BY ALBERT KIM
Daily Sports Writer
Published June 2, 2002
Being in the city that hosts the Indy 500 didn't seem to be enough for the Michigan women's rowing team to start its engines this weekend, as it finished eighth in the nation at the NCAA Championships. It was the lowest finish ever for the Wolverines at the Championships and was especially surprising after being runner-up last year.
"I think that we certainly had challenges this year. Of course our expectations are much higher," Michigan coach Mark Rothstein said. "I don't think it's a step back for the program. We're going to come back next year even better."
All three boats for Michigan struggled on the first day, putting Michigan in a difficult position. The first varsity eight boat was forced to row in the repechage heat after failing to qualify directly for the semifinals, while the second varsity eight and first varsity four boats failed to qualify directly for the finals and were forced to row in repechage heats as well. The first varsity eight boat was able to pull off a thrilling photo finish by edging Washington State to advance to the semifinals on Saturday.
"We did get off to a bad start, but they all came back and rowed well," Rothstein said.
On Saturday, Michigan's second varsity eight and varsity four boat fought to the finals with strong finishes in their repechage heats, but the first varsity eight was unable to advance to their Grande Final and instead had to row in the Petite Final.
"We just didn't have our race yesterday morning," junior coxswain Helen Dalis said.
The second varsity boat was happy with its performance though.
"I think we rowed great today, and executed the race plan," Liz Nelson said. "We put together the best race we had in us."
Going into yesterday, it was still anybody's title, and Michigan still had hope with two boats in the Grande Finals. But it was not meant to be.
The first varsity eight finished third in the Petite Final to finish ninth overall, while the second varsity eight finished fifth, and the varsity four finished fourth with a huge push in their sprint. Michigan finished with 40 points, 27 points behind Brown, the NCAA Champions.
"The depth has gone up," Rothstein said. "There are more good teams now. If you're a little bit off, you pay for it."
For Michigan, it was a bittersweet finish. The team accomplished a lot, considering the talent and experience that it lost to graduation. Despite team unity struggles, the Wolverines pulled it together at the end to finish strong, with a Central Regional Championship and a second-place finish at the Big Ten Championships.
"We had six freshman, and I think for them, (NCAAs) is a great experience," Rothstein said. "Overall, it was a good learning experience for all our kids."