Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rowing: OU Finishes 17th at First NCAA Championships

INDIANAPOLIS -- The historic season for the University of Oklahoma rowing team was capped off with a 17th-place finish Sunday at the 2013 NCAA Rowing Championship in Indianapolis.

At their first national championship, the finish marks the highest ranking in the team's five year history. The Sooners placed highest among the five teams that made their first NCAA Championship appearance this weekend. Ohio State won the 22-team event, the first national title for a school not on the east or west coast.

The three-day event closed with sunshine and a light cross-tail wind after two days of rain, heavy winds and wavy conditions. The more favorable weather yielded the fastest times of the weekend in today's finals.

"It's been an incredible journey to this point and I can't begin to express how proud I am of these young women," OU head coach Leeanne Crain said. "Every one of them has poured their hearts and souls into this team. Getting to the national championship was the culmination of their belief in one another and the effort they put forth every step of the way."

The Sooners came into the season in the fall with the goal of becoming the first Big 12 school to make the NCAA Championships. Led by 12 seniors that were part of the program's first recruiting class, OU won its first Big 12 title. A Conference USA championship followed, which earned the five-year-old program an automatic berth in the national championship regatta.

Along the way, conference Boat of the Week records were broken, six boats won conference titles and league and regional awards streamed into Norman.

"Obviously, this was a huge step for our young program," Crain said. "I know this team will continue to build on the success of this year as we move forward. We have been blessed with a great group of seniors who should be very proud of the progress we've made in the first five years. We know there's no place to go but up from here."

In OU's three final races, the varsity eight and second varsity eight both finished fifth for a 17th-place overall finish in each event. The varsity four posted a sixth-place finish and came in 18th overall in the event.

After weather disrupted yesterday's semifinals, the day began with the C/D semifinals for the second varsity eight and varsity four. Both Sooner boats finished with times of 6:58.946 and 7:53.238 in the second varsity eight and varsity four semifinals, respectively.

The finals began shortly after, where the Sooners raced in the C final to determine the 13th-18th place team in each event. The grand finals and petite finals featured six teams apiece for the top 12 finishers at the championship.

In the C final of the varsity eight, Oklahoma finished fifth in 6:50.205, its fastest time of the weekend by over 20 seconds. The Sooners were slow off the start and in last after the first 500 meters, but as Notre Dame and Washington State began to pull away slightly from the leading pack in the middle portion of the race, OU was able to catch Boston. The Sooners downed BU by just 0.370 seconds in a photo finish to claim fifth place. UND and WSU took the top two spots.

The second varsity eight finished fifth and posted a time of 6:47.752, also its fastest time at the championship. Cornell, Washington State and Michigan claimed the top three spots in a closely contested finish, with less than 1.5 seconds separating the three crews. Oklahoma and Wisconsin fought for fourth place throughout the race, but the Badgers had the edge at the finish line by less than two seconds.

The last event of the day was the varsity four C final, and the Sooners crossed the line in 7:39.220 for a sixth-place finish. It was a close race early, but UCLA pulled away by the 1,000 meter mark and won by nearly five seconds ahead of Wisconsin. Cornell finished fifth, 4.721 seconds in front of OU.''

/// Soonersports PR
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