April 26, 2001

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THIS WEEK: The Notre Dame women’s rowing team, ranked 18th in the nation, will travel to Worcester, Mass., and Lake Quinsigamond on Sunday, April 29, for the inaugural BIG EAST Rowing Challenge. This is the first season for this historic event with the nine conference schools who sponsor varsity rowing competing. In addition to Notre Dame, Boston College, Connecticut, Georgetown, Miami, Rutgers, Syracuse, Villanova and West Virginia will send crews on the water.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT THE BIG EAST ROWING CHALLENGE: Irish head coach Martin Stone and BIG EAST Commissioner Michael Tranghese had this to say about the event:

Notre Dame head coach Martin Stone:
“Although it is on a trial basis, it is a big step for the conference and women’s rowing to have the BIG EAST sponsor the meet. Hopefully this will lead to an official BIG EAST championship regatta, now that we have the required number of teams to host a championship.”

BIG EAST Conference commissioner Michael Tranghese:
“The BIG EAST is excited to host this event. The league continues to identify new programs for women and the inclusion of this Challenge creates more opportunities for our female student-athletes.”

ABOUT NOTRE DAME: The Notre Dame rowing team is off to its best start in the three-year history of the program as the varsity eight has won six of seven races this spring. The only race the Irish did not win was the Jessop-Whittier Cup at the San Diego Crew Classic, where they finished sixth against some of the nation’s best competition. The Irish varsity eight crew of Katherine Burnett, Diane Price, Becky Luckett, Casey Buckstaff, Michelle Olsgard, Ashlee Warren, Ann Marie Dillhoff, Jayme Szefc and coxswain Claire Bula is ranked 18th in this week’s US Rowing/Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association poll. Notre Dame achieved the first national ranking in the history of the program when it checked in at No. 14 for the week of April 4.

Overall, the Irish squad has had a very successful season sweeping all races against Tennessee, Creighton and Dayton, while winning four of six at the Indiana Cup, three races, including the varsity eight, against national power Michigan State and all three races, including the varsity eight again, at the weather shortened Midwest Rowing Championships.

IRISH SEEDINGS FOR THE WEEKEND: Notre Dame is seeded third in the varsity eight race, with Syracuse first and Rutgers second. The Irish is seeded second behind Syracuse in the second varsity eight. In the varsity four event, Notre Dame ranks fourth and seventh, while the novice eight is seeded first going into this weekend’s race.

ABOUT THE REST OF THE BIG EAST CHALLENGE FIELD: The following is a brief synopisis, courtesy of the BIG EAST Conference website (www.bigeast.org) of Notre Dame’s eight challengers at the BIG EAST event.

Boston College is in its first season as a varsity program and will look to challenge for the first novice eight title. The Eagles’ first novice eight crew has picked up a pair of victories this season at the Jesuit Invitational and in a dual meet with New Hampshire.

Connecticut has strong novice crews with the novice four crew taking home a victory and three second-place finishes, while the first novice eight has two victories this season. In their last race, the Huskies’ novice eight crew crossed the line second.

Georgetown has collected victories in the varsity eight, varsity four, and the second varsity eight this season. The varisty eight team claimed a runner-up finish at the George Washington Ivitational Crew Classic on April 14.

Miami is the No. 6 ranked team in the South according to the NCAA Regional Rankings. The Hurricanes will look for strong performances from their varsity eight and the second varsity eight crews, who are No. 6 and No. 3 in their region, respectively. The Hurricanes will have to make some adjustments this weekend as the trailer carrying all of their boats crashed, thus damanaging many of the shells. The Hurricanes will borrow boats from other conference schools for this weekend’s races.

The No. 15 Rutgers varsity eight crew broke into the win column with a victory at the Raritan Cup on April 21. The Scarlet Knights captured the team title at the Raritan Cup with the varsity eight victory and a win in the second varsity four race.

Syracuse’s varsity eight team has won each of the five races it has competed in en route to a No. 6 national ranking. For the first time since 1984, the Orangewomen earned a victory at the Orange Challenge Cup. On April 21, SU defeated No. 7 Radcliffe to remain unbeaten.

The Villanova varisty four hopes that a second-place finish at the Knecht Cup and a win over Massachusetts in a dual meet will lead to success at the BIG EAST Rowing Challenge.

West Virginia, also a first-year program, will look to take home the varsity four crown. The Mountaineers knabbed their first win of the season at a tri-meet with Cincinnati and Louisville.

MIDWEST ROWING CHAMPIONSHIP REWIND: The Notre Dame rowing team was undefeated with a perfect 3-0 record last weekend at the weather shortened Midwest Rowing Championships on Lake Wingra in Madison, Wis.

After thunder and lightning delayed the start of the races on Saturday, Notre Dame sent its novice four and novice eight boats on the water, winning both races. The novice four won heat three with a time of 7:37.00, followed by Kansas B at 7:40.20 and Wisconsin B at 7:44.20.

The novice eight team of Kacy McCaffrey, Heather Dziedzic, Katie Welsh, Natalie Ladine, Jacqueline Hazen, Robin Mattessich, Katie O’Hara, Danielle Protasewich and Megan Sanders then won its race defeating Grand Valley State by over 22 seconds. Notre Dame finished in 6:38.00, followed by Grand Valley at 7:00.90 and Marquette at 7:10.70.

Racing was stopped after the novice eight event because high winds caused unsafe racing conditions for the athletes. An abbreviated schedule was set for Sunday morning starting with a finals-only race of the varsity eight.

The wait was worth it as the Irish crew of Becky Luckett, Diane Price, Courtney Mercer, Casey Buckstaff, Ashlee Warren, Michelle Olsgard, Ann Marie Dillhoff, Jayme Szefc and Claire Bula outdistanced Wisconsin by a second. Notre Dame won its sixth race in seven tries this spring, finishing in 6:14.00. Wisconsin was second in 6:15.90, while Kansas was third in 6:19.40.

POLL POSITION: The Notre Dame rowing team, in only its third season of varsity competition, is ranked 18th in the US Rowing/Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association poll. Notre Dame dropped two spots to 18th this week after opening the season at No. 14, marking the first time in the young history of the program that Notre Dame’s top boat had been ranked nationally. The lightweight eight boat finished the 1999 season ranked 12th in the nation.

IRISH HISTORY LESSON: Notre Dame rowing was granted varsity status in 1996, making it the 26th varsity sport at the University. Martin Stone was hired in ’97 as the first head coach and the Irish competed in their first regatta in 1998.

HEAD COACH MARTIN STONE: On Oct. 29, 1997, Martin Stone was hired as the first head coach of the Notre Dame rowing program. Now is his third season at the helm, Stone is poised for his best year yet with the Irish. In 1998-99, Stone sent the program off to a rousing start as he led the lightweight eight vessel to a No. 12 national ranking in its first year of competition. In his second season, Stone saw dramatic improvement from his squad that boasted the talents of Katrina Ten Eyck, one of the top rowers in the nation. Ten Eyck was invited to train at the United States Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. This fall, Stone showed just how far the program had come as he has led his 2000-01 team to four gold medals at the Head of the Elk Regatta in the fall, and a No. 18 national ranking this spring.

Before arriving at Notre Dame, Stone served as the women’s rowing coach at the United States Naval Academy for five years. In 1994, Stone coached the Mids to a NCAA Division II national championship by winning the varsity eight title at the Champion International Collegiate Rowing Championships. In the championship, Navy also won the first novice and second novice championship races. The Mids not only earned the title, but also were awarded the prestigious Anita DeFrantz Trophy for overall performance by women’s crews at the Champion International Regatta.

Prior to taking over the Mids’ women’s program, Stone served as Navy’s plebe lightweight coach in 1991. He also was an assistant rowing coach at his alma mater, Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., in 1990, working with both the men’s and women’s programs and more specifically, with the varsity and novice women.

Stone began his rowing career at Saint Mary’s College as an undergraduate. With the Gaels, he was named the most valuable oarsman three years and went on to earn three letters, two in the heavyweight boat and one in the lightweight boat.

ACADEMIC HONORS AND AWARDS: Second varsity eight member Leah Ashe was named the outstanding scholar-athlete of the rowing team at the Academic Excellence Awards Dinner on April 9. Ashe has a 3.873 grade-point average in mechanical engineering. Sophomores Ann Marie Dillhoff and Ashlee Logan were also honored for achieving a 4.0 grade-point average during the fall semester. The rowing team also had the most members (41) make the Dean’s List during the spring ’00 semester, while compiling a cumulative 3.357 GPA during that semester.

SHOW ME THE MONEY: In December of 2000, first-year Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White announced the rowing program, along with the other 25 sports at Notre Dame, would receive the full complement of grants-in-aid under NCAA guidelines by the 2004-05 season. A non-grant-in-aid program its first three seasons, Notre Dame is in line to receive as many as 20 full grants-in-aid over the next four years, including five for the 2001-02 school year.

“It is very exciting for our program to now have the opportunity to go out and recruit on equal footing. The grants-in-aid will allow us to be more competitive than we already are,” head coach Martin Stone says.

TWO BOATS CHRISTENED AT HALFTIME OF GEORGETOWN MEN’S BASKETBALL GAME: The Notre Dame women’s rowing team christened two new racing shells during halftime of the men’s basketball game Sunday, March 4, against Georgetown. The two Vespoli Millennium shells were named for and christened by University of Notre Dame president emeritus Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh C.S.C and Rev. Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. in front of a sold-out Joyce Center crowd.

It what is a long-standing tradition within the collegiate rowing community, boats are christened and named to honor individuals who have been influential within the University or the sport of rowing. Both Rev. Hesburgh and Rev. Joyce have been trailblazers at the University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh was influential in allowing women to enroll and study at the University in 1972, and Joyce was instrumental in bringing women’s athletics to campus that same year and helping Notre Dame in its drive toward achieving gender equity.

Also present at the ceremony were Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White, associate athletic director and rowing administrator Jim Phillips, head rowing coach Martin Stone, assistant coaches Pam Mork and Kevin Luecke and the Notre Dame women’s rowing team.

THE CAPTAINS: Head coach Martin Stone will have strong leadership this season as Claire Bula and Erin Kiernicki have been named captains for the 2000-01 season. Bula is in her third season with the Irish and was a nominee for the US Rowing Honor Roll last year. She is enrolled in the College of Arts and Letters, majoring in American studies. Kiernicki is also in her third season of competition for the Irish and is enrolled in the College of Business, majoring in marketing and sociology.

WHILE SOME RETURN, OTHERS GO: The Irish will be missing the services of sophomore Julia Kelly during the spring season as she is studying abroad in Italy. Kelly rowed in the first varsity eight boat during the fall semester. Also senior Sara Andrews will miss the entire spring season due to a leg injury. Andrews rowed with the lightweight eight crew and the varsity four in the fall.

HI, MY NAME IS…: This season, 20 of the 33 varsity roster members are new to the team. The development of the novice program, under the direction of assistant coaches Pam Mork and Kevin Luecke, is paying big dividends for the Irish this season as 16 women have made the jump from the novice to the varsity roster. Head coach Martin Stone also welcomes five freshman to the varsity team this season.

UP NEXT: Notre Dame travels to Oak Ridge, Tenn., Saturday-Sunday, May 12-13, for the 2001 Central Regions. This regatta has huge implications on which teams will receive bids to the 2001 NCAA Championships.