Special Reports

OAR Northwest bios

Meet the members of the team:


• HEIGHT: 6-5

• WEIGHT: 198

• AGE: 23

• UPS: 2004, History degree

• HOMETOWN: Albuquerque, N.M.

Hanssen’s passion for rowing started with a Folgers commercial that showed a coxswain waking up with a cup coffee before hitting the water with her crew.

“I thought, ‘That looks like fun,’” Hanssen said. “I thought I’d give it a try.”

So Hanssen turned out for crew at UPS.

“He and Greg Spooner were naturals,” said UPS coach Michael Hagmann. “They picked it up very quickly.”

The captain of OAR Northwest, Hanssen has always had a passion for adventure. He’s biked around Europe, including portions of the Tour de France course, and he’s gone trekking in Australia.

So, it’s no wonder he was inspired when he saw a poster soliciting teams to row the Atlantic while others laughed off the challenge.

As freshman at UPS, Hanssen entered a 400-mile bike ride from Montreal to Maine. Like all the riders, he raised money for AIDS research. However, after raising the money the ride was cancelled do to lack of interest. He did the ride anyway and made sure the donations he collected were submitted to the right organizations.

“Once he gets a goal in his mind nothing is going to keep him from reaching it,” said Jim Wood, Hanssen’s stepfather. “ He’s always been his own person. He’s never followed the crowd.”


• HEIGHT: 5-10

• WEIGHT: 185

• AGE: 22

• UPS: 2005, Geology

• HOMETOWN: McKinleyville, Calif.

LeValley is about four inches too short to be a good rower. People tried to tell him this, but he hasn’t listened.

Now, Michael Hagmann, his college coach, calls him and the rest of this crew some of the most important rowers in UPS history.

“They helped rebuild the tradition of rowing at UPS,” Hagmann said.

LeValley is used to having the odds stacked against him. He grew up in Northern California playing roller hockey on a traveling team. He was 17 on team of men 35 and older.

“But he worked really hard and was a really good player,” said Linda Doerflinger, LeValley’s mom.

He took the same approach his sophomore year when he was cut from the eight-man boat.

“Most people quit in that situation,” Hagmann said. “Dylan worked his butt off.

“A 6-4 guy has a significant advantage over a 5-10 rower. They move more water. But the next year, Dylan easily beat out those bigger rowers.”

As a junior and senior, Dylan was one of the strongest rowers in a boat that won the Northwest championship.

“He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” Hanssen said.


• HEIGHT: 6-3

• WEIGHT: 195

• AGE: 26

• UPS: 2001, International Business

• HOMETOWN: Bainbridge Island

Guys whose business cards read “Greg Spooner, Adventurer” typically don’t find their bliss crunching numbers for a real estate development company.

But that’s exactly what Spooner found himself doing a few months after graduation. He volunteered for Tacoma Mountain Rescue in his spare time and he quickly realized he selected the wrong major in college.

When word got out Spooner wanted to go back to school to study physical therapy or biomechanics, he was demoted. The human resources department accidentally fired him and by the time his boss tracked him down on the ski slopes at Whistler Blackcomb, there was no way he was turning back.

He walked away from a good salary to pursue his passion – studying the human body and rowing across the North Atlantic.

“When I’m rowing I feel like I’m in a painting,” Spooner said.

He knows most people wouldn’t have had the nerve to make the same choice.

“I feel sorry for those people,” said Spooner, who will resume his studies when he returns from the row. “ If there is one thing that comes from this, I hope we can inspire somebody to do what we are doing, going after our dreams.”


• HEIGHT: 6-5

• WEIGHT: 195

• AGE: 22

• UPS: 2005, International Political Economy

• HOMETOWN: Santa Barbara, Calif.

The first image that pops into Chris Cohen’s head when he thinks of Brad Vickers makes him laugh.

“I picture him falling off things,” said Cohen, a teammate on Vickers’ high school volleyball team. “He was this tall, skinny, clumsy guy in middle school.”

Cohen might not be able to get this image out of his mind, but he admits Vickers has grown into his frame.

Vickers was one of the stars of the prep volleyball team and also played basketball and was a member of the debate team. But nothing captured his attention like rowing.

“We had to work with him a lot, but he worked hard to become very good,” UPS coach Michael Hagmann said.

The occasional clumsy moment wasn’t the only impression he made on his friends.

“He’s always been such a good guy – focused and intelligent, we could sit around and talk politics for hours,” Cohen said.

“And he would always find some ungodly goal that would challenge him. And now he’s doing it again and I admire him for that.”