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Women's Rowing Prepares For The Lexus Central Sprints

May 9, 2001

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THIS WEEK: The Notre Dame women’s rowing team, ranked 16th in the nation, will travel to Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Melton Hill Lake Saturday-Sunday, May 12-13, for the Lexus Central Sprints. The regatta, a 2,000-meter course sponsored by the Oak Ridge Rowing Association, features many of the top teams in the Central and South region and has strong implications on who will be invited to the 2001 NCAA Championships May 24-26 in Gainesville, Ga.

Nineteen teams are scheduled to be in Oak Ridge this weekend, including many of the nation’s best crews. Other teams competing in addition to Notre Dame are Cincinnati, #17 Clemson, Duke, Indiana, #13 Iowa, Kansas, Kansas State, Miami, #2 Michigan, #12 Michigan State, Minnesota, Murray State, North Carolina, #8 Ohio State, SMU, Tennessee, Texas and Tulsa.

Racing begins at 9:15 a.m., on Saturday with heat one of the first novice eight and concludes at 3:45 p.m., with the second first varsity eight semifinal. Sunday’s races begin at 9:00 a.m., with the grand final of the second novice eight and concludes with the first varsity eight grand final at 11:15 a.m. The awards ceremony will start at 12:00 p.m. on Sunday. Here is the schedule for the weekend:

ABOUT NOTRE DAME: The Notre Dame rowing team is having its best season in the three-year history of the program and is ranked #16 in the nation in the US Rowing/CRCA Rowing poll for the week of May 1. Notre Dame achieved the first national ranking in the history of the program when it checked in at No. 14 in the first poll of the season.

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 has won six of eight races this spring, after claiming the gold medal at the Head of the Elk Regatta back in October. In the two races the varsity eight did not win, it finished sixth in the Jessop-Whittier Cup at the San Diego Crew Classic and third at the BIG EAST Rowing Challenge against some of the nation’s best competition.

The second varsity eight crew of Leah Ashe, Anne Starks, Maureen Carr, Melissa Alberding, Courtney Mercer, Erica Drennen, Kerri Murphy, Katie Besson and Erin Kiernicki has finished first or second in every race this spring except the San Diego Crew Classic, where they were second in the petite finals and ninth overall. The varsity four has also finished first or second in each race it has competed in, but the BIG EAST Rowing Challenge where it was third.

So far this spring, the Irish squad swept 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. The Irish also took two silvers and two bronze medals at the inaugural BIG EAST Rowing Challenge on their way to a second-place finish.

UPDATING THE NOVICE CREWS: The novice boats, under the direction of assistant coaches Pam Mork and Kevin Luecke, have had a tremendous spring as well. The first novice eight of Megan Sanders, Danielle Protasewich, Katie O’Hara, Robin Mattessich, Jacqueline Hazen, Natalie Ladine, Katie Welsh, Heather Dziedzic and Kacy McCaffrey has won five or six races this season, and finished second at the BIG EAST Rowing Challenge. The second novice eight of Karrie Koski, Meg Starnes, Maggie Ruddy, Kathryn Lent, Sam Matovich, Ashlee Logan, Alicia Garcia, Sarah Keefer and Marita Murphy has finished first in all four races it has competed in this season.

LAST YEAR AT LEXUS CENTRAL REGIONS: Notre Dame’s second varsity four and the second novice eight advanced to the grand finals at the 2000 Central Regions. The varsity four was sixth in the finals, while the second novice eight finished fifth. Notre Dame had three teams advance to the petite finals with the first varsity four placing fourth, the second varsity eight finishing second and the first varsity eight sixth.

BIG EAST ROWING CHALLENGE REWIND: Notre Dame placed second at the inaugural BIG EAST Rowing Challenge on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. 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 was sixth with 57 points. Villanova (54), Connecticut (42) and West Virginia (28) rounded out the standings.

In the varsity eight race, Notre Dame 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 were 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 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, who finished in 6:57.36 and Boston College in 7:01.14.

POLL POSITION: The Notre Dame rowing team, in only its third season of varsity competition, is ranked 16th in the US Rowing/Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association poll. Notre Dame stayed at No. 16 for the second consecutive week. The Irish opened 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 RANKING IN THE REGIONAL POLLS AS WELL: Notre Dame and its varsity eight remained sixth in the Central Region according to the NCAA ranking released May 7. The Irish second varsity eight dropped out of the poll, while the varsity four is ranked sixth in the Central Region.

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. 16 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 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.

MORE HONORS AND AWARDS FOR ASHE: Leah Ashe was honored with the Knute Rockne Scholar-Athlete Award for the rowing team at the annual All-Sports Banquet on April 30. Ashe also is a nominee for Verizon/CoSIDA Academic All-District honors. If Ashe makes the district team, she then advances to the national ballot for Academic All-America honors.

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 has strong leadership this season as Claire Bula and Erin Kiernicki are the 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 waits to hear from the NCAA selection committee on whether it will receive an invitation to the 2001 NCAA Rowing Championships May 24-26 in Gainesville, Ga.