Great works of art don't come to fruition over night. They take many years of training and preparation. The artist must learn how to mix the colors appropriately so that the correct hues and tones appear on the canvas. After years of preparation and having all of the necessary resources in place, the University of Tennessee Lady Vol rowers look to be "Making Their Mark" as they head into the program's seventh year of existence.
The first six years were a learning process, as different elements slowly began to find their way onto the artist's easel to be put into use. Now with a boathouse to call home and experience on their side, the Orange and White are looking to turn an ordinary painting into a great work of art.
The main artist for this project is head coach Lisa Glenn, now in her fourth year working on this project after spending time at previous universities honing her skill. Last season, Glenn was close to finding the right combination of colors and brushstrokes as she enjoyed the most successful year of her career. She guided UT to a runner-up position at the San Diego Crew Classic and directed the Lady Vols to a school-best third place finish at the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships. This year, though, she is ready for the rest of the country to witness the wonderful job she has done in Knoxville.
Assisting Glenn on the project will be a familiar face as well as a newcomer. Joe Bilyea is the new assistant artist, brought in to develop the novice rowers so that they can add to the depth of the varsity squad. Bilyea brings with him a plethora of knowledge, as he served as the head coach of Hamilton (N.Y.) College's squad for the past three years and led the Continentals to numerous championships.
Molly Manternach returns for her fourth year to work on the project. Manternach should be familiar with most of Glenn's tendencies, as she has either been coached by or has worked under Glenn for the past eight years. She will collaborate with Bilyea in developing the novices and preparing them for competition.
One way for a program to be recognized is to break into the prestigious Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Top 20 rankings, an objective Glenn is pushing her team toward and is fully aware of.
"I think that one of our major goals is to be ranked nationally," stated Glenn. "We have been knocking on the door and we are aiming to break through this season. It remains a big challenge for us - to break that wall down. The whole team has to be involved, not just the nine people in the Varsity 8+. Everyone recognizes that this will need to be a complete team effort. So that's what we are looking for."
As Glenn surveys the canvas she has to work with, she understands that she has four "colors" on her palette that can make that painting a priceless piece. Her strongest tint is the senior class. This group comprised of Ginny Bradley, Grace Harrington and Shannon McMahon are the time-tested colors, since they have been developed over the past three years. They are all unique, displaying bold and colorful approaches to their sport.
Harrington enters the season after earning second-team All-South Region recognition by the CRCA last year as well as being named a CRCA National Scholar-Athlete. For the third straight year, she will find herself planted in the Varsity 8+ shell. Bradley was also a CRCA National Scholar-Athlete and looks to be permanently placed in the Varsity 8+ boat after spending the last couple of years bouncing between both shells. McMahon takes over the reigns of barking out the orders to the Varsity 8+ after spending two years as an understudy to departed senior Erika Twedt. She looks to bring the same leadership to the team that she brought as the coxswain of the 2nd Varsity 8+.
The next batch of colors Glenn has to work with aren't as bold as the seniors, but the juniors are working hard to create an enjoyable picture. This class is made up of three individuals, all of whom find themselves firmly situated in the Varsity 8+ boat. Leading this group is Kacey Montgomery, who is coming off a season in which she was named first-team All-South Region by the CRCA as well as earning CRCA National Scholar-Athlete recognition. Montgomery has rowed with the varsity since her freshman year and looks to use that experience to make UT into more of a household name in rowing circles.
Fellow junior Kelly Kraiss found herself entrenched in the Varsity 8+ last year, helping the team to a second-place finish at the San Diego Crew Classic. Kraiss hopes that with another year of hard work and dedication under her belt, she will earn the recognition that her former roommate Montgomery earned last year.
The last junior to round out this trio is Kay Logan. Although she possesses the least experience of the group after spending last year with the 2nd Varsity 8+, Logan now takes over the seat vacated by her sister, Kristen. Logan brings not only muscle to the boat but smarts as well, as she led the Lady Vol sophomore class with a 4.0 GPA.
Next up on Glenn's palette are the sophomores, most of whom are walk-ons from last year's novice team. Among the standouts from the squad are Erin Artz, Davida Lopez and Amy McIntosh. McIntosh has been the real surprise, as she spent all of last year with the Novice 8+ and now finds herself rowing with the Varsity 8+. Artz will serve as the coxswain for the 2nd Varsity 8+ with an eye toward leading the Varsity 8+ next year. Lopez holds a tight grip on her seat in the 2nd Varsity 8+, but with her hard work and determination she has the ability to claim one of the three open seats in the Varsity 8+. Glenn is looking for big things from the sophomore class, as it represents the future of the program with the impending departure of three seniors this year.
Rounding out the array of colors at Glenn's disposal is the freshman class. This year, a trio of skilled freshmen joined the squad looking to further develop their skills at the collegiate level. Chelsea Pemberton is the most decorated of this contingent, as she was a member of the team that placed fifth at the 2001 Junior World Championships in Dimsburg, Germany. Fellow freshman Kaitlin Bargreen made an immediate impact on the team as she picked up three gold medals in her first-ever collegiate regatta. Elizabeth Freeman is the final member of the group and picked up a bronze at the Head of the Tennessee in the pairs event.
Glenn's job now is to mix masterfully these colors into the right combinations to produce a winning combination that will succeed on the water. During the fall, she did just that. The Lady Vols dominated the Chattanooga Head Race by winning every competition they were entered in, including sweeping the medals in two of the events. The highlight of the fall, though, was the trip to Boston for the Head of the Charles, which is regarded as the most prestigious regatta in the world.
Bradley, Harrington and McMahon had pulled the team aside at the end of last season and stated that it was their goal to go to Boston this year. The team came back from summer break in better shape than ever before and was determined to leave its mark at the Head of the Charles, and that is what they did. Racing in the Club 8+ event, the Orange and White crossed the finish line in a time of 17:31.82 to take home the gold medal and guarantee them a spot in the event next year. The victory went down as the biggest in the program's history.
"I think the results speak for themselves," said Glenn. "It was very important to the program for the squad to have success in Boston. The victory boosts their confidence, and it was thrilling for them to be able to win that race. It also guaranteed us a spot in that event next year, and it will allow us to take more boats if more are ready. We proved that we should be there, and that's good for the program."
The success didn't stop there, as the 2nd Varsity 8+ finished first at the Head of the Schuylkill in Philadelphia, Pa., the next week, and the Lady Vols posted other strong showings at the Head of the Chattahoochee and the Chattahoochee Chase events. Overall, the Varsity 8+ finished the season 75-5, while the 2nd Varsity 8+ finished a spotless 54-0.
"I feel good about the season so far. The biggest challenge that we have is to maintain consistency and to stay fresh racing," added Glenn. "In the spring, we need to stay on top of our game and we need to be as motivated to go out and compete as we were in Boston. With a young group there are going to be highs and sometimes lows, and we want to make sure we are able to maintain our performance from week to week. That will be key to our results this spring."
With the fall season out of the way, the Big Orange now prepares for a spring season that features shorter races and a style of competition more comparable to drag racing. In the fall, the boats take off in intervals and the team with the best time wins. During the spring, however, the boats line up six across and the first shell to cross the finish line brings home the victory.
"Our home events are important because they allow us to promote what we are doing here," admitted Glenn. "Other big races are the San Diego Crew Classic, SIRA's, our trip to Boston and the Regionals."
The spring provides no rest for the weary as the Lady Vols will race four weekends in a row, starting with a dual meet at home versus Notre Dame and culminating in a return trip to California for the San Diego Crew Classic. The Lady Vols are looking to avenge a defeat to the Fighting Irish suffered last March at the grand opening of the boathouse. Minnesota then comes to Knoxville the week after to compete in a dual meet before Louisville makes its return to Big Orange Country to try and make up for the loss they endured at the hands of the Orange and White last year. Finally, UT will look to improve upon its second-place finish at the 2001 San Diego Crew Classic.
After a week away from competition, the Orange and White will be back on the water for the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships, an event in which they finished a school-best third-place last year. After another week off, the Lady Vols return to Boston for the second time this year to race in a quad meet versus Boston University, Northeastern and Virginia. The team will then prepare for the Lexus Central/Southern Sprints with the hopes of qualifying for the NCAA Championships for the second time in school history.
With a full array of colors and tools at her disposal, Glenn knows that she has the ability to create a piece that art experts would enjoy and love. The time for the Lady Vols to leave their own impression has finally come, and Glenn is intent upon helping the team realize its goals and expectations.
"This team has the opportunity to make that first mark," concluded Glenn. "Now is the time. I don't think we have to wait any longer. I firmly believe that we can enter the rankings with this team. They are great to work with, possess an increased amount of potential, and bring a great deal to the table. It's a rewarding experience for everyone to be in there working hard. We just have to stay focused on the task. In order for us to be successful, people need to stay healthy and keep pushing through adversity. If they can do that, then this can be the Lady Vol rowing team to break through."