May 9, 2007
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Twenty-three squads will vie for the Aramark Cup this weekend at the 2007 Aramark Central/South Sprints, being held at Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn. This prelude to the NCAA Rowing Championships, held May 25-27 at the same site, boasts the largest field in history.
This combination of regions sent five full teams to last year's national regatta, nearly half of the 12 that received bids. This year's field seems to be even stronger. Nine of the country's top 20 programs according to the USRowing/Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association NCAA Division I Varsity Eight Coaches Poll are a part of this record field, with 99 boats competing in one of the five events. All 23 teams have an entry in the Varsity 8+ race, while 21 shells will compete in both the Second Varsity 8+ and Novice 8+ races.
The Central Region boasts of five nationally-ranked squads, including three in the top 10. Defending Aramark Sprints Varsity 8+ champions Notre Dame lead the way with a No. 3 rating, with No. 6 Michigan and No. 7 Minnesota rounding out the region's representatives in the top half of the poll. 2006 Aramark Cup winner Ohio State holds down the 12th spot, while Michigan State stands at No. 13. They will compete for the Central Region title against Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kansas State, Murray State and Wisconsin. Eastern Michigan and Murray State are making their first appearance at these championships since 2004 and 2002, respectively.
The Buckeyes won two grand finals and claimed their second Cup title a year ago, topping Wisconsin by five points. Notre Dame, powered by the Varsity Eight gold medal, took home a program-record third-place finish, while Michigan and Michigan State rounded out the top five.
Coming in with four ranked teams, double the number from last year, is the South Region. Perennial power Virginia looks to win its sixth South title after losing by 10 points last year to Tennessee. The Cavaliers lead the way for the South's ranked teams, coming in at No. 5. UCF stands at No. 11, with the 17th-ranked Lady Vols and the 19th-ranked Louisville Cardinals also claiming a slot in the rankings. The Knights and Cardinals both claimed their first top-10 finish in the overall standings last year. Those four will vie for the region crown against Clemson, Duke, Miami (Fla.), North Carolina, SMU and Texas.
For the third year in a row, Aramark has signed on to be the title sponsor of the 11th annual Central & South Region Championships.
Racing starts on Saturday with the Open 4+ heats at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The semifinals on Saturday afternoon kick off at 2 p.m. Sunday's finals open at 9 a.m. with the Novice 8+ "D" Final and conclude at 11:50 a.m. with the Varsity 8+ Grand Final. There is no charge for admission for this weekend's events.