March 17, 2006
Notre Dame, Ind. -
Notre Dame head coach Martin Stone and the Irish rowing team open up the spring portion of their 2005-06 season on Saturday, March 18 in Knoxville, Tenn., when the Irish will take on Tennessee and Minnesota. Notre Dame has used its spring break to prepare this past week to prepare for the season.
The regatta will be the first of six for the Irish during the spring as they take aim at earning the school's first-ever team berth in the NCAA Championships.
Stone has been at the helm of the Irish rowing program since 1997. Under his direction, Notre Dame continues to position itself among the nation's best programs. The Irish have won BIG EAST team titles each of the last two years - winning the inaugural BIG EAST Championship in 2005 and the BIG EAST Rowing Challenge in 2004.
Notre Dame varsity eight boats have earned at-large berth on two occasions, finishing 16th in 2002 and 11th in 2004. Yet was has eluded the Irish is an NCAA team berth.
Coming off two of the most successful campaigns in school history, Stone and the Irish are poised to achieve their goal of earning a team berth in the NCAAs when the bids are handed out in May. Depth and experience are two of the reasons Stone and his coaching staff can be optimistic about this season.
Once again Notre Dame will face a demanding regatta schedule and will row against some of the nation's top teams. Following this weekend's regatta, the Irish travel to Grand Rapids, Mich., for the Lubbers Cup on March 15. The first weekend in April, Notre Dame heads back to San Diego, Calif., for the prestigious San Diego Crew Classic (April 1-2) and then travels to Indianapolis the following weekend for the Indiana Crew Classic (April 8-9). The Irish will look to defend their back-to-back BIG EAST teams titles on April 30 at the BIG EAST Championships in Worcester, Mass. The final regatta of the season will be held May 13-14 in Oak Ridge, Tenn., as Notre Dame competes in the South/Central Region Championships. This competitive two-day event has become one of the premier collegiate rowing events as a prelim to the NCAA Championships.
As the spring commences, Stone shares his thoughts on his team and the upcoming season.
On the goals for this season ...
"Obviously our biggest goal this season is to have the team go the NCAAs," Stone says. "It's been a steady progression for us here and once we do that the next thing will be a top-10 and then a top-five finish. Our number one team goal is to earn that NCAA bid and then our next goal will be to win a BIG EAST championship again.
"We want to show that we are a team that works hard and is committed to one goal and to one another. I want our rowers to push themselves and push their teammates and understand the important of competing together as a team."
What will be the intangibles for this season ...
"I think that our health and staying healthy are two of the most important things. I also think weather will be a factor because of the way we have set up our race schedule. We know that the way that the way our race schedule is set up that if we are successful, then we will have the opportunity to be considered for an NCAA bid. We have a very difficult race schedule by design against tough competition."
On the team's balance and experience ...
"I believe that we are definitely more experience than we were a year ago. I think last year was learning experience for a lot of people including me. We have just tried to get everyone on the same page. With the experience that we have now, our rowers have more knowledge and experience of what it takes to race at this upper level."
On the senior leadership ...
"I think it is a plus this year having a senior-dominated boat. I think that they learned a lot last year and this will be good for us this year. We are, however, going to get contributions from all of our classes."
On the progression of the program ...
"The goals have all been realistic and have remained the same and that is to win a national championship. We've made steady progress each year and I think that we have progressed faster than all of the programs that started the same year we did. As we continue to work as a team and focus on our team goals, I think we will be able to make progress towards achieving our goals.
On the Central Region ...
"In this region, I think that people believe that rowing isn't a huge thing; they believe it's more of an establishment on the east, or even a west coast thing. But the South/Central regional is by far the toughest race in the country and toughest qualifier before you go to the NCAAs. It's a tough weekend of competition and comes just two weeks after our conference championship. It's a tough four-week period of racing and we have to compete in a lot of great races. Overall, I like our region because you have to race fast schools to get faster and our region is pretty tough."