Lady Vols ready for rowing championships

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – After a pair of practices on the 2,000-meter course, the Lady Vols feel they are ready for the 11th-annual NCAA Rowing Championships. One of the top and most balanced fields in the championship's history will make this year's event one of the best in history.

The Division I part of the unique championship that has all three divisions at the same site begins with the First Eights heats. Tennessee drew a spot in the lone six-team race in the three sections, the second heat which begins at 8:15 a.m. The nation's 10th-ranked crew from Rocky Top will line up in lane six against defending First Eights champion and No. 9 Princeton, No. 6 Notre Dame, No. 2 Yale, No. 7 Stanford and No. 15 Dartmouth.

UT downed the Fighting Irish and the Cardinal earlier this spring, including the win over the Blue and Gold at the Aramark Sprints. Tennessee will also try to avenge its loss to Yale on the Housatonic River in the team's final regular-season outing. The Orange and White look to finish in the top three to advance straight into Saturday's semifinals and avoid the repechages on Friday at 1 p.m.

The Second Eights will race in Heat No. 2, slated for a 10 a.m. start. The group, which ranked fifth in the Aramark Sprints, rows in the second lane against Notre Dame, last year's Second Eights winners Brown, Minnesota, Ohio State and Yale. The Lady Vols topped the Buckeyes in Columbus on April 7, while the shell fell in races against Brown, Yale and Minnesota during the spring. The only crews that avoid Saturday's repechages are the heat winners. Last year, UT ranked fifth in its heat before ultimately coming in fifth in the petite finals.

UT's Fours will be on the outside in the first heat, scheduled for a 10:45 a.m. start. Going up against Minnesota, Aramark Sprints Fours champ Virginia, Washington, Harvard and Southern California, Tennessee will be in the first lane. The crew faced the Golden Gophers and Cavaliers at the Aramark Sprints, coming in a seat in back of Minnesota in that grand final race. Like the Second Eights, winners advance to Sunday's grand finals, while the other five crews will take part in Saturday's second-chance races.

Tickets are available at the gate, with a three-day pass to the event costing $25 for general admission or $10 for children or students. Daily admission is $15 a person or $5 for students and children.

There are two locations for entrance, one near the finish tower, the other next to the playground at Melton Lake Park, located on Melton Lake Drive in Oak Ridge.

ACADEMIC HONORS: A pair of Lady Vol student-athletes have been named ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honorees, the College Sports Information Directors of America announced Thursday.

Senior tennis player Blakeley Griffith earned first-team accolades, while fellow classmate Stephanie Davis, a coxswain on the UT rowing squad, was named to the second team.

For Griffith, the award marks the third time during her illustrious career that she has earned mention on an academic all-district team. She first picked up the honors as a second team member following her sophomore campaign in 2005, before earning first team accolades last season as a junior. With the first-team recognition, she now moves on to the national ballot for All-American consideration.

This season, the Middleburg, Va., native, put together a solid 25-16 overall singles record, including 10 wins over nationally-ranked opponents. She concluded her spectacular four-year career at Tennessee among the school's leaders in all-time singles and doubles victories. Griffith finished in a tie for 11th on the school's all-time singles win chart with a career record of 93-60 (.608). She is tied with Debbie Moringiello who amassed a 93-50 (.650) record from 1989-93. On the doubles list, Griffith ranks ninth with a career doubles record of 82-41 (.667).

Griffith is a three-time member of the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll and has been named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year on two occasions (2005 and 2007). Last year, she claimed ESPN The Magazine Third-Team Academic All-American laurels.

Tennessee's top coxswain in 2007, Davis has guided four winning shells this spring, including twice with both the Varsity 8+ and the Second Varsity 8+. The Martin, Tenn., product led UT's V8+ most of 2006 before shifting to the 2V8+ for the championship season. She directed her 2V8+ shell to second place in the Aramark Central/South Sprints petite final, helping the Lady Vol program to its first NCAA South Region title.

Davis, a three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll, has also been named a Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association National Scholar-Athlete in each of the last two seasons. She recently became the first UT coxswain since 2004 to be selected by the CRCA as an All-South Region rower as well.

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