Ann Arbor, Mich. - Michigan State captured the 2008 Big Ten Rowing title on Saturday in Ann Arbor in fine fashion, winning three individual event titles and finishing second in two other races. The varsity eight, ranked sixth in the most recent CRCA poll, won its second Big Ten title in school history and helped the Spartans to their second team title as well - both had previously won in 2005. With 150 team points, Michigan State tied the all-time points record in the Big Ten Championships, tying Minnesota's 150 it scored last season in its title run.
The Spartans were in great shape headed into the day's second session, as MSU was one of two teams (along with Minnesota) to place all six entries into the Grand Finals. MSU's first novice, varsity four, and varsity eight boats each won their morning heats, so there was plenty of enthusiasm headed into the grand finals.
The varsity boat captured its title by outdistancing Ohio State by half a length. The Spartans started strong, with a one-seat lead at the settle which extended to a near-length by 500. It was a tight race throughout, as Ohio State and Michigan kept trying to walk through and gain seats; the Spartans remained poised, pulled hard, and refused to let their pursuers move through, MSU posted an impressive final 500, and maintained its near-length lead to capture the victory,
The second varsity pulled off perhaps the most impressive race of the day, as it turned a length deficit after 1500 meters into a near-photo finish. Crossing the bouys at 1500 meters, the Spartan entry was perhaps a foot of open water behind Wisconsin and seven seats behind Ohio State, but put on a furious final push that allowed the Green and White to get within a second of the Badgers at the finish line,
Michigan State's pair of fours each won Big Ten titles - the first time in school history, and the third straight year that one school won both the varsity and second varsity four races (Minnesota won both in 2006 and 2007). The varsity four, a bright spot for MSU all season, captured its race in a time of 7:25.8, capturing the school's third all-time title in the event.
The Spartans held the slight lead at the settle, and the race was tightly contested through the opening 500. The Spartans made a move in the second 500, and established control as they moved solidly to the head of the pack at the 750-meter mark. By the 1000 meter mark, the Spartans held a three-seat lead on Wisconsin and nearly that much on Ohio State, but the Green and White rowed a strong, smart race and only added to their lead over the balance of the race. The Spartans held a full-length lead at the 1,500-meter mark and coasted to an open-water victory.
The second four won a Big Ten title in a time of 7:52.0, ahead of Wisconsin, who was about six seats behind the winning Spartans. It was the second all-time 2V4 title for Michigan State, which last captured this race in 2004.
The novice eights kicked off the second session - the second novice boat was fourth in the grand final (7:21.59), while the top novice entry finished second behind Wisconsin with a time of 7:15.42, just about a length behind the Badgers.
Five athletes received All-Big Ten recognition: Anne Cowan, Katie Bitz, and Joanna Brown were named to the First Team, while Kate Burdick and Emily Regan were Second Team selections. Meanwhile, Ashley Peach was Michigan State's Big Ten Sportsmanship honoree.