Women's crew off to NCAAs

by Schuyler Evans | 5/25/07 2:01am

Women's crew earned an at-large NCAA bid, its first bid since 1999.
by Phil Bracikowski / The Dartmouth

Dartmouth had not been invited to the NCAA's since 1999.

"We were thrilled to death to see what they accomplished by the leadership of many of the seniors and the coaching of [Wendy] Levash," Athletic Director Josie Harper said. "Dartmouth participated in the very first NCAA championship. It is great to be able to look at the opportunity of these students; it shows where the program is headed."

The NCAA Championship will take place at the Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn., by the University of Tennessee. The competition will begin on Friday, May 25 and will conclude on Sunday, May 27.

"This has been our goal all season, to get at least one boat to the national championships," head coach Wendy Levash said.

When interviewed several weeks ago, senior rower and future women's U-23 camp attendee Kate Davison '07 highlighted her college career goal of making the NCAAs and the improvement that the Big Green has exhibited.

"I came into Dartmouth hoping to get Dartmouth into the NCAAs. I can't believe how much speed we have gained. We actually have a shot at getting to the NCAAs this year, a few years ago we were not even close," Davison said.

Only four Division I boats were given at-large status, a testament to the quality of Dartmouth's women's rowing program. The other three at-large rowing teams were Stanford University, the University of Central Florida and the University of California Los Angeles. Twelve other teams were selected for a team bid, each bringing two varsity eight boats and a varsity four boat. Out of the 12 teams selected, four were from the Ivy League: Brown, Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

Dartmouth finished fifth in the Grand Final at the Eastern Sprints, behind the other four Ivies going to the NCAAs. The Ivy League is an extremely fast league, but in NCAAs, relative speed among all of the nation's rowing teams is what really matters.

"I think that after we left the sprints there was an outside chance for an at-large bid in the NCAA's, we only got fifth when last year they only picked the top four from the Eastern Sprints for the NCAAs," Levash said. "The in-season racing and then the results from the other regional championships showed that our league is very deep and that we belong in the top 16 crews even though we got fifth."

Dartmouth's performance in the NCAAs might have an impact on future selection.

"If we do well this weekend, we will have a better chance of getting the whole team to the NCAAs next year," senior captain Kennedy said.

The competition will be steep; Dartmouth will be the smallest institution among the state schools and the bigger Ivies that are competing.

"We get to go out there and compete against schools who can give full scholarships, such as Ohio State and the University of Virginia," Kennedy said.

"Our goal is to prove that Dartmouth has a legitimate place among the top 16 crews in the country. If we show up and fall flat on our faces, that is not going to be such a great thing," Levash said.

The Dartmouth rowers are familiar with the waters of the Melton Hill Lake; they spent their spring break training there. The familiarity will give the team an extra boost of confidence.

"Instead of leaving on Monday or Tuesday to practice on the course, we are going to leave Wednesday and just practice twice before the race starts," Levash said.

The knowledge of the course will be directly affecting the team's schoolwork.

"We are working as hard to minimize the impact of our schedule to miss as little school as possible," Kennedy said.

The racing starting Friday will be the biggest test that any current rower on the team has faced.