May 24, 2011
Michigan State heads to the NCAA National Championship Regatta in Gold River, Calif. The Spartans are making their 13th NCAA appearance in 14 seasons, and earned their fourth straight bid to NCAAs.
Where We're Going
The 2011 NCAA Championship Regatta will be contested on Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif. This is the seventh time in the 15-year history of the event that it will be contested at the Sacramento State Aquatics Center, and second in a row. Washington State University will serve as the host institution for the second consecutive season.
Lake Natoma's perfect rowing conditions make it a perrenial host site for the Pac 10 Championships and a frequent host venue for NCAA and IRA National Championships. The ideal surroundings of Lake Natoma make it virtually wind-free in the mornings, and consequently, it is considered one of the best places to row in the United States.
How We Got Here
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.
Scouting the Field
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 third 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.
Joining MSU on Lake Natoma will be three other Big Ten schools - Big Ten champion Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin - along with Pac-10 entries Cal, Washington, Washington State, USC, and Stanford; Ivy League crews Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth, Harvard, and Yale, as well as ACC entries Virginia and Clemson.
Princeton was the Eastern Sprints Champion, while Cal was tops in the Pac 10. Virginia was the winner at the ACC Championships.
Not Our First Rodeo
For the 2011 season, MSU returned 11 rowers and two coxswains that helped the Green and White finish ninth at the 2011 NCAA National Championship Regatta. Overall, MSU has five rowers in its varsity eight that are rowing in at least their third NCAA Championship. In total, there are four MSU seniors headed to the NCAA Championship regatta for the fourth time in their careers.
Laura Cowal, the Big Ten Athlete of the Year, is rowing in her fourth NCAA Regatta in the varsity eight.
Kellie LaPointe and junior coxswain Amanda McGeachie are each in their third NCAA in the varsity eight.
Stephanie Bochenek has rowed in each of the NCAA entries in her career. She was in the four as a freshman, the 2V as a sophomore, and is in her second season as the two seat in the V8.
Monique Carter is in the second varsity eight at NCAA's for the third time in her career. As a sophomore in 2009, she was the four-seat in the varsity eight.
Sixth Time's A Charm
Michigan State has rowed in five previous NCAA Championship events on Lake Natoma, finishing eighth in 1999, 12th in 2004, 10th in 2005, ninth in 2010, and tying its best-ever program finish by finishing sixth in 2008.
Among the Best ...
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 10th, two spots behind Big Ten champion Ohio State (8th). Michigan (14th) and Wisconsin (15) round out the four Big Ten crews.
... Because We Race The Best
Ten of the teams which appear in the most recent CRCA Top-20 poll were on MSU's dual schedule this year, and MSU raced nine 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 8:30, 8:45, and 9 a.m. The second varsity follows (9:15, 9:30, and 9:45), and concludes its first session with the varsity four heats at 10, 10:15, and 10:30.
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 eight team bids and received at-large berths for their V8 boat in 1998 and 2001. MSU finished ninth at last year's championship.
Recapping the Big Ten Championships
It was a mixed bag of results for Michigan State at the Big Ten Championships (May 15), 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 to a fifth-place finish; the team finished fourth in the team points standings.
Both of MSU's fours finished fourth, while its two novice eight entries finished fifth.
Ohio State won the team title, its third overall and first since 2006.
Seniors Lead the Way
Leading the way for the Spartans as they enter the NCAA Championships are their eight seniors: Stephanie Bochenek (Hamilton, Ontario). Monique Carter (Queens Village, NY), Laura Cowal (Thorold, Ontario), Kristina deJong (Fairfax, Va.), Alyse Egner (Burton, Mich.), Kellie LaPointe (Grosse Ile, Mich.), Alexandra Maibusch (Hinsdale, Ill.), and Claire Vandelinder (Grosse Pointe, Mich.)
Big Deal in the Big Ten
On May 18, senior Laura Cowal was named the Big Ten Athlete of the Year, determined by a vote of Big Ten coaches. 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.
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.
More Big Ten Honors
Laura Cowal was joined by classmates Kellie LaPointe and Stephanie Bochenek on the All-Big Ten First Team, while senior Alex Maibusch and junior coxswain Amanda McGeachie were named Second Team All Big Ten. Senior Monique Carter was MSU's Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner.
Boats of the Week
MIchigan State boats won three Boat of the Week honors in their five weekends of dual racing in the spring season. The Varsity Eight won on April 5 and April 12, while the Second Varsity Eight claimed the honor on April 19.
The Spartan varsity eight was the only boat in the Big Ten to claim multiple Boat of the Week honors this season, and Michigan State was the only school to win more than one Boat of the Week awards as well.
The Spartans returned two athletes this season who have earned spots on the 2010 Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association's (CRCA) All-Central Regional teams. Senior Laura Cowal and junior coxswain Amanda McGeachie were both CRAC All-Central Region first team honorees, and both were second-team selections in 2009.
In addition to the successes on the water the Spartans also had success in the classroom as 17 student-athletes will be named to the 2011 Academic All-Big Ten Spring Honor Roll.
THEY'RE ON A BOAT
A look at MSU's NCAA entries:
The Varsity Eight
Regular Season Dual Record: 7-5
Big Ten Championship Finish: First (seeded second)
2011 NCAA Championship Seed: No. 7
Best NCAA Finish: 6th (2006, 2008)
The first varsity eight captured an unprecedented fourth straight Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis on May 15, and looks to set a program-best finish in this weekend's NCAA Championship as well. The varsity eight was the only boat to win multiple Big Ten Boat of the Week awards this season (two) after strong weekends at the Dale England Cup and at home against Wisconsin and Minnesota. The varsity eight has the most NCAA Championship seasoning, as all nine of its members have a combined 16 events of NCAA experience. The varsity eight also features two, two-time Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association's (CRCA) All-Central Regional selections: coxswain Amanda McGeachie and six-seat Laura Cowal. Cowal is the 2010 Big Ten Athlete of the Year; she is in her fourth varsity eight event at NCAAs, while classmate Stephanie Bochenek has raced in each boat at NCAA's at least once in her career. Senior Kellie LaPointe and coxswain Amanda McGeachie are each in their third season in the V8. Junior five-seat Michelle Neuder is participating in her third NCAA Championship and second in the varsity eight; the other rowers (Brianna Lakanen, Brie-Anne Walkowiak, Alex Maibusch) all have rowed in previous NCAA championship events in the 2V8.
LINEUP: S-Lakanen; 7-Walkowiak; 6-Cowal; 5-Lapointe; 4-Neuder; 3-Maibusch; 2-Bochenek ; B-Bade; C-McGeachie
The Second Varsity Eight
Regular Season Dual Record: 9-3
Big Ten Championship Finish: Fifth (seeded first)
2011 NCAA Championship Seed: No. 10
Best NCAA Finish: Fourth (2002)
The second varsity eight was MSU's only No. 1 seed in the Big Ten championship, but left Indianapolis disappointed after a fifth-place finish in the event. MSU had won six straight races entering the postseason; After a week-one loss to top-five programs Princeton and Brown, MSU's 2V posted open-water victories in all nine of it's wins, and its only loss - to Wisconsin on April 9 - is by eight-tenths of a second. The lineup is incredibly diverse, as it features at least one rower from each class and a senior coxswain; the rowers hail from Michigan (4), South Dakota, New York, one Canadian province (Ontario), and New Zealand.
LINEUP: S-Smith; 7-Motoligin; 6-Carter; 5-Breton; 4-Sosa; 3-Vandelinder; 2-Christiansen; B-Campbell; C-Egner
The Varsity Four
Regular Season Dual Record: 5-7
Big Ten Championship Finish: Fourth (seeded fourth)
2011 NCAA Championship Seed: No. 13
Best NCAA Finish: Fourth (2002)
The varsity four lineup has undergone considerable change over the course of the season, and three novice rowers make up most of the lineup for MSU's entry for the NCAA regatta. The Spartans own victories over Indiana, Minnesota, Texas, Boston University, and Gonzaga this season. This is MSU's only boat which features all Michigan natives.
Two-seat Kathleen Leighton is the only rower in the four with NCAA Championship experience - she was in the three seat in the varsity four in 2010 and finished 12th.
LINEUP: S-DiMauro; 3-Geelhoed; 3-Leighton, B-Molter; C-Pawlowski