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Rowing: Irish finish atop the Big East

Brendan Bell | Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Throughout the fall and spring seasons, No. 11 Notre Dame worked to position itself to win its 10th straight Big East championship and to compete at the NCAA championships in June. 

Notre Dame’s season started in the fall, when the team had a series of races and training routines in preparation for the spring season.  

Sophomore Stella Willoughby said the fall season was critical for the team’s development, which allowed them to attain positive results in spring competition.

“In the fall, we had a larger group of rowers to begin with than [we did] last year,” Willoughby said. “And then we began to recruit walk-ons as well, who are critical for the team’s success as they give the team a huge pool of depth and also competition. Training was definitely harder this fall than [it was] in the past.”

The work ethic of the Irish before fall events like the Head of the Charles Regatta paid off in the spring, when the team began to line up against some of the country’s strongest competition.  At the Lake Natoma Invitational in Sacramento, Calif., the Irish tied for third in a field consisting of some of the top teams in the country, including No. 1 USC, No. 2 California-Berkeley, and then-No. 9 Stanford.  

“The California trip was amazing because we had the opportunity to go to a different climate and different environment to train in,” Willoughby said. “We tied Stanford, and being on that level with the top teams gave us the ability to grow as a team.”

Next, Notre Dame competed in the Dale England Cup in Bloomington, Ind. where they dominated the competition, placing first overall with a score of 118 points.

“At the Dale England Cup, we were the top performers … winning the majority of the events gave us a great deal of momentum for the Big East and NCAA championships,” Willoughby said.

Willoughby said the Irish are looking forward to the upcoming Big East and NCAA championships. The Big East championships will be held in Mercer County, N.J., on May 19, while the NCAA championships will take place in Indianapolis from May 31 through June 2.

For the first time, the winner of the Big East championship will automatically qualify to compete at the NCAA championships.  The Irish are currently the top-ranked team in the Big East.

“All fall and spring [work] will culminate in these end of year races,” Willoughby said. “We expect to win the Big East championship this year and get a spot at the national championship.”

Contact Brendan Bell at bbell2@nd.edu