Feb. 20, 2006
Heading into her eighth season as head coach of the Clemson rowing program, Susie Lueck is more optimistic than ever before concerning her team’s chances to advance to the NCAA Championship in May of 2006.
“The program is making strides each year,” Lueck said. “Within the team we try to recognize each accomplishment that takes us closer to our goal of racing at the NCAA Rowing Championship.”
Lueck’s optimism is not without reason. The spring of 2005 brought about many firsts for the program. Clemson not only continued to find success on the regional level, but also had a national impact as well. Never was that more evident than in April, when the Tigers traveled to California to take part in the reputable Windermere Crew Classic. In that event, Clemson’s novice 8+ crew defeated nationally-respected Washington in a one-on-one race for the first time in Tiger history. The win was even sweeter for Lueck, who earned her degree from the University of Washington.
Clemson will look to build upon momentum from that event and the ACC Championships, where the novice 8+ defeated nationally-ranked Virginia for the first time ever in the conference regatta. At the conclusion of the event, Lueck was named 2005 ACC Coach of the Year, making it the second time she has earned such honors in her career. The Tigers concluded the spring with a 10th-place finish (third in the South Region) at the Central/South Sprints in May at Oak Ridge, TN.
Returning for the Tigers this season are All-ACC rowers Abbey Fernandez, who coxed the novice 8+ to a nearly perfect spring as a freshman, and Kristin Karfgin also returns after leading the second novice 8+ to a second-place finish at regionals.
Averyt and Cooper rowed with the varsity 8+ for the entire spring season, and will be joined this year by Suzanne Van Fleet and Lizzy Jennings who also saw action last spring with the Tigers’ top boat. Also returning after gaining a wealth of positive experience in the novice 8+ boat are expected contributors Blair Brendle, Ford Heiner, and Lindsay Sheppard. Five rowers from last year’s second varsity 8+ that competed at regionals return as well.
The fall season prepared the team for the challenging spring schedule. Tiger head coach Susie Lueck received a good gauge of the team’s chemistry and overall speed after competing in several highly-competitive events in the fall.
The Tigers began the fall of 2005 by sweeping four races over the Clemson University Rowing Association and the University of Georgia in the Tail of the Tiger, which took place October 1 on Lake Hartwell. Clemson then took part in the Chattanooga Head Race with region foe Tennessee. The Tigers swept both novice races in that event. Clemson’s latest competition came at the esteemed Head of the Charles regatta, where the Tigers claimed 19th position out of 47 boats entered in the three-mile Championship 8+. Clemson’s fall racing concluded on November 13 at the Rivanna Romp in Charlottesville, VA. At that event, Clemson’s novice 8+ continued to showcase itself as a national power by defeating home favorite Virginia. The varsity boats also performed well in the event that featured several competitive rowing teams from around the nation, including Ohio State and Wisconsin from the Big Ten Conference and Tennessee and Virginia of the South Region.
“The varsity 8+ performed very well in Boston at the Head of the Charles,” Lueck said. “I was very pleased with their race as well as the results. Overall, the team had good results in the fall. We had solid races against Tennessee at the Chattanooga Head Race as well.”
In addition to the optimism stemming from last year’s momentum and the success this fall, Lueck and her staff will welcome an extremely large group of newcomers into the program in 2005-06.
“The class of 2009 brings a lot of experience, athletic talent, and emotion,” Lueck said. “Their contribution to the program will be defined by how they learn to gel as a team, to embrace an unselfish, team player attitude, and rise to the challenges they will face.”
The coaching staff for 2005-06 features a familiar face and a pair of fresh faces. Kelly Lynch, who has been with Lueck since the inception of the program in 1998, was named South Region Assistant Coach of the Year in 2005 for the third consecutive spring. Lynch has been instrumental in the success of the novice program, in particular the last couple of spring seasons when the novice 8+ made noise on the national scene.
“Kelly has done an incredible job working with the novice program,” Lueck said. “She has a real talent for teaching the basic mechanics of rowing in a simple, understandable way. She helps the freshmen prioritize and organize their time. We are blessed to have her as such a permanent fixture on the coaching staff.”
Joining Lueck and Lynch this season are a pair of sisters, Becca and Sarah Brinker. Both graduates of Ohio State University, Becca is an assistant coach in charge of recruiting, while Sarah handles the day-to-day tasks as the program’s director of operations. Becca rowed and was a student coach for the nationally-ranked Buckeyes and helped Ohio State’s varsity 4+ to a fourth-place showing at the NCAA Rowing Championships in 2003. Current Tiger rowers will also benefit from the addition of former Tiger All-American Ashlee Brown as a volunteer assistant coach.
The spring schedule presents a good number of home events as well as challenging, nationally-respected regattas outside of Clemson. The Tigers will play host to Boston College, Eastern Michigan, and Central Florida in separate regattas on Lake Hartwell in March and April. North Carolina will also compete in the regatta scheduled for April 1, along with the Golden Knights from UCF. The Tigers will also play host to the Clemson Challenge on March 18, a regatta featuring Indiana, Marist, Penn, and Purdue. In addition, Clemson will compete with Stanford, Washington State, and UCLA at Redwood Shores, CA on April 14-15. The ACC Championships, which will take place at Clemson for the third consecutive year, is set for April 22.
“We have a great spring schedule,” Lueck said. “The advantage of mild Southeastern weather combined with a fully buoyed, six-lane racecourse, is that we can have our first five races at home. The trip to Stanford will be good because of their beautiful racecourse and fair racing conditions.”
Perhaps the greatest achievement Lueck and the rowing program can continue to point to is the academic success of the student-athletes who come compete for Clemson. Tiger rowers not only earn their degrees, but also boast academic credentials that do not go unnoticed by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA). In May of 2005, the Tigers were represented with three rowers as National Scholar Athletes, including 2005-06 senior nursing major Kristen Weinacker. Academics are the foundation of what the program was built upon, something Lueck and her staff continue to stress to all who come through Tigertown.
“The rowing team is committed to academic success,” Lueck stated. “Excelling in the classroom has always been a goal of the team. They use positive peer pressure to encourage studying. The time management skill necessary for academic success also correlates to athletic success as well.”
As the program continues to grow, it is not surprising to see Clemson’s emergence on both the regional and national level. It is the commitment of the student-athletes, the coaches, and staff that help will the 2005-06 squad toward the ultimate team accomplishment: a berth in the NCAA Rowing Championships.
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