May 18, 2011
East Lansing, Mich. - Michigan State senior rower Laura Cowal (Thorold, Ontario) has been named the Big Ten Rowing Athlete of the Year, as announced by the Conference office on Wednesday, May 18. The award comes on the heels of Cowal and the MSU varsity eight winning an unprecedented fourth consecutive Big Ten gold medal on Sunday in Indianapolis.
Cowal, who has rowed all four of her collegiate seasons in MSU's top boat, became the first athlete in Big Ten history to earn four gold medals in the varsity eight in Big Ten Championship competition. She is also accomplished on a national level, as she competed for Canada last year at the Under-23 World Championships, earning a bronze medal. She was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2008.
"Laura is incredibly deserving of this award," noted head coach Matt Weise, who has now coached five Big Ten Athletes of the Year over the last seven seasons. "She is a competitor, and she brings an incredible level of that competitiveness to practice and raceday, which is contagious among our team. Laura has helped us to many successes over her four years at Michigan State, and her legacy will be one which will be difficult to match. We're very proud of her accomplishments."
This marks the fourth consecutive season in which an MSU rower was named the Conference's top athlete, and sixth time overall. Cowal is just the second athlete in the history of Big Ten rowing to earn the Conference's Freshman of the Year honor and capture the Athlete of the Year award as well - fellow Spartan Anne Cowan was the first to do so, in 2005 and 2008, respectively.
Cowal and the Spartans were selected for the NCAA Championship regatta, which will be held May 27-29, 2011 on Lake Natoma in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The Spartans earned an NCAA bid for the 13th time in their 14 seasons as a varsity program.
In addition to Cowal's Athlete of the Year honors, Michigan's Chrissy Holm won Freshman of the Year laurels. Ohio State's Andy Teitelbaum was named Coach of the Year after guiding the Buckeyes to their first Big Ten Championship since 2006.