Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Rowing Starts Fall Season At Milwaukee River Challenge

Sept. 20, 2002

THIS WEEK: The Notre Dame women’s rowing team, fresh off its first NCAA Championship berth in the spring, begins its fall season in Milwaukee, Wis., at the Milwaukee River Challenge. Races begin at 11:00 a.m. with the varsity fours, followed by the varsity eights at 12:45 p.m.

The races run on a 2.2-mile stretch of the Milwaukee River between Humboldt Avenue and Buffalo Street. Each crew will row two races in opposite directions over the same water and will be separately timed. The lowest combined time will be the grand winner.

Other teams competing in Milwaukee include Midwest powers Wisconsin and Iowa, Purdue, Marquette, Murray State and Wheaton College.

THE CREWS FOR THE WEEKEND: Head coach Martin Stone will try out a number of different crews this weekend in Milwaukee hoping to find the best combinations for the spring season. Thus far this fall, the Irish have only raced in pair shells in hopes of seeing who is the strongest and fastest at the present time. Stone will have the Irish race in eights Friday afternoon before heading to Milwaukee early Saturday morning. The following are the projected boats for Saturday:

First Varsity Eight: Cassie Markstahler (cox), Natalie Ladine (stroke), Ashlee Warren, Elizabeth Specht, Alice Bartek, Rachel Polinski, Erica Drennen, Kerri Murphy and Kathleen Welsh.

Second Varsity Eight: Kathryn Long (cox), Kati Sedun (stroke), Ann Marie Dillhoff, Casey Buckstaff, Becky Luckett, Diane Price, Meredith Thornburgh, Shannon Mohan, Elizabeth Keefer.

Third Varsity Eight: Caitlin Rackish (cox), Kristin Mizzi (stroke), Katie Chenowith, Kristen Henkel, Devon Hegemen, Antoinette Duck, Fallon Shields, Katie McCaulden, and Jenna Froberg

Fourth Varsity Eight: Maureen Gibbons (cox) Tricia David (stroke), Ann Mulligan, Tori Blainey, Kristen Wright, Jennifer Connelly, Corinne Roman, Beth Franzosa and Courtney Quinn.

First Varsity Four: Markstahler (cox), Chenowith (stroke), Melissa Felker, Meghan Boyle and Danielle Stealy

Second Varsity Four: Rebecca Campbell (cox), Katie O’Hara, Alicia Garcia, Sarah Palandech and Megan Sanders

LAST YEAR AT THE MILWAUKEE RIVER CHALLENGE: Notre Dame claimed three of the top five spots at the inaugural Milwaukee River Challenge. The first varsity eight crew was first in a time of 22:14, while the second varsity eight crew was third and the third eight finished fifth. The second varsity four was fifth, while the first four was sixth.

HISTORY LESSON AND 2002 IN REVIEW: Notre Dame rowing, in only its fifth season, 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.

The Irish had its best season in history last year when they finished the year ranked 13th in the nation and qualified their varsity eight shell for the 2002 NCAA Rowing Championships in Indianapolis, Ind., placing 16th.

Notre Dame scored its first All-American in 2002 as current senior Ashlee Warren was named to the second team. Stone was also recognized as one of six finalist for National-Coach-of-the-Year honors.

The Irish finished the year with four rowers earning all-Central Region accolades (Warren, graduated seniors Michelle Olsgard, Katherine Burnett and current junior Natalie Ladine), and sixth athletes garnering CRCA National Scholar-Athlete honors (Burnett (who was a three-time recipient), Ladine, graduated senior Katie Besson, current seniors Becky Luckett and Cassie Markstahler and current junior Diane Price.

2002-03 SEASON OUTLOOK: Notre Dame head coach Martin Stone and his Irish rowing squad are looking to build on the success of last season in hopes of qualifying the entire team for the 2003 NCAA Rowing Championships. After entering the varsity eight at last year’s NCAA meet (where it finished 16th) and landing at 13th in the final preseason poll, the rowing community is starting to take notice of this upstart Irish program.

The Irish will have to work even harder to get back to the premier level they achieved last season. First and foremost, Notre Dame will have to replace the likes of first boaters Michelle Olsgard and Katherine Burnett. Olsgard, a team captain, earned her second consecutive first-team all-Central Region honor in 2002 and posted the third fastest erg score on the team. Burnett, a three-year member of the first eight, earned second team all-region honors and was a three-time National Scholar Athlete awardwinner.

“The losses of Michelle and Katherine will hurt our team,” Stone admits.

“They were such tremendous leader and worked so hard. No one hated losing more than those two.”

Stone will turn to senior Ashlee Warren, who became the first Irish rower to earn All-America honors, and junior Natalie Ladine, who was a second-team all-region honoree in 2002 and had the fastest erg score on the Irish last season. Ladine looks to move to the stroke seat for the 2002 season, while Warren will bounce between the sixth and seventh seats.

“Ashlee and Natalie were the strongest pullers in the boat last season and we expect that from them again this year,” Stone says.

“Their experience is also going to be critical as some of the younger athlete vie for spots in the boat.”

Also back is senior coxswain Cassie Markstahler who did an excellent job for the Irish in 2002 and will provide additional leadership to the younger rowers.

Others returning to the roster this season who have rowed in the top boat at some point of their careers are seniors Casey Buckstaff, Ann Marie Dillhoff and Becky Luckett, in addition to juniors Diane Price and Jayme Szefc (who is studying abroad this fall). Also look for seniors Erica Drennen and Kerri Murphy, juniors Alice Bartek, Kathleen Welsh, and Sarah Keefer and sophomores Elizabeth Specht, Rachel Polinski, Kati Sedun, Meredith Thornburgh and Shannon Mohan to also challenge for seats in the top boat as well.

“Although we lost two of the best rowers our program has had, we are excited about this season,” Stone says.

“There will be a lot of competition for seats in both the first and second eights this season, as well as in the third eight and the fours. We need to spend the fall season getting stronger and looking for the right combinations of rowers which will enable our boats to be fast for the spring.

“We are excited about what we accomplished last spring, but think there is still so much more out there for us. We would like to have the entire team advance to NCAAs this season.”

THE SCHEDULE: After this weekend, Notre Dame will host Kansas Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 28-29. The novice crews will race on Saturday afternoon starting at 4:00 p.m., while the varsity crews will race Sunday at 12 noon. Races will take place on the St. Joseph River along the East Race in South Bend.