April 29, 2006
ST PAUL, Minn. - All six Spartan boats advanced to the grand final in their events, which helped the Michigan State Rowing team to a third-place finish at the 2006 Big Ten Championships in St. Paul, Minn. on Saturday. The Spartans, who captured the varsity eight, varsity four, and team championships a year ago, did not capture a gold medal, however, marking the first time since 2001 that MSU did not leave the championship with a Grand Final victory.
"I think the boats had some good performances," rowing head coach Matt Weise said, "but we needed to be exceptional to win here. The second varsity eight and the varsity four did a good job, but everyone else was not where we needed to be at the Big Ten Championships."
The varsity crew finished second in its morning heat (behind Michigan) to advance to the grand final. In what turned out to be the closest final of the day - just 6.2 seconds separated first from fourth place - the Spartan varsity eight was fourth, in a time of 6:52.4. Ohio State (6:46.2) Michigan (6:47.8) and Minnesota (6:48.8) were all separated by two seats at the finish, with the Spartans half a length back from the Gophers.
Michigan State's second varsity eight had a three-quarter length margin of victory in its morning heat, three seconds ahead of Minnesota, 15 seconds ahead of Indiana and over a minute ahead of Iowa's crew to advance to its grand final. The Spartans (6:56.0) fell to Ohio State (6:55.0) by two seats, but finished comfortably ahead of Michigan (7:00.7) and Minnesota (7:05.5).
The varsity four's season-long unbeaten streak remained untarnished in its morning heat, when MSU downed crews from Ohio State and Wisconsin. However, the streak did come to an end in the grand final, as the Spartans' time of 7:40.6 was second to Minnesota (7:39.5), the only varsity four crew Michigan State did not race against during the regular season. Also racing in the varsity four grand final were Wisconsin (7:50.1) and Michigan (7:50.6).
The second varsity four also made it to its grand final, racing against crews from Wisconsin and Michigan in the morning heat. The Spartans (8:05.7) would defeat the Badgers (8:16.9) again in the grand final, but fell to gold medalist Minnesota (8:01.9) and second-place Ohio State (8:04.6).
The novice crews also both advanced to their grand finals. The first novice eight's time of 7:22.5 was good for fourth, behind Wisconsin, Indiana, and Minnesota. The second novice eight finished one place ahead of the first novice crew, in third (7:33.4) behind Minnesota (7:21.0) and Wisconsin (7:25.1). The Spartan second novice downed Michigan's crew by 17.3 seconds.
"There's so much pressure put on every crew at the Big Ten races," Weise said. "Our times show that we aren't working as well as we should be. There's another gear that we've got that we didn't kick in this weekend. We did a good job in the regular season, but we're still racing at the regular season tilt, and that's not the way we need to be racing for the championship season."