The Michigan rowing team began its spring season with an impressive showing this weekend at the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational. The Wolverines competed in three different sessions — Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning — and came away with two first-place finishes and one second-place finish.

No. 11 Michigan was led by its first varsity-four crew, which was the only one of its teams to go undefeated on the weekend. The only pitfall for the other boats was No. 4 Virginia. The Cavaliers beat Michigan by less than a second in both the first and second varsity-eight race. The close margins spelled the difference between finishing first and second for the Wolverines.

“Both the varsity eight and the second varsity eight were good races,” said Michigan coach Mark Rothstein. “Obviously we want to win those close races, but at this stage, we’re really just looking for where we’re starting from and improving from there.”

The Saturday afternoon races were the fastest of the invitational thanks to a strong current that wasn’t present during the other sessions. Despite this variable, Michigan had some of its widest margins of victory Sunday, which encouraged the Wolverines’ head coach.

“I told the team before the race that I had no idea what was going to happen,” Rothstein said. “We just tried to focus on how we were going to race. I thought, for the most part, we raced well. I thought our Sunday racing was our best racing, so that’s certainly a good thing.”

Though Virginia was the highest-ranked team at the invitational, Michigan faced stiff competition in each session. The Wolverines finished ahead of No. 20 Louisville, West Virginia and Central Florida on Saturday afternoon, and beat No. 17 Notre Dame and Kansas in the Sunday session.

The invitational was the first event of the spring, which meant Michigan’s freshmen got their first taste of spring racing. Eight different freshmen competed on the weekend.

“(The freshmen were) outstanding,” Rothstein said. “The freshmen have been really good all year, and I think (this weekend) was no different.”

The Wolverines will try to ride the momentum from their first invitational when they compete in their first home spring meet March 25 and 26 against Michigan State and Indiana. And if this weekend is any indication of the team’s capabilities, Michigan rowing fans can get ready for an entertaining year. 

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