KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Following a month-long break from competition, the University of Tennessee women’s rowing team returns to action this weekend as the host of the 2008 Aramark Sprints. The Lady Vols will welcome 21 teams to Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for the event which also serves as the NCAA South/Central Region Championships. The event begins tomorrow with the preliminary heats and continues through Sunday’s finals.
The last time the Orange and White took to the waters in competitive action, it found success against two of the top teams in the nation. On April 19, Tennessee recorded second-place finishes in each of the four races in a tri-meet with Yale and Princeton. The Varsity Eight recorded its first victory over a higher-ranked opponent this season, holding on to beat the then-No. 4 Tigers by one-tenth of a second while trailing the then-No. 2 Bulldogs by just two seconds. In the month since the meet, UT moved up as high as No. 4 in the USRowing/Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) poll, the highest ranking in program history.
This weekend’s event will feature Open 4+, Novice 8+, Varsity 4+, Second Varsity 8+ and Varsity 8+ races. Of the 22 teams competing in the V8+, seven are ranked in the USRowing/CRCA top 20. The attendees include 2007 NCAA runner-up and South Region Champion Virginia, last year’s NCAA V8+ silver medalist Ohio State and 2007 2V8+ national champion Minnesota. UT has already faced four of the participating teams this season, recording wins against Minnesota, Louisville and Ohio State and finishing two-tenths of a second behind Michigan’s Varsity Eight.
The Lady Vols will be looking to return to their 2006 South Region title form after falling to five-time regional champion Virginia last year. In 2007, Tennessee earned its highest overall finish in the Aramark Cup standings, coming in third behind the Cavaliers and Buckeyes. Ohio State has captured each of the last five Central Region titles.
The 12th annual South/Central Region Championships are set to open with the Open 4+ preliminary heats at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Melton Hill Lake. For updated schedules and results, visit utladyvols.com throughout the weekend.
Concerning the Competition
The 12th Annual South/Central Region Championship field looks to be one of the strongest in event history. The competition will feature seven Varsity Eight shells ranked in the top 20 including No. 6 Tennessee, No. 9 Virginia and No. 11 Ohio State. Among the competitors are five teams which participated in the 2007 NCAA Championships. Four of those teams medaled at the national championship event, with Minnesota taking the 2V8+ title, Virginia finishing second overall and capturing the V4+ crown, and Ohio State taking third overall.
The Lady Vols have met four members of the field during the 2008 spring season. On March 22, UT topped the Golden Gophers Varsity 8+ and Second Varsity 4+ shells, while falling to UM’s 2V8+, Novice 8+, 2N8+ and V4+. Just one week later, Tennessee hosted Louisville, recording wins in the Varsity Eight and Second Varsity Eight races. In its first road meet of the year on April 12, the Orange and White squad traveled to Ohio State and faced both the Buckeyes and Michigan, finishing second to OSU in the 2V8+ and to Michigan in the V8+.
UT capped its spring regular season with an impressive showing on April 19 against Princeton and Yale on Lake Carnegie in Princeton, N.J. The Lady Vols finished second in each of the four events on the day, including a runner-up showing against the 2007 NCAA Varsity Eight champion Bulldogs.
The Orange and White fleet kicked off the day with a bang, crossing the line just two seconds behind No. 2 Yale in the Varsity 8+ race. After trailing Princeton at the 200-meter mark, the Bulldogs pushed ahead, taking and holding the lead from 400 meters on. Tennessee’s shell of sophomore coxswain Katie Ross, senior Kendra Warren, juniors Erin-Monique Shelton and Kate Brownlee, freshman Libuše Bruncvíkova’, and seniors Renee Brittle, Krista Gearing, Mary Jones and Jessica Ayers, held off the previously undefeated Tigers by one-tenth of a second, taking second with a time of 6:40.4.
The second event of the day brought more success for UT, which saw its Second Eight shell finish in 6:575, only five seconds off of Yale’s pace. The Big Orange’s 2V8+ boat notched its fourth victory of the season, while recording its second straight runner-up finish. The shell, manned by sophomore coxswain Sydney Newman, sophomore Mary Beth Dreusike, junior Caroline Howell, sophomores Laura Miller and Kate Snider, seniors Nina Dobratz and Genevieve Collins, freshman Melissa Toms and senior Marisa Mohan, topped Princeton’s Second Eight by nearly 10 seconds.
Yale posted its largest margin of victory of the day in the Varsity Four, finishing in 7:41.4, exactly 15 seconds ahead of Tennessee’s second-place shell, and completed the sweep with a six-second victory in the Second Varsity Four event.
Tennessee reached new heights over the past month, notching its highest ranking ever in the USRowing/CRCA Varsity Eight poll on April 30. Following a runner-up finish by the Varsity 8+ in a tri-meet with Yale and Princeton on April 19, the Orange and White moved to No. 5 on April 23 before advancing to No. 4 the next week. The Lady Vols finished just two seconds off the then-No. 2 Bulldogs’ pace, while holding off the previously undefeated and then-No. 4 Tigers. UT’s previous high was a No. 6 ranking on May 18, 2005.
When the NCAA decided to add rowing to its docket of sponsored collegiate sports and institute a national championship event, the governing body also divided up the schools that fielded rowing teams into five different regions: New England, Mid-Atlantic, Central, South and West.
With the establishment of the groupings, regional championships were also developed. In the Central Region, Oak Ridge’s Melton Hill Lake was chosen as the site of the inaugural competition in 1997 and has hosted ever since. It was selected by the coaches because of its geographically-centralized location and its recognition as one of the nation’s best courses.
Unlike the New England, Mid-Atlantic and West Regions, the South/Central Region Championships is the only regatta in the NCAA to combine two regions. Likewise, the event is the only regional championship which is limited to intercollegiate programs. Teams from as far away as Minnesota compete in the event, with a total of 22 teams from the two regions participating in 2008.
The 2007 South/Central Region Championships saw Virginia complete a perfect weekend, as the Cavaliers finished first in every race to capture their fifth South Region title and the program’s second Aramark Cup. Ohio State took home the Central Region championship, capturing 366 points on the weekend. The Lady Vols finished third overall and second in the South Region.