May 17, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.- The Alabama rowing team will return to Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for the Conference USA Championships. The 11 participating teams will meet on Saturday, May 18, with preliminary races beginning at 9 a.m. ET. Finals will begin that afternoon at 2:20 p.m. ET.
"We are excited about going up to Oak Ridge," Alabama head coach Larry Davissaid. "The girls are hungry. It is something we have been looking forward to. We want to achieve some on things we have been able to do in practice out on the race course. There is a high level of excitement in what is going on."
This is the fourth annual C-USA Rowing Championship, and the first that will provide the champion an automatic berth to the NCAA Championship.
Preliminary heats, beginning with Varsity 8 races, are scheduled to start at 9 a.m. ET, Saturday on the 2,000-meter course. C-USA will determine the team champion based on placement in Varsity Eight, Second Varsity Eight and Varsity Four races. Team and individual awards will be presented at a ceremony following the regatta.
Conference USA has three full-time members that sponsor women's rowing: SMU, Tulsa and UCF. Eight additional programs serve as affiliate members in the league: Alabama, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Old Dominion, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Host Tennessee won the team titles in 2010 and 2012, while Texas was the 2011 team champion. The Crimson Tide finished seventh last season at Oak Ridge.
Alabama has had two weeks to prepare for the conference championships, last taking to the water at the Dale England Cup in the last weekend of April.
"We have made progress," Davis said. "The girls found a new level of speed. Now we just have to make sure we solidify it and show it on race day. That is one of the big things we have been working on, bringing the A-race when it is time to do it. The girls now see that we have the speed. This week has really helped in making the boat move faster. Now the key is to go in with the right attitude and showing that speed when it is time to race."
The Tide has familiarity with Melton Hill Lake as they competed in the Cardinal Invitational in Oak Ridge to open the spring season, earning six wins on the lake in mid-March.
"Going to familiar surroundings is a good thing," Davis explained. "That is why we like to have something early on our schedule at Oak Ridge. That is one factor we don't have to deal with in being in a strange or hostile environment. We have had some races this year that is closer to the format of the conference and NCAA championships. We want the girls to get used to that and be comfortable with that. It is now just a matter of going out and rowing your race and not getting sidetracked."