The final race of the afternoon a showdown between Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State kept the crowd on its toes. But even if the Wolverines were to come in dead last, they still would have won the title.

Paul Wong
The No. 2 Michigan women”s crew team won another Big Ten conference championship this weekend.<br><br>Courtesy of Michigan Athletic Department

Last Saturday, the No. 2 Michigan women”s rowing team (27-3) won four out of six races, including the final event, to emerge as the Big Ten Champions for the second-consecutive year. The Wolverines earned 56 total points. Runner-up Ohio State finished with 43.

The regatta”s last race was the first varsity eight, and Kate Johnson, one of Michigan”s top rowers, had re-injured a rib the previous Friday and was not competing.

“We had to change the lineup because of an injury, and Allison Hickey was put in the stroke seat,” Michigan coach Mark Rothstein said. “I thought she rowed a great race.”

In the beginning of the race, the Wolverines fell behind both Michigan State and Ohio State. By the halfway point, Michigan had passed the Spartans and slashed the Buckeyes” lead.

“Ohio State had an excellent start, and had a good lead,” Rothstein said. “We got down by a lot, which wasn”t really the plan.”

The strokes from both boats got faster and stronger, but Michigan was able to pull ahead for the win, securing its second conference crown.

“Our rowers did a really good job of staying calm,” Rothstein said. “They got down early but had enough fitness that they could stay composed.”

Michigan also won the second varsity eight, first varsity four and the first novice eight. It came in second in the second varsity four and third in the second novice eight. Wisconsin won both of those races.

The Wolverines” novice boats are made up of non-varsity rowers, but the races still earn points much like consolation heats in swimming. Even though the Big Ten is highly competitive in the sport nationally, rowing provides one of the only outlets for university students to become part of intercollegiate athletics by walking onto the novice boats.

“I was really used to being a competitive athlete in high school, and when I was a freshman and wasn”t competing, I felt really unbalanced,” said sophomore Amy Caughlin, who walked onto Michigan”s rowing team this past fall. “I really wanted to try something, and this is the only sport here that you can truly walk on.”

As a high school cross-country runner, rowing provides the same test of endurance for Caughlin. But even though she is a newcomer to the sport, Caughlin is reminded everyday of what achievements lie ahead.

“There are a lot of varsity girls that were on novice last year, so you can see where you can go if you put the work in,” she said. “It”s really encouraging because most of them walked on too, and everyone wants to make the team as good as it can be.”

Right now the team holds its highest national ranking in the program”s five-year history, at No. 2 behind Brown.

For Caughlin and her teammates, the excitement only makes them work harder.

“Coach came to us in the beginning of the year and explained to us about the little competition going on within the athletic department over which women”s team can reach a national championship first,” Caughlin said. “He really made us think about how every stroke counts because, even just being on novice, if it isn”t the varsity girls (winning the title) this year, it could be us in a couple years.”

For Rothstein, the championship is at an arm”s length, and he doesn”t want to waste any energy. When asked if he would take the girls out to celebrate the Big Ten victory before the qualifying races, he replied with a simple “No.”

“We have practice on Monday,” Rothstein said with a smile.

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