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Spartan Rowing Completes a Productive Fall

Dec. 15, 2017

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State’s rowing program wrapped up a very productive fall season to go alongside a successful campaign for all of MSU Athletics.

MSU’s fall season coincided with several impressive showings for Spartan fall teams, and rowing coach Matt Weise believes that witnessing the success of all Spartan teams helps to motivate his rowers into competing at a high level.

MSU’s fall sports great success; both volleyball and men’s soccer earned trips to the Elite Eight. The men’s and the women’s cross country teams competed at the NCAA Championships, highlighted by a 14th place finish from the women’s team. The football team flipped the script after last year’s 3-9 season, finishing the regular season 9-3 with a chance at a 10th win in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28. The men’s basketball team is also off to a hot start with a 9-1 record and a No. 2 national ranking.

While rowing’s championship season doesn’t get underway until March, the Spartans were pleased with their strong showing in the fall.  Once the holidays are over, the team will look to put together a productive winter training program to prepare the team for the 2018 spring season.

“The fall teams had great success and it provides a platform for us,” said Weise. “We’ve got natural competitors on the team and they see what’s happening in the fall.  It’s contagious as the team feeds off the excitement and intensity that is in the department.”

The rowers opened their fall season on Sept. 16 hosting Notre Dame in a scrimmage on the Grand River. No official times were kept at that race, however, Weise was happy with the way his squad performed in its first race of the season.

“The first scrimmage shows me if the team worked on their fitness over the summer.  All but two athletes made the team standard to race against Notre Dame.  This is the largest group to do so. We had only been rowing a few days prior to racing so their boat skills were low but they raced with great intensity,” said Weise. 

After opening the season with a scrimmage at home, the Green and White co-hosted the Head of the Grand Regatta on Oct. 15. The Spartans raced six other participating teams.  MSU took wins in all three races they competed in and also won the overall points trophy. In the fours, the Spartans dominated, taking the top four spots. MSU also had a very strong showing in the singles by sweeping the top eight spots.

“We did a great amount of precision work through September. Smaller boats require more skill than an eight. This showed in their ability to race well in fours and singles,” Weise said.

On the weekend of Oct. 22nd, the Spartan rowers headed east to Boston to participate in the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta. MSU raced to a 25th place finish among 36 entries in the Championship Eights.

The Head of the Charles, now having completed its 53rd annual event, is the largest two-day regatta in the world. From novice to masters, rowers aged 14 to 85 competed in the three-mile head race which attracts more than 300,000 spectators to the banks of the Charles River during Regatta weekend.

“The varsity eight did a good job of executing what we were working on. In rowing, there are two places that we spend a lot of time.  The first is the recovery.  This is the set-up for a dynamic drive and requires blade work, rhythm, and execution of length and body positioning.  We spent the fall on this and all but ignored propelling the boat.  This showed up on the race course. We were disappointed in the result, but I wasn’t shocked by it. We had been working on parts of the stroke that will lead us to speed, but don’t generate speed.”

The Novices competed in a scrimmage against Michigan on Oct. 28.

“That scrimmage is a way for the Novices to get on the race course against a Big Ten competitor,” added Weise. “This event is a good learning experience for the novices and gives them their first taste of what a rowing race entails.”

From there the Spartan rowers wrapped up their fall season with a race at Ohio State with OSU, Indiana, Notre Dame and Syracuse on Nov. 4. The varsity boats went head-to-head in five minute pieces at a 32 stroke rate while the novices did five minute pieces with variable ratings and structures. 

The varsity eight traded leads with Syracuse throughout the morning with Ohio State holding the top spot. The Spartans were able to pull within a few seats of the Buckeyes on some pieces with Indiana and Notre Dame trailing. The biggest competition for the second eight came against Notre Dame where the Spartans and Irish dueled down the course ahead of Indiana. The third varsity eight held off the competition in the first half of the races, but was unable to gain momentum as they progressed.  The first novice eight was at the top of the pack and traded pieces with Syracuse.  The second novice eight was also near the front behind Notre Dame. 

“I saw great poise and execution of the entire stroke. We worked on the drive during the two weeks prior to racing in Columbus and the crews showed their true speed. The varsity eight showed great poise particularly in the first piece when they did not hear the starting commands.  They fell quickly behind but it did not rattle them. They stayed internal, pushed the plan and ended up battling out for the lead in that race. We had a great fall. We progressed in every area and are excited to continue into winter,” Weise said. 

The Spartans will now gear up for winter training with a team erg camp January 5-7 and their first trip to Sarasota, Florida in late January. The first race of the spring season will be at the Cardinal Invite in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on March 17.

“We bring the entire team back for erg camp Jan. 5-7. They picked the movie “Cool Runnings” as their theme, so we’ve got a number of cross training activities geared towards the movie. It’s a great team-builder for us. The camp catapults us into the wintertime with a lot of energy and sets a positive tone for the spring semester.”



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