Varsity Eight Wins Fourth Consecutive Title at Rowing Championships
May 15, 2011
Indianapolis, Ind. - It was a mixed bag of results for Michigan State on Sunday at the Big Ten Championships, as the team finished fourth despite a commanding victory from its top boat, an unprecedented fourth straight Big Ten gold medal. However, it was the only boat to outperform its seed, two others held seed, and the top-seeded second varsity struggled as the team finished fourth in the team points standings. Ohio State won the team title, its third overall and first since 2006.
MSU's top entry had made history in 2010, becoming the first varsity eight to win three straight titles. They extended that history another chapter on Sunday, as the race was never in doubt for the Spartans. The varsity eight shined, despite the Spartans entering the race knowing that it was out of the running for the team points trophy. It was a fitting finish for the seniors in the boat: the fourth consecutive gold medal for Laura Cowal in the varsity eight, a third straight for classmate Kellie LaPointe in the V8, and two-seat Stephanie Bochenek capped her Big Ten career with four gold medals in three different boats (novice eight in 2008, second varsity in 2009, and varsity eight victories in both 2010 and 2011).
Cowal was joined by Lapointe and Bochenek on the All-Big Ten First Team, while senior Alex Maibusch and junior coxswain Amanda McGeachie were named Second Team All Big Ten. The league's top awards - the Freshman, Athlete, and Coach of the Year, will be announced on Monday. Cowal, the 2008 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, stands alone in Big Ten history - the only athlete to win four varsity eight gold medals.
For the first time, the Championships were contested at a neutral site - the Indiana Rowing Center at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. There was also a significant format change, as the morning heats followed by Petite and Grand Finals in the afternoon were replaced with just six races - one final featuring all seven boats across in each of the six boat classes.
MSU's varsity eight fourth consecutive varsity eight title came with relative ease, capturing a dominating victory in which it had an open-water margin at the 1000 meter mark. Michigan and Ohio State had the lead off the start, but MSU gained control by the settle, followed by Ohio State and Michigan. The Spartans opened up a five-seat lead at the 500 meter mark and had extended it to a full length by 650, and Ohio State was able to maintain contact until another move by MSU at the midpoint of the race was the closest any boat would come until the final sprint, as MSU cruised to victory in a time of 6:17.12. Team champion finished second in 6:20.53,
MSU's second varsity eight had a disappointing Championship, as it entered Big Tens with a seven-race winning streak and was seeded No. 1, yet finished fifth on Sunday. Michigan took the early lead in the race, with Ohio State and Wisconsin quickly moving past the Wolverines, which opened up a considerable lead on the field. Despite sitting in third at the 1000 meter mark, the Spartans could really never get it going, as they struggled to maintain pace and first fell behind Michigan at the 1250 meter mark and fifth-seeded Minnesota moved on the Spartans in the final 500 meters to take fourth place at the finish.
The Spartan varsity four held its seed, but came close to medaling. Top-seeded Ohio State got off to a fast start, but the Spartans made a strong push to stay even with the Buckeyes at the settle. At the 750 meter mark, there were four boats across: OSU, the Spartans, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The Spartans fell back a bit and trailed at the 1000 meter mark as the Ohio State and Michigan battled for first and Wisconsin and MSU were in third and fourth, respectively. Wisconsin fought its way back into the front of the pack, moving past Michigan to challenge the Buckeyes. Ohio State caught a nasty crab in the final 500, as several rowers were ejected from the boat. Wisconsin finished strong to win the race in 7:12.88. Michigan was second, and the Buckeyes recovered just enough with just three rowers remaining in their boat in the final 100 meters to beat out MSU by the smallest of margins at the finish - MSU was clocked at 7:20.56, and Ohio State 7:20.48 - giving the Buckeyes the bronze by a margin of :00.08 seconds.
MSU's second varsity finished fourth, one spot behind its seeding. Ohio State was the top seed in the race, and led it from the start, holding two seats over Wisconsin through 750 meters with Michigan trailing and MSU fighting to stay with the frontrunners. The Buckeyes made a move and led by a full length at 1000 meters, as the Badgers dropped back into a battle with Michigan. The Spartans trailed the second and third boats by a length, but had open water on the remainder of the field. Michigan State was able to move back into their closest competition over the next 500 meters, regaining contact with Michigan and Wisconsin to make things interesting heading into the final sprint. The Spartans could not overcome the other two boats despite a furious final sprint, and finished fourth in a time of 7:20.56; MSU was :.00.27 behind third-place Michigan and just over a second behind silver medalist Wisconsin.
In the novice boats, the first novice came down to a battle with Iowa in the sprint, which MSU ended up edging the Hawkeyes by a deck to hold seed (6:50.47). The second novice boat was also fifth, in a time of 7:11.13.
Michigan State must now wait to see if it will earn a bid to the NCAA Championship regatta, which will be held Memorial Day weekend in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The NCAA Selections will be announced on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
2011 Big Ten Championships - May 15, 2011
FINAL TEAM STANDINGS
Second Varsity Eight
Second Varsity Four
Second Novice Eight
AWARDS & HONORS
First Team All-Big Ten
Second Team All-Big Ten
Sportsmanship Award Honorees
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