UC Davis will look to win its second straight NCAA Division II Rowing Championship this weekend.
May 29, 2003
DAVIS, Calif. - Defending national champion UC Davis looks to leave its final season of Division II on a high note this weekend as it prepares for opening-round competition on Friday morning at the 2003 NCAA Division II Rowing Championships, being hosted by Indiana University at Eagle Creek Reservoir.
UC Davis, which won the inaugural Division II championship last season at Eagle Creek Reservoir, received an automatic berth into this year's regatta after being the top-ranked team in the West Region.
The format for the championship has changed for this year's Division II regatta. Last season, four teams competed in first varsity eight and second varsity eight events. This year's format calls for varsity eight and varsity fours events. The team national champion will be determined by combined finishes in both events, with individual NCAA titles awarded for each event as well.
Additionally, two schools - Humboldt State and Rollins (Fla.) College - will compete as at-large entries into the varsity eight event only and are not eligible for the overall team title. Besides UC Davis, other teams entered in both the eights and the fours include Florida Tech, Mercyhurst (Pa.) College and region rival Western Washington.
Western Washington's varsity eight defeated UC Davis at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA) Championships earlier this month at Lake Natoma in Rancho Cordova. However, the Aggies returned the favor with wins in varsity eight and varsity four events at the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships at the same site two weeks ago.
UC Davis head coach Emily Plesser said Western Washington will be tough.
"I feel our biggest competition is Western Washington," she said. "They may have gotten much quicker in the last two weeks and, if so, we will have to rise to the challenge.
"I feel we are capable of going faster if we get pushed in both boats," she added. "The times we have been posting are solid and on pace with our progress.
UC Davis will open competition at 6:30 a.m. (PDT) with a varsity eight dual against Humboldt State, the second of three preliminary heats in the event. Mercyhurst will row against Rollins in the first heat, while Western Washington races Florida Tech in the third. The Aggies will then battle Western Washington in varsity four prelims at 7:45 a.m. Rollins will face Florida Tech in the other fours race.
The winners of each heat advance to Sunday morning's grand final, while remaining boats will race in repechage heats on Saturday, looking to advance to the grand final.
"I feel we are as ready as we can get for this," said Plesser. "The athletes are excited."
Rowing in the varsity eight for the Aggies will be coxswain Katie Borg, Becky Anderson, Kalie Benson, Kerry Byrne, Cassie Drotman, Kari Harris, Ashley Montross, Best and Fornaciari. Rowing in the varsity fours for UC Davis will be Analiese Zoller, Laura Syms, Dawn Leppert and Sara Miller, along with coxswain Michelle Seymour. Alternates will be Joan Silva and Sarah Anderson.
UC Davis captured last year's championship by winning individual titles in both varsity eight events. Those finishes delivered the Aggies the overall team title. Until last season, the NCAA conducted just one championship covering all three divisions.
UC Davis advanced to the national championships as an at-large participant in the varsity eight in 1997, 1999 and 2000 with its best finish coming in 2000 when it finished 16th overall but as the top non-Division I boat.
This season, all three divisions will be conducting their championships at Eagle Creek Reservoir.
Earlier this week, two Aggies were honored on the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Division II All-America team. Best and Fornaciari were two of 10 rowers nationwide honored.
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