ACC Sends Three to the NCAA Rowing Championships For the First Time

No. 3 Virginia Competing for Third National Title; No. 12 Duke Makes First NCAA Appearance;  No. 15 Syracuse In NCAA’s for Second Time

GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – For the first time ever, three Atlantic Coast Conference teams will be among the 22-team field when the NCAA Rowing Championships open Friday at the Sacramento Aquatic Center in Gold River, California.

The NCAA Rowing Championships begin Friday morning with Heats, continue Saturday morning with Semifinal Races and conclude on Sunday with Grand, Petite, “C” and “D” Finals

Perennial national champion contender Virginia will once again be among the field. The Cavaliers, coached by Kevin Sauer, captured national titles in 2010, at this very site, and in 2012 at West Windsor, New Jersey. UVA tied for the title in 1999, but dropped the tiebreaker to Brown.

Led by All-ACC rowers, junior coxswain Colette Lucas-Conwell (Palo Alto, California), seniors Tessa Dikkers (Pelham, New York), Jennifer Reid (Stafford, Virginia), Sam Casto (Dallas, Pennsylvania) and Mackenzi Sherman (Los Alamitos, California) and ACC Freshman of the Year Heidi Long (Buckinghamshire, England), Virginia is coming off its usually dominant performance in the ACC Championship, where it won all five races. The Cavaliers, coached by Kevin Sauer, have not lost a race in ACC Championship competition in four years and have won 16 of the 17 league Rowing titles.

“I think we’ve had a pretty good season so far, said Sauer. “We’ve had a couple of bumps in the road with Ohio State knocking us off a couple of times at the Varsity Eight level, they got us once in the 2V. I think we’ve responded to that, and we were really competitive at the ACC championships, especially in the finals. Practices have been great since the ACCs and we’re looking forward to the NCAA championships.”

The NCAAs should be interesting as Ohio State, which has won the last three straight NCAA titles; California, which was runner-up the past two years and captured titles in 2005 and 2006; and Brown, which has seven NCAA Rowing titles to its credit, have taken turns holding onto the No. 1 ranking through this year.

“It’s going to be really competitive, probably the most competitive field ever,” said Sauer. “There’s been a big mix-up around the country. There is no one that is unbeaten, which means there are a lot of programs that have a chance [at a national championship], and we hope we’re one of them. The kids are fired up, working hard and now it’s time to taper and get ready for the big dance.” 

Though Virginia emerged dominant in this year’s ACC Championships, the regatta was a bit different in that UVA was not the only ACC program rowing fast.

For the first time in league history four First Varsity Eight crews—UVA, Duke, Syracuse and Notre Dame—broke the 6:24 mark, with the Cavaliers posting a 6:14.989 clocking that was the second fastest in league history.

"It’s really unique that the ACC has three teams going to the NCAA Championship this year,” continued Sauer. “It shows the competitiveness of the league is really getting better and better. Duke really came to play this year in a big way. Megan Cooke Carcagno did a nice job with them. Syracuse and its head coach Justin Moore did a good job as well. So, we’re looking forward to the ACC representing at the NCAAs really well this weekend.”

Without question the biggest surprise of the meet was Duke. The Blue Devils entered the Championship ranked 19th nationally, only their 12th national ranking in history. 

Led by first-year head coach Cooke Carcagno, Duke recorded upsets to finish second in the First Varsity Eight, the Second Varsity Eight and the First Varsity Four to tie Syracuse for second place, despite not having a boat in the Second Varsity Four and not making the grand finals in the Thursday Varsity Eight.

The performance was noticed nationally. Not only did the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) weekly national poll reward the Blue Devils with Duke’s highest national ranking ever—a No. 12 rating—but the NCAA Rowing Championship Committee tabbed the Blue Devils for their first berth in the NCAA Championship.

“I’m just so proud of these ladies and how hard they worked and trusted the whole time that we could do it,” said Cooke Carcagno. “To say we were the underdog? That’s a little bit of an understatement. This is exciting and it’s something I knew we could do. I know we had doubts and we had fears but we overcame everything and put it together.”

Duke’s ACC finish was its highest since 2006, as the Blue Devils were led by seniors Alex Stonehill (Norwalk, Connecticut) and Katie Duckovich (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), who earned first-team All-ACC honors and coxswain Simone Pitre (Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada), who was named second-team all-conference.

Cooke Carcagno, who was named the ACC Coach of the Year by her fellow head coaches, knew the effort her team put forth in achieving something no Duke Rowing team had.

“I was excited for every member of our team this year,” she said. “This is awesome. We set out to do something and we made it come true. It’s a great ending to a great year.”

She and her team are looking forward to their first experience in NCAA Championship competition.

“I think we are in the perfect position,” said Cooke Carcagno. “We can just go out there, and I want to see how far we can finish and see how many teams that we can race at, and get that bow in front of. Every team that we can get past is icing on the cake at this point.”

Syracuse, coached by Justin Moore, made league history by becoming the third ACC team to earn an NCAA bid in the same year. The Orange, ranked 15th nationally this week by the CRCA poll, were so close to even more. Syracuse came in second to Duke by just five one-hundreths of a second (6:20.444-6:20.495) in the First Varsity Eight race and only six-tenths of a second (7:20.113-7:20.740) in the First Varsity Four.

To give some perspective, Syracuse’s third-place time in the First Varsity Eight was the sixth-fastest time in ACC Championship history and the third-fastest race in a Championship final. UVA had set the Championship record in the heats a year ago. The Orange recorded the third-fastest time in league championship history (6:15.8) in those same heats last year.  

“When we joined the conference, we knew that we were building a conference that had the potential to be one of the best in the country,” said Moore, whose Orange were participating in only their third ACC Championship regatta.

“I think that mission is starting to be realized. The competitiveness of the ACC Championship was spectacular. That, as a competitive experience, cannot be beat.”

Syracuse is making its second appearance in the NCAA Championship this weekend, and first since finishing 12th in 2002.  

 “This really was built on not just this year’s effort and achievement,” said Moore. “This was built on the previous five years and even before that. It was really wonderful to be a part of that.”

The Orange are led this weekend by seniors Deidre Fitzpatrick (Cheshire, Connecticut), who earned first-team All-ACC honors and Kari Tomney (Syracuse, New York), who was named second-team All-ACC.

“We are free to just go, be ourselves, and race like crazy,” said Moore.  “That’s what I want the women to do. 

“I won’t say go there and just have fun. Our job is not to go there and just have fun. I want to enjoy the competitive experience. I want to make sure we come off the water knowing we have competed as a team and individual crews better than we ever have before. I think the women are really prepared to do that.”


NCAA Rowing Championship Event Schedule
Friday, May 27
9:00 amDivision 11st Varsity Eight Heat 1
9:12 am Division 11st Varsity EightHeat 2
9:24 amDivision 11st Varsity EightHeat 3
9:36 am Division 11st Varsity EightHeat 4
9:48 am Division 12nd Varsity EightHeat 1
10:00 amDivision 12nd Varsity Eight Heat 2
10:12 amDivision 12nd Varsity Eight Heat 3
10:24 amDivision 12nd Varsity Eight Heat 4
10:36 amDivision 11st Varsity FourHeat 1
10:48 amDivision 11st Varsity FourHeat 2
11:00 amDivision 11st Varsity FourHeat 3
11:12 amDivision 11st Varsity FourHeat 4
4:12 pmDivision 11st Varsity Eight Repechage 1
4:24 pmDivision 11st Varsity Eight Repechage 2
4:36 pmDivision 12nd Varsity Eight Repechage 2
4:48 pmDivision 12nd Varsity Eight Repechage 2
5:00 pmDivision 11st Varsity Four Repechge 1
5:12 pmDivision 11st Varsity Four Repechage 2
Saturday, May 28
8:12 am Division 1 1st Varsity Eight C/D Semis 1
8:24 am Division 1 1st Varsity Eights C/D Semis 2
8:36 am Division 1 1st Varsity Eights A/B Semis 1
8:48 am Division 11st Varsity Eights A/B Semis 2
9:00 amDivision 12nd Varsity Eights C/D Semis 1
9:12 am Division 12nd Varsity Eights C/D Semis 2
9:24 amDivision 12nd Varsity Eights A/B Semis 1
9:36 amDivision 12nd Varsity Eights A/B Semis 2
9:48 amDivision 1 1st Varsity Fours C/D Semis 1
10:00 amDivision 1 1st Varsity Fours C/D Semis 2
10:12 amDivision 11st Varsity Fours A/B Semis 1
10:24 amDivision 11st Varsity Fours A/B Semis 2
Sunday, May 29
8:12 am Division 11st Varsity Fours D Final (19-22)
8:24 am Division 11st Varsity Fours C Final (13-18)
8:36 am Division 12nd Varsity Eight D Final (19-22)
8:48 am Division 12nd Varsity Eight C Final ( 13-18)
9:00 am Division 12nd Varsity Eight D Final (19-22)
9:12 am Division 11st Varsity Eight C Final ( 13-18)
10:00 am Division 11st Varsity FourPetite Final (7-12)
10:12 am Division 11st Varsity Four Grand Final (1-6)
10:24 am Division 12nd Varsity Eight Petite Final (7-12)
10:36 am Division 12nd Varsity Eight Grand Final (1-6)
10:48 am Division 1 1st Varsity Eight Petite Final (7-12)
11:00 am Division 11st Varsity Eight Grand Final (1-6)