The Tennessee Lady Vols rowing team finished its season in 11th place behind a strong showing from their second varsity eights team on the final day of the 2008 NCAA championships in Gold River, Calif. It was the UT women’s rowing team’s first grand final in school history and the best finish by a UT shell at the NCAAs. The fifth place was good enough for 16 points in the team standings.
Brown University won the overall title for the sixth time in school history and the individual sixth team and fifth Second Eights titles, while Yale and the University of Washington took the First Eights and Fours championships, respectively. The Brown Bears have now secured three of the last five NCAA Division I Rowing team titles. Washington took second in the overall standings--finishing with 59 points--its highest finish since 2004. Host Cal finished third overall with 53 points.
“As a team, obviously, we were really honored to be here,” Lady Vol coach Lisa Glenn said in a UT press release. “It was a great championship.”
Tennessee used a strong finish to overtake Pac-10 Champion Cal, the host of the event, for fifth place. The Lady Vols crew of consisted of sophomore coxswain Sydney Newman, seniors Nina Dobratz and Marisa Mohan, sophomores Laura Miller and Kate Snider, freshman Melissa Toms, junior Caroline Howell, freshman Rachel Dooley and senior Genevieve Collins. The team closed the gap in the final 250 meters, sprinting ahead of the Golden Bears to complete the course in 6:51.6.
Brown beat out Ohio State by two seconds in the race to earn the title. The national championship is the Brown Bears’ fifth in the second varsity eights and their second in the last three years.
“I think we all came out with the mentality to win, do our best and make all the work we did over the course of the year worth it,” Newman said. “So every race, we just said to ourselves, ‘This is it, go out, put it all out there.’ So, that’s what we did, especially in the last 250 today. I just reminded them that all that work is going to get us into the top five and they just took it and ran.”
Glenn said she was “very proud” of the Second Eights result.
“They did a nice job of letting themselves be fast and letting the training and work that we’ve done this year be revealed in fast racing on the water,” Glenn said. “So, I’m happy for them. They just kept things really positive and exciting within their boat.”
In the varsity four petite final, UT earned a fifth place finish with its fastest race of the weekend. Princeton used a late push to edge out Tennessee of fourth place, with the Lady Vols finishing in 7:45.7, just two-tenths of a second off the Tigers’ pace. With that result, UT took 11th overall in the event, earning two points toward the team total.
“The four is a very young boat,” Glenn said. “They learned every single time they went out on the water. I know that they’ll take the experience from this weekend into the program next year. I’m really glad they had the opportunity to be here and learn what a national championship is all about.”
Tennessee’s top shell competed in the First Eights “C” final against Ohio State, Clemson and Wisconsin. The Lady Vols had to race without injured senior All-South Region teammate Kendra Warren and finished fourth in the race with a time of 6:49.1.
The NCAA Champion-ships were the final race for eight Tennessee seniors. Jessica Ayers, Renee Brittle, Genevieve Collins, Nina Dobratz, Krista Gearing, Danielle Hmielewski, Mary Jones and Kendra Warren finished their seasons this past weekend. During their tenure, the nine have pushed Tennessee to its first full-team NCAA bid and initial South Region title in 2006, its best-ever team finish at the national championships in 2007 and, now, its top result for an individual shell at this year’s NCAA event.
“With a large group graduating, I’m really excited about the promise for the future with the younger athletes and how well they’ve done here,” Glenn said.