second intervals and total time taken to finish the course is accounted for. At the end of the flight, the starboard and port that each individually has the fastest times is considered the victor. Winners of the preliminary flights on Thursday advanced directly to the Grand Final on Saturday, with all other rowers advancing to repechages the following day.

SEPTEMBER 29, 2016 The first day of Pairs Matrix racing was characterized by steady rainfall and windy conditions. Two flights were held throughout the day, the first of which began before sunrise and featured a tense competition between Seniors Jordan Shore and Benjamin Sonnega on port, and Jake Presto and Philip Faris on starboard. At the end of this flight, the pair of Shore and Presto left with both the fastest piece of the day, and the fastest individual times. Their performance lifted them directly to Saturday's Grand final and gave them Friday to prepare. Sonnega, Nathan Morningstar, Nate Miller, Philip Faris, Caleb Brown, and Greg Miller prepared for the following day's repechage where they would each get another chance to make Saturday's Grand Final.

The Second flight took place later in the afternoon under similar conditions and included dominant performances by Senior Grey Braybrooks and Sophomore John Wiegand on port, and Senior Colin Darnton and Junior Lake Vitton on Starboard. With a remarkable two-second time difference over the entirety of the flight, Braybrooks advanced to Saturday's Grand Final over Wiegand. Meanwhile, Darnton finished with a more decisive lead over Vitton, and took a spot in Saturday's Grand Final as well. Wiegand, Kevin Hinkle, Gage Smith, Lake Vitton, John Wacnik, and Josh Greenberg took the remainder of the day to rest up for the repechage.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2016 Conditions were once again rainy, and visibility was low when the oarsmen launched from the boathouse to warm-up for the first repechage. Despite a bizarre crash that left an oar split in half and Philip Faris with a sore back, racing continued on as planned, if not slightly behind schedule. John Wiegand and Philip Faris came out of the repechage as decisive winners and earned themselves a spot in the Grand Final, while Caleb Brown, Josh Greenberg, Nate Miller, and Kevin Hinkle advanced to Saturday's Petite Final. The second flight of reps was fortunately not as eventful as the first one of the day. Senior Benjamin Sonnega and Junior Lake Vitton dominated their flight and won the opportunity to race in the Grand Final. Garrett Klumpar on Starboard raced doggedly on his belated first day of matrix racing and took earned a seat in the Petite Final alongside fellow Starboard Greg Miller, and Ports Dan Jenkins and Gage Smith.

OCTOBER 1, 2016 The finals were staged to be an all out and dramatic events:

The Petite Final featured Senior Starboard Garret Klumpar, Sophomore Starboards Greg Miller, Caleb Brown, and Josh Greenberg, and Sophomore Ports Gage Smith, Dan Jenkins, Nate Miller, and Kevin Hinkle. A consistent and powerful performance from Gage Smith left him as a Petite Final champion, and Caleb Brown proved himself to be capable of laying it all on the line also coming out on top as Petite Final Champ.

The Grand Final began at 8:45 am immediately following the end of the Petite Final. Around this time, alumni began filling in the landing area and the dock to witness this tradition on their home at Argo Pond. Racing conditions were pristine: Perfectly flat water, slightly overcast, 65 degrees. With pieces being raced at considerably high intensity, most of the races were decided by no more than a five second difference. The strongest oarsmen were clearly proving themselves to be in top form with times reaching as low as 3:10.1 and exceeding no more than 3:22.0.

The Grand Final Results in order: Port - Jordan Shore, Grey Braybrooks, Benjamin Sonnega, and John Wiegand. Starboard - Colin Darnton, Jake Presto, Lake Vitton, and Philip Faris