NCAA Championship Notes | NCAA Championship Central | NCAA.com
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On the heels of its third consecutive full-team selection to the NCAA Championships, the University of Tennessee women’s rowing team will make the trip to Sacramento, Calif. to participate in the 2008 championship event this weekend. The Lady Vols enter the competition with the 15th-ranked Varsity Eight boat in the USRowing/Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association poll and with 15 student-athletes who bring NCAA Championship experience to the squad.
UT is coming off an eighth-place showing at the Aramark South/Central Region Sprints in Oak Ridge, Tenn., on May 17 and 18. The Orange and White squad qualified for the grand final in both the Varsity 8+ and Second Varsity 8+ events, finishing sixth in the former which included four other nationally-ranked shells. The Lady Vols completed the regatta with 293 points, good for third in the South Region behind Virginia and Clemson.
The Orange and White will make its sixth straight and seventh overall appearance at NCAA Championships after receiving individual boat selections in 1997, 2003, 2004 and 2005. Tennessee earned its first full-team bid in 2006 and followed it with another in 2007. Last year, the Lady Vols recorded their best finish in program history at the championship event, finishing ninth in both the Varsity 8+ and overall team competition.
The Lady Vols will field a lineup which includes nine rowers who have already competed in two NCAA Championships with UT. Tennessee’s Varsity Eight boat is set to feature six members who raced at the national event in both 2006 and 2007 in seniors Jessica Ayers, Renee Brittle, Krista Gearing and Mary Jones, and juniors Erin-Monique Shelton and Kate Brownlee. In all, eight of the nine athletes in the V8+ crew have championship experience, including sophomore coxswain Katie Ross who led the Second Eight to an eighth place overall finish in 2007. This year’s NCAA edition of the Orange and White 2V8+ will also include experienced veterans in seniors Nina Dobratz and Genevieve Collins and junior Caroline Howell who competed at the championship event in each of the last two years.
Seven teams will represent the South and Central regions at national championships, with Tennessee, Ohio State, Virginia, Michigan State and Wisconsin earning full-team selections and Clemson and Michigan garnering Varsity 8+ at-large bids. Joining those teams are Brown, Princeton, Yale and Harvard from the New England and Mid-Atlantic Regions, and Washington, Washington State and Cal from the West Region. Southern California and Stanford round out the teams receiving at-large selections.
In 2007, Brown captured its fifth national title despite not winning an individual final. Virginia took its second Varsity Four championship, while Yale and Minnesota secured their first titles in the Second Eight and Varsity Eight, respectively.
The 2008 NCAA Championships will be held May 30-June 1 at Lake Natoma in Sacramento, Calif. The last time the championship event was held in Sacramento, Cal took home both the team and V8+ titles. Lake Natoma will play host for the fifth time in the competition’s history. The championships are set to begin with the Division I Varsity Eight preliminary heats at 8 a.m. on Fri., May 30.
Concerning the Competition
The 2008 championship field includes some familiar foes for Tennessee. The Big Orange has met eight of the 15 other teams during the spring season including Wisconsin, Ohio State, Virginia, Princeton, Yale, Michigan State, Clemson and Michigan. In the final two meets of the regular season, the Lady Vols posted race victories against Princeton, Ohio State and Michigan.
Tennessee has faced eight of the 15 other squads selected to compete in the Varsity Eight competition at national championships during the spring season. At the Aramark Sprints, the Orange and White notched a victory over Ohio State’s top shell, knocking the Buckeyes out of the V8+ grand final for the first time in event history. Likewise, during the regular season, UT posted wins over Princeton and OSU in the Varsity Eight event. The Lady Vols also finished just two seconds off Yale’s pace and two-tenths of a second behind Michigan during meets this spring.
In the Second Eights, the Big Orange has taken on six of the other 11 squads in the championship field, with three of those meetings coming during the South/Central Regionals on May 17-18. During the event, the Lady Vols topped Central Region champion Michigan State’s squad twice, first in semifinal and again in the grand final. During UT’s regular season slate, the 2V8+ shell also notched a victory over Princeton and finished just three seconds behind Ohio State.
This year’s collection of teams includes five-time and defending national champion Brown, which enters the event with the No. 2 Varsity Eight shell in Division I. Brown also joins Princeton and Washington as the only teams to participate in every national championship in the competition’s 12-year history. Host Cal comes into the event with the top-ranked Varsity Eight boat in the CRCA poll and boasts two team titles in the past three years, including the 2005 crown which it won at Lake Natoma. Each of the four teams who have combined to win every team title in event history — Brown, Cal, Harvard and Washington — are in the 2008 field.
NCAA Gold Mine
The Sacramento State Aquatic Center is one of the finest facilities in the country, offering jet skiing, youth programs, rowing, water skiing, sailing, kayaking, wind surfing and canoeing. The center was established in 1981 and has provided instruction to thousands of students. The center offers university physical education classes and leisure classes for the general public, competitive teams, and a series of progressive summer camps and youth programs.
The Aquatic Center, in conjunction with Nimbus Flats State Park, is the established site of every major West Coast championship for high school and collegiate rowing. Every year the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Championships (WIRA), Pac-10 Conference Championships, and California Junior Rowing Championships are held in consecutive weekends at this site.
In the NCAA Women’s Rowing Championship’s 12-year history, the Aquatic Center has served as the host site five times, including this year. Sacramento’s history with the NCAA’s premier rowing event dates all the way back to 1997, when the University of Washington edged Princeton to take home the sport’s first NCAA title on the waters of Lake Natoma. Since then, Cal and Brown have both tasted victory at the Aquatic Center, with Brown taking two of its record five national championships in Sacramento.
A Sprint to the Finish
Tennessee finished the 2008 Aramark South/Central Region Sprints with a eighth-place overall finish, while taking third in the South Region on May 18. In one of the closest finals in Varsity 8+ history, the Lady Vol boat, comprised 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, fell behind through the first 500 meters. However the field of six shells, which included five teams ranked in the USRowing/Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association top 20, was tight and UT made a move into third place by the halfway point. The Orange and White shell battled for third through the 1,500 meter mark, however could not hold on against the tough field, finishing sixth with a time of 6:40.3, just two-tenths of a second off of fifth-place Wisconsin’s pace.
In the Second Varsity 8+ grand final, the Lady Vols took on Ohio State, Virginia, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Wisconsin. The UT shell was manned by sophomore coxswain Sydney Newman, sophomore Mary Beth Dreusike, senior Marisa Mohan, sophomores Laura Miller and Kate Snider, freshman Melissa Toms, junior Caroline Howell and seniors Nina Dobratz and Genevieve Collins. Though the Orange and White was trailing the field early, the shell powered back to top the Spartan crew by nearly three seconds for a fifth-place finish, crossing the line in 6:47.3. The Buckeyes, Cavaliers and Fighting Irish took first, second and third, respectively.
The Lady Vols’ Varsity 4+ shell, which competed in the petite final, recorded the best result of the day, taking third in the race. The V4+ crew of senior coxswain Danielle Hmielewski, freshmen Rachel Dooley and Ruth Ann Johnson and sophomores Brittany Sehring and Stephanie Hunley, finished with a time of 7:39.19, topping UCF, Texas and Louisville.
At the end of the day, Virginia tallied 407 points and posted top-three finishes in four events to take both the Aramark Sprints and South Region titles. Big Ten champion Michigan State won the Central Region title with 371 points. Clemson claimed the No. 2 spot in the South Region with 320 points, while UT finished with a total of 293.