Rowing NCAAs Await Spartans
May 23, 2012
Michigan State travels to West Windsor, NJ for the 2012 NCAA Rowing Championships.
Michigan State was selected to the field on the strength of a fine regular season. The Spartans finished fourth as a team at the Big Ten Championships on May 15, and its varsity eight rowed to its unprecedented fourth consecutive gold medal.
The Big Ten is sending four schools to the NCAA Regatta in 2012. Joining Michigan State in the field are Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
The NCAA Championships are comprised of 16 teams; each team is required to field two boats of eight rowers and one boat of four rowers. This is the fourth season in which the field will feature 16 teams, rather than the 12 teams with four at-large varsity eight boats as in previous years.
The Ivy League (Brown, Princeton, Cornell, Yale, and champion Harvard) and the Pac-12 (champion Cal, Stanford, USC, Washington, and UCLA) lead the field with five entries each; the four Big Ten crews follow, followed by Virginia out of the ACC and Notre Dame.
Mercer Lake is a 365-acre man-made facility, home to one of the top rowing venues in the United States.
On the north shore of the lake is the. Casperson Rowing Center, home of the Princeton National Rowing Association. The PNRA facilitates rowing competitions, scholastic team training, and community rowing programs. The Casperson Center is a licensed U.S. Olympic Training Site and training facility for the U.S. Olympic Rowing Teams. The racecourse on Mercer Lake is FISA certified and fully equipped to host world-class regattas. The course includes a seven-lane buoyed racecourse with sufficient warm-up areas, three story finish-line tower, ample boat storage and trailer parking areas, consistent conditions across seven lanes, 300 meters of finish line spectator areas, a seven-lane starting platform, and state of the art timing and judging facilities.
Mercer Lake also hosted the 2006 NCAA National Championship Regatta.
MSU has qualified for the NCAA National Championship Regatta in 14 of the 15 seasons in which its been held. Since elevated to a varsity sport in 1998, the Spartans have qualified for the NCAA Championships every season but 2007. MSU has received 12 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).
Not our First Rodeo
Michigan State had its best-ever finish at the 2006 NCAA Championship, finishing sixth as a team the last time this venue hosted the sport's National Championship. The Spartans sent both the varsity eight and the varsity four to the Grand Final, each finishing fourth; the second varsity eight won the Petite Final to finish seventh.
The Big Ten has four teams ranked in the top-15 of the latest Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association's (CRCA) poll. Michigan State is ranked 15th, with Michigan (T-2), Ohio State (4) and Wisconsin (12) rounding out the four Big Ten crews.
Seven of the teams which appear in the most recent CRCA Top-20 poll (and four others which received votes) were on MSU's dual schedule this year, and MSU raced five of the other 15 teams selected for the NCAA Championship regatta.
Division I racing begins at the 2011 NCAA Championship with varsity eights on Friday; heats will be contested on 15-minute centers, and the V8 heats will go off at 9 a.m., 9:15, and 9:30. The second varsity follows (9:55, 10 a.m., and 10:15), and concludes its first session with the varsity four heats at 10:30, 10:45, and 11 a.m..
It was a tough day for the Michigan State rowing team at the 2012 Big Ten Championships, as the varsity eight lost out on a medal by a bowball and the team finished in fourth place overall.
MSU, the four-time defending varsity eight champion, saw Michigan break its stranglehold on the varsity eight gold medal. The Wolverines claimed the overall team title, in addition to gold medals in both the varsity eight and second varsity eight. Each of the Wolverine boats medaled on the day.
The seedings projected the Spartans to finish fourth; the varsity eight, (4th) was the only boat to finish exactly where it was seeded, while the varsity four (seeded fifth, finished fourth) , and second novice eight (seeded sixth, finished fourth) were the two boats to finish ahead of their seeding. The second varsity eight and second varsity four (both seeded fourth), and novice eight (seeded fifth) all finished one spot behind their seeding.
In the varsity eight race, MSU and Wisconsin were chasing Michigan and Ohio State down the course, as the Wolverines eventually claimed a victory of just over a length over the defending Big Ten Champion Buckeyes. MSU and the Badgers battled it out at the sprint, with Wisconsin claiming third place by just over two-tenths of one second (:00.261) to get the bronze.
In the second varsity race, MSU was 21 seconds back of champion Michigan, and were more than 10 seconds behind fourth-place Minnesota. In the varsity four, the second-seeded Gophers struggled, opening the door for Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State to finish ahead of Minnesota's top-seeded boat on the day. In the second four, MSU finished fifth.
In the novice boats, MSU's first eight was sixth, as second-seeded Ohio State beat Wisconsin by open water at the finish. The Badgers got their only gold of the day in the second novice race, as MSU finished two slots ahead of its six seed behind the Badgers, Ohio State, and Michigan.
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 2012 NCAA 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, Abigail 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.
The Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) announced its regional All-Americans and Scholar-Athletes on Tuesday.
Earning First Team All-Region honors in 2012 is senior Michelle Neuder (Grosse Ile, Mich.), now in her third season in the Spartan varsity eight. Named to the second team were senior seven-seat Breanne Walkowiak (Midland, Mich.) and senior coxswain Amanda McGeachie (Sidney, British Columbia). McGeachie 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, owns three Big Ten gold medals in her four seasons.
In addition to the successes on the water, the Spartans also celebrate considerable success in the classroom - seven athletes were named CRCA Scholar-Athletes (a 3.5 cumulative GPA, at least sophomore standing, and competed in 75% of their team's races): Michelle Campbell (Waikanae, New Zealand), Abigail Christiansen (Maple City, Mich.), Alicia DiMauro (Livonia, Mich.), Monica LaPointe (Grosse Ile, Mich.), Shelby Motoligin (Armada, Mich.), Michelle Sosa (Rapid City, SD), and Breanne Walkowiak (Midland, Mich).
A total of 19 rowing student-athletes will be named to the 2012 Academic All-Big Ten team, and while senior Walkowiak was an Academic All-America nominee, boasting a 3.94 grade point average as a Kinesiology major.
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 eight seasons as the head coach of the Green and White, Weise has led the Spartans to seven 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 from 2009-11. 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 ... 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 three times 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, while Michigan accomplished that this season ... 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 for the second straight season 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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