Heading into the weekend at the NCAA Championships, MSU rowing head coach Matt Weise hoped his team would be able to handle the excitement of the championship regatta in the Spartans’ 13th appearance in 14 seasons.
With all the anticipation in an emotional weekend, the Spartans harnessed their excitement through their final races Sunday, ultimately finishing seventh as a team in Gold River, Calif. Weise said they capitalized on every strength they had for the best possible finish against the top 16 teams in the nation.
“Everyone really went as fast as we could,” Weise said. “I don’t think there was any holding back, and we ended up seventh in the country, which is good, but I don’t think we could have been much higher. “They really did a nice job giving it everything they could to be as fast as they could.”
Leading the way for MSU, the varsity eight finished sixth in the Grand Final after surviving the semifinals and initial heats. Finishing with a time of 6:36.12, the boat qualified for the Grand Final for the first time in three years and tied for the program’s best finish.
In her last collegiate regatta, senior Laura Cowal said her final race was bittersweet because the boat was hoping to pass the program’s record and finish higher than it did, but she’s confident her team raced as hard as it could.
“Getting sixth is still an accomplishment, and it’s not an easy thing to do,” she said. “It still hasn’t happened in a few years, and we’re bringing the bar back to that level. … Sometimes it doesn’t go the way you want it, but if you know you did everything you could, you can’t have regrets about that.”
After surviving the initial heats, the varsity eight advanced to the semifinals, where the boat edged out Yale, Michigan and Virginia — a team Cowal said MSU knew it had to beat to qualify for the Grand Final.
The Spartans entered the Grand Final with solid races under their belts, but after a shaky start to the national championship race, they were unable to make a comeback as Princeton clinched the title.
“The varsity eight on Friday and Saturday were outstanding,” Weise said. “They really did everything they were supposed to, to get themselves in the Grand Final. They kept their heads together, and a couple of them were some really close races.”
For MSU’s second varsity eight, the boat’s performances were opposite of the varsity eight, as it initially struggled before finishing second in the Petite Final and eighth overall.
In the boat’s final race, the Spartans finished strong and moved ahead of Princeton in the last 250 meters. The boat finished with a time of 6:37.28 — just .15 ahead of the Tigers.
As a younger group, Weise said the varsity four consistently progressed throughout the weekend, ultimately finishing 13th with a 7:28.50 time.
“We did a good job as far as our execution,” senior Monique Carter said. “We found ways to put our training and all our emotions together to execute in our final races … and even though we had some races that didn’t go well, it’s reassuring that all our training paid off.”
As MSU graduates eight seniors, Weise credits them with great leadership throughout the season, helping the team to end on a high note. Although the Spartans hoped to place higher, they know they put out everything they had as one of the nation’s top teams.
“It was a really good weekend because we went in there and improved from what we were ranked,” Cowal said. “We did something that we weren’t expected to do, and that’s what our goal was.”
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