March 19, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – It was a long time coming for the University of Notre Dame rowing team in its return to the water during its Spring Break training trip to Oak Ridge, Tenn. The Irish spent a full week practicing in boats and on the water for the first time since last fall, all in preparation for the opening regatta of the 2014 season at the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational last Saturday and Sunday.
“I thought we knew coming out of winter training, from the testing we’ve done, that we were ahead of last year,” Notre Dame head coach Martin Stone said. “We thought we had the endurance and strength part of it, could we put it together in the boat? What we did over the break, technical work, we certainly got better, but there is room for improvement.”
The Irish earned team victories over Louisville, West Virginia and Duke during the regatta, and raced competitively in all boats against Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) foe and two-time NCAA champion Virginia. Notre Dame (6:29.644) raced the Cavaliers (6:28.800) to the finish line in the first varsity eight on Saturday.
“The NCAA boats especially did a nice job against both Louisville and Duke, and we were just short against Virginia,” Stone said. “One publication has Virginia as the preseason number one. I’d like to get that varsity eight race back a little bit, eight tenths of a second, where we had a lead early and they went through us. We stalled the lead and came back really hard late.
“We would like to have that race back, but we don’t have it,” he added. “We will have the opportunity in two months to see them again at ACCs, and that will be a focus of ours. Overall I was pleased with the weekend, but we still have a lot of work to do. There are some moving parts, and I am not sure we have everyone in the right spots yet.”
In spite of the narrow loss to the perennial national championship contender from Virginia, the Notre Dame varsity eight further narrowed the gap between the two boats during Saturday afternoon’s race. Stone said the results were a reflection of the path the team has been working toward in recent years.
“We had some markers going into Spring Break, results from the Head of the Charles in the fall and our scrimmage results against Ohio State, Michigan State and Indiana, where we saw improvement from past years in each of those,” Stone said. “That, combined with our objective testing on the rowing machines and what we have seen in the weight room. We knew we have been getting physically stronger and I do think we are closing the gap.
“To make that final leap is pretty tough, but I think we are in a good place, we just have to keep getting better now and go from there.”
Recent breaks in the lingering harsh winter weather in the South Bend area have given hope to the fact that seasonable spring weather is right around the corner. The Irish are especially hoping that will happen so that regular practice schedules can begin in advance of their next regatta on April 12-13 at the Lake Natoma Invitational in Folsom, Calif.
“We need to get on the water here, there were some technical things last weekend that we need to fix,” Stone said. “We also need to do some selection work, make sure we have the right people in the right seats in the right boats when we go to California.”