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Rowing: Notre Dame claims seventh consecutive conference crown

Allan Joseph | Thursday, May 13, 2010

Notre Dame overcame two disappointing races to capture its seventh consecutive Big East title.

In their second meet of the spring, the Irish struggled against Michigan and Michigan State. Notre Dame then followed that performance with a trip to California to face UCLA and USC, only to finish second by at least four seconds in every heat.

“I think we’re disappointed we didn’t race well on the West Coast and earlier in the season against Michigan and Michigan State,” Irish coach Martin Stone said. “I think we’ve rebounded and we’re definitely much faster since then.”

Only two weeks later, Stone’s squad demonstrated marked improvement, when it dominated the Big East championship. In the process, the coaching staff was honored as the best in the league, while six rowers were named to the all-Big East team.

Seniors Brittney Kelly and Casey Robinson and junior Stephanie Gretsch were named to the first team, while senior Sarah Keithley, junior Katherine Linnemanstons and freshman Stephanie O’Neill were named to the second team.

One notable change this year for the Irish was the training regimen, which shifted to a heart-rate-based monitoring system in the mold of many international teams’ training methods. Though it was certainly a shift in attitude, Stone downplayed its importance.

“What we do hasn’t changed all that much, but how we monitor what we do has changed,” he said.

Stone credited much of the team’s success to the cohesive culture sparked by the squad’s seniors.

“The seniors set the tone and they put the team first,” he said. “I think that sets the tone for the way we want to do things, and we go from there.

Despite the continued success, the Irish are not satisfied, looking for more speed as they head to the South/Central regional regatta today and Saturday in hopes of qualifying for the NCAA Championships.

“We always want to be faster. We’re slightly disappointed we’re not faster,” Stone said. “We’ve won the Big East, which was one of our goals. Now it comes down to how fast we’re going to go in the South/Central race.”