Lady Vols perform well at Aramark

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – The strongest first day in history from the hosts of the Aramark Sprints has the Lady Vol rowing team in position to challenge to hoist its initial Aramark Cup, which goes to the team with the most overall points in either region, in the 11-year history of the Central and South Region Championships.

Tennessee, the defending South Region champs, advanced into the grand final in each of the three NCAA Championship events, one of three teams along with Virginia and Minnesota to accomplish that, while also garnering a spot in the Open 4+ grand final. Only the Cavaliers have more scoring representatives in grand finals on Sunday. For the orange-clad rowers, it marks the first time in history that the Lady Vols have made the top flight of finals in more than two events.

The 17th-ranked Varsity Eight made the biggest splash on the day, starting its day by defeating No. 3 Notre Dame by a length and a half in the morning heat. The group of senior coxswain Stephanie Davis (Martin, Tenn.), sophomore Erin-Monique Shelton (Upper Hutt, New Zealand), juniors Renee Brittle (Dublin, Va.) and Krista Gearing (Fenwick, Ontario), senior Rachel Mayberry (Woodbridge, Va.), juniors Jessica Ayers (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Nina Dobratz (Portland, Ore.), senior Sarah Hutcheson (Orlando, Fla.) and junior Mary Jones (Huntsville, Ala.) kept that momentum going during the afternoon.

They gave Minnesota a run toward the end of the race before crossing the line 1.3 seconds in back of the nation's seventh-ranked crew. The Lady Vols topped No. 11 UCF by 2.27 seconds, No. 19 Louisville by 2.65 seconds, No. 6 Michigan by 7.37 seconds and No. 13 Michigan State by 9.21 seconds. Tennessee will now take on five top-12 ranked shells in the final race on Sunday, which is slated to begin at 11:50 a.m.

The Orange and White's Second Varsity 8+ broke through with its first grand final spot in history. The crew of freshman coxswain Katie Ross (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), freshman Mary Beth Dreusike (Huntington Station, N.Y.), sophomores Caroline Howell (Davenport, Iowa), Alex Shishkov (Mississauga, Ontario) and Kate Brownlee (North Gower, Ontario), junior Leah Smelser (Macon, Ga.), freshman Kate Snider (Ramona, Calif.) and juniors Kendra Warren (Franklin, Tenn.) and Genevieve Collins (Dallas, Texas) did much like the V8+, finishing just behind Minnesota in the semifinal.

They finished with a three-seat advantage over Louisville to take that runner-up position in the semifinal. The group will return to the water at 11:30 a.m. to race Wisconsin, Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan State and Louisville.

UT's Varsity 4+ of freshman coxswain Roshauna Singh (Vienna, Va.), junior Marisa Mohan (San Diego, Calif.), senior Heather Hill (Knoxville), freshman Erin Gray (Wuerzburg, Germany) and senior Kristen Galloway (Knoxville) held a three-quarter length advantage over the Spartans in the semifinals to take the final spot in the event's grand final, which is slated for a 11:10 a.m. start. The Golden Gophers topped the Lady Vols by 1.6 seconds, while Wisconsin had a 1.2-second lead on the orange-clad crew at the line. Tennessee will have a chance to defeat those crews along with Virginia, Ohio State and Notre Dame.

Tennessee's Open 4+ entry, manned by sophomore coxswain Pam Harder (Mayetta, N.J.), freshman Brittany Sehring (Alpharetta, Ga.), senior Katrina von Peters (Chattanooga, Tenn.), junior Danielle Hmielewski (Batavia, Ohio) and senior Katie Payne (Parksville, British Columbia), finished in second in its semifinal to grab a spot in the top final on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. The crew earlier finished with nearly a length advantage over UCF in the crew's first race since it topped Ohio State and Michigan in a tri-meet in Columbus, Ohio on April 7.

The Big Orange's top Novice 8+ crew assured itself of a spot in the petite final after finishing third in the last of four morning heats, beating Duke to the line by a length. The shell then ranked sixth in the semifinals, putting them into the petite final at 10:40 a.m. UT's second Novice 8+ entry will open the team's day in the "C" final at 9:40 a.m.

The South rose to the occasion on the first day of this dual-region meet, with both Tennessee and Virginia taking spots in four or more grand finals. The Cavaliers not only advanced to all five grand finals, they were victorious in every heat and semifinal in which they competed. Those two will duel for the regional crown on Sunday, with UCF and Louisville as possible dark-horses.

Minnesota was the only Central Region squad to match the South's top duo with entries in all three NCAA Championship events, the Varsity 8+, Second Varsity 8+ and Varsity 4+. The Golden Gophers, who also won all of its races Saturday, will have to hold off Notre Dame and Ohio State to claim the program's first Central Region championship.

Events begin at 9 a.m. on Melton Hill Lake , with the meet concluding with an awards ceremony around 12:30 p.m. at the Oak Ridge Boathouse.

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