Rowers second at Oak Ridge

The University of Tennessee women's rowing team claimed second place in the South Region at the seventh-annual Lexus Central/South Region Sprints at Oak Ridge on Sunday. The Lady Vols were led by a fifth-place finish in the 1st Varsity 8+ Grand Final and a win in the 2nd Varsity 8+ Petite Final.

UT's 1st varsity 8+ shell, ranked 19th in the USRowing/CRCA Coaches Poll, clocked a time of 6:24.4 over the 2000m course en route to its fifth-place finish in what was an extremely tough grand final field. In a race featuring six top-20 teams, the Lady Vol crew of junior Lizzie Brown (cox.), sophomore Kaitlin Bargreen, junior Nicole Bold, freshman Lauren Wells, sophomore Chelsea Pemberton, sophomore Dana Forbes, senior Kacey Montgomery, sophomore Melissa Dicerbo and senior Kay Logan defeated No. 11 Michigan State. No. 12 Virginia claimed victory in the 1st varsity 8+, followed by No. 10 Ohio State, No. 7 Michigan and No. 17 Texas. The field was so strong that No. 15 Iowa did not even qualify for the grand final.

After narrowly missing a spot in the grand final, the Lady Vols' 2nd Varsity 8+ rowers vowed to race well on Sunday and did just that, claiming victory in the petite final by more than four seconds. The Orange and White crew of junior Erin Artz (cox.), junior Amy McIntosh, sophomore McKenzie Craig, sophomore Andrea Bagwell, senior Kelly Kravitz, senior Kelly Kraiss, freshman Lindsay Jones, sophomore Marissa Allen and junior Jessica Shreder turned in a time of 6:38.3 to out-pace Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, Kansas State and Clemson. Additionally, Tennessee had the second highest placing 2nd Varsity 8+ team in the South Region.

Tennessee's 1st Varsity 4+ boat also had a strong race in the petite final on Sunday. The Lady Vol squad of sophomore Jovanna Vick (cox.), sophomore Hilary Gilmore, junior Mary Beth Lewis, junior Mary Gruzalski and freshman Beth Schwartz recorded a time of 7:26.5 to place second behind Virginia.

In the 2nd Varsity 4+, the Big Orange placed fifth in the grand final with a time of 7:26.7. In addition, UT's team of freshman Jessica Dainty (cox.), sophomore Elizabeth Freeman, freshman Diane Samu, freshman Amy McCormick and senior Sally BeVille was the highest placing 2nd Varsity 4+ team in the South Region.

UT's 1st Novice 8+ shell, powered by the all-freshman squad of Maggie Wheeler (cox.), Holly Holmes, Ariana Fitzgerald, Ashley Anders, Hilary Graber, Caitlyn Cleary, Andrea Searby, Lindsey Groves and Katie Peterson, finished fourth in the petite final with a clocking of 6:50.6.

In one of the most closely contested team points races in event history, Ohio State won the Lexus Cup for the first time as overall team champion, breaking Michigan's four-year win streak. The Buckeyes tallied 76 points to edge out Virginia with 70 points, while the Wolverines placed third overall with 67. OSU also claimed the Central Region title. UVA, the only other team to have ever won the Lexus Cup, took top honors in the South Region.

Tennessee placed sixth in the overall team standings with 43 points, which is the team's highest Lexus Sprints finish since 1998. However, that year the event featured only 14 teams, compared to a total of 21 in 2003. UT's best finish in program history came with a fifth-place showing at the inaugural Lexus Sprints in 1997 when only 10 teams competed in the event.

The Lady Vols must now wait to see if they receive a bid to the NCAA Championships, which is one of the most difficult fields to make in the NCAA's list of sponsored sports. Only 12 full teams in the nation will be selected to compete in the championships, which includes one automatic bid from each of the five regional champions. Each of those 12 teams fields a 1st varsity 8+ boat, a 2nd varsity 8+ boat and a varsity 4+ boat at NCAAs. In addition, four varsity 8+ shells will be selected from institutions not represented in the team competition. This year's NCAA Women's Rowing Championships take place from May 30-June 1 at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Ind.

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