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Notre Dame Rowing History

Feb. 4, 2003

Women’s rowing became Notre Dame’s 26th and newest varsity sport during the 1998-99 season. A long-standing club sport at the University since co-education in the ’70s, rowing was granted varsity status in the spring of 1996, along with women’s lacrosse, which begins its sixth year of varsity competition this season.

Over the past six years, rowing has become the fastest growing sport at the collegiate level. Seven years ago, approximately 45 universities and colleges sponsored the sport. Beginning in the fall of 2001, 80 schools were offering rowing at the Division I level (132 overall), including nine schools in the BIG EAST Conference and most of the institutions in the Midwest. Another startling number shows in 1982, there were fewer than 1,000 women competing in rowing, Now there are more than 4,300 Division I rowing student-athletes.

Five years ago, the NCAA sponsored its first-ever national championship in women’s rowing. The NCAA meet consists of three races – the varsity eight, second varsity eight and varsity four. Twelve teams receive team bids to the championships, with four other varsity eight boats receiving at-large bids.

The first rowing team (all male) at Notre Dame was founded in 1964 by a group of Notre Dame students who had no previous rowing experience. Women’s rowing was established in the spring of 1973, the same year women were admitted into the University. The club team was founded by Frank “Clete” Graham, and first earned national recognition when it won back-to-back titles at the Midwest Sprints in 1973 and 1974, and placed second in the Eastern Sprints in ’74.

As a club sport for 25 years, women’s rowing experienced tremendous success. Annually, an average of 50 women participated in the school’s club program. While it received limited funds from the University for operational costs to maintain its sport, the club was dependent on financial support from alumni and parents to purchase new boats, equipment and uniforms.

Martin Stone, following a successful stint as head coach of the women’s rowing team at the Naval Academy, was named the school’s first varsity head coach in the fall of 1997. Stone added Pam Mork, a rower at Wisconsin, and Kevin Luecke, a coxswain at Northwestern, to his staff in ’97. Luecke was replaced by another Northwestern rower, Joe Schlosberg, in the fall of ’01.

Stone and his staff oversee more than 70 individuals on both the varsity and novice roster. The novice squad, primarily under the direction of Mork, is an important foundation for the future success of the program. Schlosberg oversees the varsity four crew as part of his responsibilities at Notre Dame.

In its first year of competition, Notre Dame showed that it would become a major force in the sport of rowing. The Notre Dame lightweight eight boat finished the season ranked 12th in the nation after finishing third at the Midwest Championships. The Irish also made great headway in the varsity eight, placing fourth at the Georgetown Invitational which features the BIG EAST schools that offer rowing. At the same regatta, the novice eight boat placed second and was second at the Midwest Championships, showing the incredible depth that the program had in only its first year.

In year two, Notre Dame made progress in catching up to the more established programs in the nation. The Irish just missed the grand finals at the Central Region Championships in the varsity eight boat, while the novice eight boat placed third. At the Georgetown Invitational the second novice eight won a gold medal, winning by over nine seconds. Notre Dame also placed all seven boats in the grand finals of the Midwest Sprints and finished in the top five in six of seven finals at the SIRA Championships.

The Irish also received a number of individual honors in 1999-2000 as senior Katrina Ten Eyck earned all-Central Region honors, becoming the first Notre Dame rower to earn such distinction. Ten Eyck was also invited to the U.S. Rowing Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., to train with the national team.

Academically, Ten Eyck and sophomore Katherine Burnett were also honored with the National Scholar-Athlete Award and Ten Eyck was one of five winners of the Byron Kanaley Award, the most prestigious honor given to a Notre Dame student-athlete.

The third time was a charm for the Irish in 2001-02 as Notre Dame experienced what would be its best season in history up to that point. After the BIG EAST Conference announced it would sponsor the BIG EAST Women’s Rowing Challenge at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass., and Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White said the rowing program would receive the full compliment of scholarships under the NCAA guidelines by the 2004-05 season, the Irish achieved its first national ranking in school history, won its first varsity eight race of major proportions at the Head of the Elk Regatta, won five of eight races in the spring, was invited to the prestigious San Diego Crew Classic to compete in the Jessop-Whittier Cup, placed second in the BIG EAST Championship and was fifth at the Central Regions, just missing an invitation to the NCAA Championships. Ashlee Warren and Michelle Olsgard earned CRCA All-Central Region honors.

The Irish also had tremendous success off the water as senior Leah Ashe was named the program’s first Academic All-American, receiving second-team honors. Also, 24 rowers were named to the BIG EAST Academic All-Star team. Katherine Burnett, Ann Marie Dillhoff, Becky Luckett and Warren won CRCA Scholar-Athlete honors. Luckett and Warren were also named to the US Rowing Collegiate Honor Roll, becoming the first Notre Dame athletes to earn such distinction.

Always looking to outdo itself, Notre Dame improved on the previous year’s success when the varsity eight qualified for the 2002 NCAA Rowing Championships in Indianapolis, Ind. – its first invitational to the national regatta. Notre Dame placed 16th at the NCAA meet, but more importantly it provided valuable experience to the rowers who make up the program’s future.

The Irish finished the 2001-02 season ranked 13th in the nation – after being ranked as high as ninth in the country when placing fifth at the San Diego Crew Classic and defeating such national powerhouses as Virginia, USC, Texas and Oregon State. The Irish also boasted a program-high four all-Central Region honorees in first-teamers Olsgard and Warren and second-teamers Burnett and Natalie Ladine. Warren also made history as she became the first rower in Notre Dame lore to earn Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association All-America honors when she was named to the second team.

In the classroom, Notre Dame broke a number of records as six women were named to the CRCA National Scholar-Athlete roster including Burnett (a three-time winner), Katie Besson, Ladine, Luckett (a two-time winner), Cassie Markstahler and Diane Price. The Irish had 25 student-athletes earn BIG EAST Academic All-Star honors and has posted five consecutive semesters with a team grade-point average of over 3.30, including a 3.357 in the fall of the 2000 and a 3.337 in the spring of 2001. Since the start of the program, which covers 10 academic semesters, the Notre Dame rowing team has never had a team grade-point average before a 3.2.

For his efforts in 2002, Stone was also named one of six finalists for CRCA National Coach of Year honors.

The future continues to look bright for Stone and the Irish as they try to take that next step and qualify the entire team for the 2003 NCAA Championships, but the Irish will have to work even harder to get back to the premier level they achieved last season. Notre Dame returns 30 people from last season’s varsity roster, including Warren, Ladine and coxswain Markstahler. Others returning to the roster this season who have rowed in the top boat at some point in their careers are captain Casey Buckstaff and Dillhoff. Also look for seniors Erica Drennan and Kerri Murphy, juniors Alice Bartek, Kathleen Welsh and Sarah Keefer, sophomores Rachel Polinski, Meredith Thornburgh and Shannon Mohan and freshman Meghan Boyle to compete for seats in the top boat.

Notre Dame Rowing Timeline

1973 – The club rowing squad was founded by Frank “Clete” Graham.

1973 & 1974 – Notre Dame won back-to-back titles at the Midwest Sprints.

1996 – Rowing was granted varsity status.

1997 – Martin Stone was hired as the first head coach at Notre Dame.

1998 – Notre Dame competed in its first regatta.

1999 – The Irish placed third in the lightweight eight and second in the novice eight at the Midwest Championships.

1999 – The lightweight eight boat finished the season ranked 12th in the nation.

1999 – Freshman Michelle Olsgard invited to the U.S. Freshman Rowing Camp at the

2000 – The second novice eight wins the Georgetown Invitational … finished second to Syracuse in women’s team competition.

2000 – Notre Dame wins the varsity eight race at the Head of the Elk Regatta and claims four gold medals overall.

2001 – The BIG EAST Conference announces it will sponsor the BIG EAST Women’s Rowing Challenge on Sunday, April 29, 2001, at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass.

2001 – Notre Dame athletic Director Kevin White announces that rowing will receive the full compliment of scholarships under the NCAA guidelines by the year 2004-05.

2001 – The Irish finish fifth in the varsity eight at the Central Regions, but just misses the NCAA Championships. They did, however, finish the season ranked 16th in the nation, the highest final ranking ever for the program.

2001 – Notre Dame has two all-Central Region honorees, four CRCA National Scholar-Athlete award winners and Becky Luckett and Ashlee Warren become the first Irish rowers to earn US Rowing Collegiate Honor Roll accolades.

2001 – Leah Ashe became the program’s first Verizon Academic All-American earning second-team honors.

2002 – The varsity four places first at the 2002 BIG EAST Rowing Challenge, the first crew in Irish history to claim a gold medal at the conference regatta. The team places second overall.

2002 – The novice eight finished third at the 2002 Central Regions, the first medal for any boat at that regatta.

2002 – Notre Dame’s varsity eight receives an invitation to the 2002 NCAA Rowing Championships in Indianapolis. The Irish placed 16th at the NCAAs and finished the season ranked 13th as a team.

2002- Notre Dame has its first All-American in Ashlee Warren, while four women earned CRCA All-Region honors.

2002 – Six women were named CRCA National Scholar-Athletes. The team also posted its eighth and ninth consecutive semesters of boasting a 3.2 overall grade-point average or higher.

2002 – Head coach Martin Stone was named one of six finalists for the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Coach of the Year award.