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Rowing: Squad earns eighth straight conference crown

Sam Gans | Friday, May 20, 2011

It was another successful season for the Irish, as they won the Big East championships for the eighth consecutive season, this time as an underdog.

Though No. 1-seeded Louisville was favored to win the conference at the May 1 competition in West Windsor, N.J., it was the Irish who emerged on top, scoring 114 points. The Cardinals came in second with a score of 109.

“There was some tight racing out there [at the Big East championships],” Irish coach Martin Stone said. “Everybody contributed — a lot of people stepped up.”

But that wasn’t the only significant accomplishment of the year for Notre Dame. Ranked in the nation’s top 20, the Irish competed in their final regular season race at the Oak Ridge Regionals in Oak Ridge, Tenn., May 15 against 10 teams from four different conferences.

Notre Dame needed an impressive showing to be selected for the 16-team NCAA tournament, which takes place from May 27 through May 29 in Sacramento, Calif.

“It has almost become a last-chance race for the NCAA’s,” Stone said before Oak Ridge. “There are a few combinations of results and certain things that would result in us making the NCAAs. Really all we can do is have every one of our boats race as fast as possible.”

The Irish fell just short of qualifying for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007.

The primary catalyst that propelled the Irish to reach their goals this season was a continuous improvement throughout the year, which the Irish hope will continue into next week.

“We’ve gotten faster as the year has gone on,” Stone said. “That’s always a goal. Sometimes you’re only as fast as you are in March, but we continued to gain speed as the season wore on.”

Despite the continued dominance in the conference, Stone knows how much more difficult future success will be with a greater number of rowers competing in the sport.

“Women’s rowing is getting faster and faster each year,” Stone said. “It has to do with the increased popularity of the sport and more kids rowing. More kids are training and training right before they even get to college. Right now there are probably four varsity 8s that have separated themselves [nationally]. There are then 19 or so varsity 8s that are pretty darn close. There’s a lot of parity right now in the sport.”