Men's crew, women's lightweight qualify for finals

Wisconsin rowers have mixed day in Camden, N.J.

Men's rowing sends one boat to grand final

Wisconsin's men's rowing team will send one boat to a grand final and six others to petite finals Saturday at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championships on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J.

Wisconsin's lone representative in a grand final is its varsity pair without coxswain, which consists of Chris Anspach and Tom Webb. The duo eased to victory Friday morning, finishing more than eight seconds ahead on second-place Washington. The Badgers finished the 2,000-meter course in 7:40.03. The boat will race at approximately 9 a.m. CDT Saturday against Marietta, Georgetown, Cornell, Hobart and St. Mary's for the Wisconsin's only chance at a 2004 national title.

In the headlining varsity eight, the Badgers placed sixth in their semifinal heat, just under eight seconds out of a grand final spot. As a result, the Badgers will compete Saturday in the petite final for places 7-12.

Petite finals are where most of Wisconsin's IRA entries are headed Saturday: the second varsity eight, varsity four with coxswain, varsity four without coxswain, freshmen four with coxswain and open four with coxswain all fell short of grand finals. Of the aforementioned boats, the second varsity eight came closest to reaching a grand final, placing fourth in its semifinal heat, just 6.52 seconds behind third-place Minnesota for a spot in the grand final.

A second Wisconsin entry in the open four with coxswain will race in the third-level final after placing fifth in its race heat Friday. Wisconsin's freshmen eight took fifth in its lower-level semifinal, failing to reach the third-level final.

"Pretty rough day," Wisconsin head coach Chris Clark said. "For example, last year we were in eight of nine finals, including all the varsity boats. This year we are in one of nine. That was not by design. It reflects the inexperienced nature of this team."

Racing on the final day of the national championships begins at 6:06 a.m. with the exhibition master's eight. Collegiate racing begins at 6:30 a.m. with the men's lightweight eight trial heats. Wisconsin's first race goes off at approximately 7 a.m. with the third-level final in the open four with coxswain.

Women's lightweight varsity eight makes grand final

The Wisconsin women's lightweight varsity eight cruised to victory in its preliminary heat at the IRA National Championships Friday to advance to Saturday's national championship race on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J.

Entering the event as the second-ranked team, the Badgers clocked a 7:10.00, by far the fastest time of the morning. The Wisconsin time defeated No. 3 Princeton by 7.78 seconds. Only the winner of the heat advances to Saturday's grand final, with the remaining boats returning to the water Friday afternoon for the repechage heats in a second opportunity to reach the grand final.

"We had a pretty strong heat," Wisconsin women's varsity lightweight coach Mary Shofner said. "They just knew they didn't want to race twice today and won their heat. They've gotten faster throughout the year and it's finally clicking together for a young, but experienced crew. We walked past Princeton at the 900-meter mark and then opened up water after the 1,000 and continued to walk away. Princeton was not pushed by the others and everybody else in the heat accepted that they were going to have to step back and take another race today. Wisconsin did the same and didn't sprint so they have a lot left in them."

In the first preliminary heat, top-ranked Radcliffe timed a 7:17.87 on the 2000-meter course to move on. The Tigers rowed by themselves throughout the race as second-place Stanford finished in 7:31.92.

The contest for the lightweight national championship is slated to begin at 1:12 p.m. Wisconsin looks to improve upon its third-place finish from last year. The Badgers have finished as high as second on two occasions (2001, ‘02), but have yet to capture the national championship.

"There's a storm coming in tonight so we'll have relatively unfavorable conditions for lightweight racing tomorrow," Shofner said. "But everyone will have the same conditions so we'll see what the championship holds."

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