The Notre Dame rowing team, ranked 18th in the nation, placed second Sunday at the inaugural BIG EAST Rowing Challenge on Lake Quinsigamond. Syracuse, ranked No. 6 in the nation, was first with 107 points, followed by Notre Dame (93) and Rutgers (79). Boston College was fourth with 75 points, while Georgetown was fifth with 74. The University of Miami, who was rowing with borrowed boats after a car accident last weekend damaged all of its shells, was sixth with 57 points. Villanova (54), Connecticut (42) and West Virginia (28) rounded out the standings.
In the varsity eight race, the Notre Dame crew of Katherine Burnett, Diane Price, Becky Luckett, Casey Buckstaff, Michelle Olsgard, Ashlee Warren, Ann Marie Dillhoff, Jayme Szefc and Claire Bula placed third after battling Rutgers until the very end of the race. Syracuse ran away with the gold medal in 6:29.59. Rutgers battled with the Irish and just pushed ahead with a few meters to go finishing in 6:35.58, compared to 6:37.36 for the Irish. Miami was fourth in 6:43.00.
The second varsity eight race was also hotly contested as the Irish were runners-up to Syracuse by less than one second. Syracuse jumped out to an early lead before the Irish pulled back even with the Orangewomen. The Irish crew of Leah Ashe, Anne Starks, Maureen Carr, Melissa Alberding, Courtney Mercer, Erica Drennen, Kerri Murphy, Katie Besson and Erin Kiernicki was barely outstroked in the end as Syracuse won in 6:42.30, while Notre Dame finished in 6:43.18. Rutgers was third in 6:49.57.
Notre Dame claimed third and fifth in the varsity four event. First-year program West Virginia pulled off the upset and took the gold medal in 7:33.08, while Syracuse A was second in 7:36.12. Notre Dame A was third in 7:45.67, followed by Boston College (7:47.41) and Notre Dame B (7:48.65).
The novice eight race was also extremely close as Georgetown narrowly defeated the Irish by .52 seconds. Georgetown crossed the line in 6:56.84, followed by Notre Dame’s crew of Megan Sanders, Danielle Protasewich, Katie O’Hara, Robin Mattessich, Jacqueline Hazen, Natalie Ladine, Katie Welsh, Heather Dziedzic and Kacy McCaffrey, who finished in 6:57.36 and Boston College in 7:01.14.
Syracuse head coach Chris Sanford was voted BIG EAST Coach of the Year.
“Overall, I thought the eights raced great,” head coach Martin Stone said. “All of the races were close and now we know we can race against the best teams in the country. Today taught us a lot of things and will really help us prepare for the Central Regions in two weeks.”