After a disappointing third-place finish in the Big Ten Championships, No. 13 Michigan rowing traveled to Oak Ridge, Tennessee for the NCAA Central/South Sprints.
Having taken the region last year, the Wolverines approached the weekend looking to make a strong impression and build their resume for an NCAA bid. But this year, the competition proved to be much stiffer.
Michigan placed fourth overall out of 24 teams, and third out of the Central Region teams.
“All the boats had good preparation, and it definitely helps that we’re out of school and they can focus just on rowing,” Michigan coach Mark Rothstein said.
Just as it did in the Big Ten Championships, Michigan had an outstanding performance in Saturday morning’s heats.
But also like they did two weeks ago, the Wolverines fell short in the Grand Finals after strong showings early on.
The team wasn’t unhappy with its times, as it was simply a case of the other boats being faster.
“The competition is much tougher in the finals,” Rothstein said. “In the heats, you’re racing one or two other fast boats, but you get to the final and everybody’s fast.”
And in most cases, Michigan was just behind the leaders. For instance, the Wolverines took fourth in the Second Varsity Eight final, but they were less than two seconds behind second place Wisconsin. They were also less than four seconds from moving up into second place in the First Varsity Eight.
“We raced well, but we just have to get a little tougher when we get in tight races,” Rothstein said.
No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 9 Michigan State finished first and second in the Central Region, respectively. The two teams finished in the same order in the Big Ten Championships.
The competitive conference schedule has helped Michigan prepare for the postseason competition.
“The Big Ten Conference is one of the stronger conferences along with the Pac 10 and the Ivy League,” Rothstein said. “I wasn’t surprised that the Big Ten did so well, and I think it’ll continue to do well at NCAAs.”
With the strong showing in Tennessee, Michigan expects to hear its name Tuesday when the NCAA selects the tournament’s participants. Making the tournament was the team’s original goal, and now it just comes down to preparation and execution.
“Our number-one priority is to qualify for NCAAs … but I think we got that done,” Rothstein said. “We’re moving in the right direction, we’re getting faster, and we just have to have two weeks of great preparation.”