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ND faces tough competition

Christine Armstrong | Monday, March 29, 2004

The Irish had a strong showing in Ann Arbor, Mich. Saturday, boasting a varsity four win and a varsity eight second-place finish behind rowing powerhouse Michigan.

In addition to racing the No. 2 Wolverines, Notre Dame rowed against Clemson, No. 8 Michigan State and Eastern Michigan. Though the Irish were unranked in pre-season polls, they demonstrated that they have the talent and drive to compete with the best.

In Notre Dame’s first varsity four race, a dominant start led coxswain Kathy Long, Katie O’Hara, Danielle Stealy, Pam Jefson and Kristen Mizzi to triumph over their highly-ranked competitors. The Irish finished in 7 minutes 14.8 seconds – three seconds ahead of the Spartan boat.

“We knew going into the race that Clemson, Michigan and especially Michigan State would be really fast off the starting line and in order to win, we would have to have a great start,” Jefson said. “We simply had an explosive start off the line

which forced the other teams to try and catch up the whole race.

“We are a strong enough boat, and that early lead put us in a great position to win the

race,” Jefson said. “We raced Michigan State two weeks ago and knew that they have a great finishing sprint, which is why our early lead was necessary for a victory.”

The Wolverines fell to third in 7:19.9, while the Tigers followed in 7:36.1 and Eastern Michigan took last in 8:02.0. Though the rowers were overwhelmingly pleased with the team’s performance, they are training to excel both in practice and future competition.

“We definitely have some technical work to do, but its really promising knowing that with some changes to our strokes we can really make this boat go even faster,” Stealy said.

Notre Dame’s second varsity four boat of coxswain Caitlin Rackish, Kristen Hinkel, Meredith Thornburgh, Alyssa Close and Colleen Larson finished in third with a 7:36.9 finish, behind Michigan’s winning time of 7:17.3 and Michigan State’s second place time of 7:23.7.

The Irish varsity eight boat also had a stellar performance, as the Wolverines narrowly beat them. Though Notre Dame’s coxswain Maureen Gibbons, Natalie Ladine, Alice Bartek, Meghan Boyle, Rachel Polinski, Melissa Felker, Katie Chenoweth, Danielle Protasewich and Jacqueline Hazen secured a lead 1,000 meters in to the race, Michigan’s boat had a strong finish.

Notre Dame crossed the finish line in 6:25.0, less than five seconds behind Michigan. Clemson took third in 6:34.3, while Eastern Michigan finished in 6:40.2.

In the second varsity eight race, Michigan won in 6:35.0, and with a time of 6:48.0, Clemson took second. Coxswain Kacy McCaffrey Jessica Guzik, Kathleen Welsh, Kati Sedun, Jenna Redgate, Elizabeth Specht, Andrea Doud, Ashley St. Pierre and Megan Sanders led Notre Dame to third place in 6:49.7.

In the third varsity four race, Notre Dame raced two boats. The Irish ‘A’ crew of coxswain Shannon Lettieri, Sarah Keefer, Ann Mulligan, Courtney Quinn and Tricia David had a second place finish in 7:39.8, behind the Wolverines who won in 7:30.0. The Spartans took third, and the novice ‘B’ crew of coxswain Maria Romano, Audrey deGuire, Alice Cooper, Samantha Glass and Kaitlin Sharkey finished fourth in 7:52.1.

Though the races were difficult this weekend, the Irish have confidence that they will continue to be strong opponents.

“The competition was very tough, but we showed that our team can race well with some of the best in the country,” Long said. “Our determination to prove ourselves helped lead us to victory. We will continue to work hard and develop.”

Notre Dame returns to water next weekend at the San Diego Crew Classic.