The University of Minnesota women’s rowing program has been selected as one of 12 teams to compete at the 2007 NCAA Championships, May 25-27, in Oak Ridge, Tenn. This year marks the first time the Golden Gophers will participate as a team at the championships, competing with all three boats-First Varsity Eight, Second Varsity Eight and the Varsity Four.
Minnesota is one of only two Big Ten teams represented at the NCAA Championships joining Ohio State. The Gophers will compete against Brown, California-Berkeley, Harvard, Notre Dame, OSU, Princeton, Southern California, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Yale. In the latest Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association First Varsity Eight poll, USC is ranked first, followed by Yale and Notre Dame. Minnesota is ranked seventh, while Ohio State is ranked 12th overall.
The NCAA has recognized rowing as a championship sport since 1997. Since that time, Brown has won four national titles, while Washington has three championships, including the inaugural year in 1997 and another title in 1998. California-Berkeley heads into this year’s championship having won the title the past two years.
With their three boats, the Gophers will have 23 athletes competing at the national level. Competing in the First Varsity Eight will be coxswain Megan Flannery, Laura Jatautaite at stroke, team captain Cheryl Wick, Jennifer Barnes, Erika Bartkute, Vilma Stragyte, Sally Olson, Berit Tomten, and Jenna Buskohl. In the Gophers’ 2V8 will be Kaja Tally, Mary Ann Weinzierl, Christine O'Donnell, Maggie Armstrong, Catherine Casey, Ashlee Vilmo, Heidi Bechtel, Sarah Graham and Katie Johnson at the bow seat. The Varsity Four boat will hold coxswain Erica Niemiec, Lauren VanProosdy, Rebecca Brzozowski, Rachel Hotkowski and Emily Baxter.
Minnesota’s rowing program has excelled every year since the start of the program in 2000-01. Under head coach Wendy Davis, the Gophers won the 2007 Big Ten Championship in April in Madison, Wis. Following their conference championship, Davis was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year for the second straight season, while Barnes was named the Big Ten Athlete of the Year. Along with their on-the-water accolades, the rowing program also held the grand opening of its newly constructed boathouse on May 4. A year ago, at the 2006 NCAA Championships, the Gophers were one of four teams selected with an at-large bid, racing their First Varsity Eight.
“I’m extremely honored to have this group become our first NCAA qualifying team,” head coach Wendy Davis said. “It is a testament to what we have built on since the inception of the program seven years ago. It’s a great accomplishment not only for this group of rowers, but all of the rowers in our program’s history. We hope to build on our Big Ten Championship and represent the conference and our school well at the national level.”