Spartans Capture Central Sprints Title

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - Michigan State rowing claimed the Central Region title with 371 points - its most ever at the regional event - on Sunday at the South/Central Sprints on Sunday in Oak Ridge, Tenn., on Melton Hill Lake. Virginia claimed the South and overall titles (407 points), while MSU tied its best finish at regionals with the second-place finish, marking the third time MSU took the runner-up spot. MSU was also second overall in 1999 and 2000.

"It was a great day for Michigan State," said head coach Matt Weise. "The scheduling was changed around a bit for the weather, but it really worked to our advantage. We talked about having to step up and take our performance to the next level, and our athletes raised the intensity today."

The varsity eight opened the Grand Final with a 6:35.80 second-place finish in the day's first race. MSU finished just 2.20 seconds behind Virginia as the Spartans earned 189 points. With a strong start, the Spartans took an initial lead ahead of the Cavaliers, but Virginia made big moves after the first 500 to push past Michigan State. Holding the lead, UVA finished in 6:33.60.

"The varsity eight did a great job today," said Weise. "We started out ahead of Virginia, but they made some moves. So we'll learn to respond and be better equipped for the next races."

Michigan State's varsity eight crews also finished second in 1999 and 2000, tying the program's best placing with the same finish this year.

The second varsity eight crossed the finish line in 6:50.10 for sixth place in the Grand Final. The boats were even through the first 1000 meters, and while Ohio State and Virginia made strong moves to pull ahead, the Spartans fell off a bit. The Buckeyes finished first at 6:39.20, followed by Virginia, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Tennessee, in that order. MSU's sixth-place finish added 96 points to its overall tally.

Much like yesterday, both MSU four boats led start-to-finish as they stroked to Grand Final first-place finishes. The varsity four led everyone by slim margin through the first splits, then out-sprinted Virginia for the 7:26.70 top time and 57 points. UVA finished just under two seconds later.

MSU's open four crew held an initial advantage in front of Ohio State and Wisconsin, then opened up in the third 500 to pull ahead of their Big Ten rivals. Finishing 4.9 seconds ahead of the Buckeyes, Michigan State posted a 7:31.8 time for an additional 15 points.

In the final races, the Spartan novice eight crew pulled tremendously well, fueled by disappointing preliminary and semifinal races. Initially, the Spartans were in the mix with Michigan and North Carolina `A' in the petite Finals, as all the boats clustered in the first 500. The Spartans fell behind in the third 500, but came together for an incredible final sprint, as they walked through the final 500 to claim the Petite Final victory in 7:18.60 for 14 points.

Having captured the Big Ten and Central Regional crowns, Michigan State now awaits the announcement of selections for the NCAA Championship Regatta, held May 30-June 1 on Lake Natoma in Sacramento, Calif. MSU's most recent appearance at NCAA's (2006) saw the Spartans capture a sixth-place team finish, the highest-ever finish at the Championship Regatta in school history.

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