Spartans Ready for Big Ten Championships
May 11, 2012
Michigan State travels to Indianapolis, Indiana for the Big Ten Rowing Championships. In 2011, the Big Ten Championships went to a new host site and format, as the Championships will be contested at the Indianapolis Rowing Center at Eagle Creek Park for the forseeable future.
Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis will serve as the host course for the Big Ten Championships for the second time in Championship history, and will remain the neutral-site host for the event for the forseeable future. The 2,000-meter course on Eagle Creek Reservoir remains one of the country's premiere venues. The Eagle Creek course has held more than a dozen USRowing National Championships (including the 2004, 2005 and 2006 events), numerous Olympic, Pam Am and National Team trial regattas as well as NCAA National Championships and regional collegiate, junior and masters events. Eagle Creek was the site of the 1994 World Rowing championships and also hosts high-school and collegiate regattas in the spring and the Head of the Eagle each October.
The Spartans have won two of the last four Big Ten Championships and enter Saturday's marquee race as the four-time defending Big Ten Conference champions in the varsity eight. MSU's four consecitive victories in the varsity boat is already an unprecedented run - only Michigan has ever won back-to-back championships in Big Ten Conference history, which dates back to the sport's inception as a Big Ten sport in 2000.
Michigan State checks in at No. 14 in the CRCA/US Rowing National Poll this week. Overall, Six Big Ten teams are ranked or receiving votes, led by Ohio State, which is ranked fourth and is receiving first-place votes. Michigan is fifth, followed by No. 9 Wisconsin, No. 14 Spartans, and No. 18 Minnesota. Indiana is receiving votes.
The Big Ten Championships have traditionally been held the first weekend in May, but in 2011 moved to a mid-May date. Gone is the format of morning heats and Petite/Grand Finals in the afternoon session that the teams executed in recent seasons. New in 2011, each boat has just one race with seven boats across. An all-day championship event with 24 different races (two heats, Petite Finals, Grand Finals in all six boat classes) is now a six-race event which is contested within a two-hour window.
Monday morning; the Big Ten announced the seedings for the 2011 Championships. For Michigan State, three of its six entries are seeded fourth, including both the varsity and second varsity eights. Both the varsity four and novice eight are seeded fifth.
Wisconsin leads the conference with three number one seeds, but in all lower-scoring boats (both novice eights, and the second varsity four. Michigan's only No. 1 seed is in the varsity eight, while Ohio State is No. 2 in the varsity eight, and both novice eights, and in the second varsity four; the Buckeyes hold the No. 1 seed in the second varsity eight.
It was a mixed bag of results for Michigan State at the 2011 Championships, as the team finished fourth despite a commanding victory from its top boat, an unprecedented fourth straight Big Ten gold medal. Ohio State won the team title, its third overall and first since 2006.
MSU's 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. 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. The Spartan varsity four held its seed, but came close to medaling. Wisconsin and Michigan went 1-2, and Ohio State overcame their boat catching a crab to edge MSU and capture the bronze by a margin of :00.08 seconds.MSU's second varsity four finished fourth, one spot behind its seeding.
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.
The 2012 Big Ten Rowing Championship will be televised on the Big Ten Network for the fifth consecutive season. The Championship will air, tape delayed, on Saturday, May 26 at 11 a.m.
Former Spartan and First Team Academic All-American Kate Burdick will serve as the color commentator for the Big Ten Network's coverage for a third consecutive season. Burdick was a Second Team All-Big Ten honoree in 2007 and CRCA Central Region first team selection as well.
Leading the way for the Spartans as they enter the Big Ten Championships are their 12 seniors: Nicole Bade (Frankenmuth, Mich.), Abigail Christiansen (Maple City, Mich.), Alicia DiMauro (Livonia, Mich.), Theresa Geelhoed (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Lydia Hawthorne (Rochester, Minn.), Brianna Lakanen (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Kathleen Leighton (Boxford, Mass.), Michelle Neuder (Gross Ile, Mich.), Samantha Palmer (Grand Blanc, Mich.), Jocelyn Smith (Midland, Mich.), Michelle Sosa (Rapid City, SD), and Breanne Walkowiak (Midland, Mich.).
Michigan State's Varsity Four is the only MSU boat to win Big Ten Boat of the Week honors this season, as named by the Big Ten office.
On April 21, the V4 - coxswain Rose Palowski, Abbie Christiansen, Alicia Milne, Heather Holliday and Lydia Hawthorne - had its best weekend of the season. Racing at the Stanford Women's Invitational, the four recorded an open-water victory of more than two lengths over the No. 11 host Cardinal with a time of 7:23.8. In the afternoon session, the Spartans pushed fifth-ranked Southern Cal to the limit, coming down the course neck-and-neck with USC. MSU checked in with a time of 7:28.6, trailing the No. 5 Women of Troy by just 1.2 seconds at the finish.
Spartan senior coxswain Amanda McGeachie (Sidney, British Columbia) is a two-time CRAC All-Central Region first team honoree, and also earned second-team honors as a freshman in 2009. McGeachie, who has coxed the varsity eight all four seasons of her collegiate career, is looking to become just the second athlete in Big Ten history to win a varsity eight gold medal in all four years of her varsity career- 2011 graduate Laura Cowal is the other.
In addition to the successes on the water, the Spartans also celebrate considerable success in the classroom - 19 student-athletes will be named to the 2012 Academic All-Big Ten team. Senior Breanne Walkowiak is an Academic All-America nominee, boasting a 3.94 grade point average as a Kinesiology major.
MSU has qualified for the NCAA National Championship Regatta in 13 of the last 14 seasons. Since elevated to a varsity sport in 1998, the Spartans have qualified for the NCAA Championships every season but 2007. MSU has received 11 team bids and received at-large berths for their varsity eight boat in 1998 and 2001. MSU finished seventh at last year's championships, and the program's best finish was sixth (2006,2008, 2009).
Matt Weise is in eighth season as the head coach for the women's rowing program, after spending seven years as an assistant. Weise continually develops the nationally-recognized program, leading the team to its highest finish at the NCAA Championship and back-to-back Big Ten titles (2008, 2009). Over his seven previous seasons as the head coach of the Green and White, Weise has led the Spartans to six NCAA appearances, three Big Ten championships and one Central Region title. Weise, a three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, has also coached 11 All-Americans, five Big Ten Athletes of the Year, two Big Ten Freshmen of the Year and 12 Academic All-Americans.
MSU has had four Big Ten Athletes of the Year, and three straight winners. No school can claim more winners, and no other school has won more than two in a row ... Only two athletes in the history of the Big Ten Conference has claimed both Freshman of the Year and Athlete of the Year honors in rowing - 2008 MSU graduate Anne Cowan, and 2011 graduate Laura Cowal ... Cowal is also the only rowing athlete in the history of the Big Ten to win four gold medals in the varsity eight. Amanda McGeachie can match that this season ... Michigan State's varsity eight will challenge for its fifth consecutive Big Ten title on Sunday. No other varsity eight in Big Ten history has won three straight championships, let alone four. The longest winning streak by one school in one event is the Wisconsin second novice eight boat, which won the first five Big Ten titles in that category ... The Spartans are looking for their fifth varsity eight title in school history, which would tie Michigan for the all-time lead. Only one other school has won a varsity eight championship since the Big Ten began in 2000 - Ohio State in both 2002 and 2006 ... Michigan State has won more Coach of the Year honors than any other institution. Individually, Matt Weise has captured three, (2005, 2008, 2009), while Michigan's Mark Rothstein also has three (2000, 2001, 2004) and is the only other coach in the league to win it back-to-back years. Wisconsin coach Bebe Bryans has also won three, but her first two (2000, 2003) came while she was the coach at Michigan State. She won her first Big Ten title and Coach of the Year award at Wisconsin in 2010 ... Only twice in Big Ten history has one school swept all three major awards (Athlete, Freshman, and Coach of the Year). Michigan State accomplished the feat in both 2005 and 2008 ... Sophomore Monica LaPointe is in her first season in the varsity eight, carrying on the tradition of her sister, Kellie, a four year letterwinner (2008-11) who was a three-time Big Ten Champion and All-America as a senior for the Spartans ... Another sister act is the Lakanens, as senior Brianna is the stroke of the varsity eight and sister, Kimberly, is in the novice eight ... Michelle Sosa, a senior, spent her first two collegiate seasons at Rollins (FL) College ... MSU's roster features athletes from 11 states, four Canadian provinces, plus Zimbabwe and New Zealand.
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