Four local rowers helped their college teams win NCAA championships at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis on Sunday.
Vineland High School graduate Katie Beletskaya and Holy Spirit alumna Meghan Birkbeck helped Ohio State win the Division I team championship and make Big Ten Conference history.
The Buckeyes won the overall championship for the first time, becoming also the first Big Ten team to win an NCAA team rowing title.
Beletskaya, from Vineland, helped the Buckeyes win the Second Varsity-Eight grand final. Birkbeck, from Absecon, helped the Buckeyes finish third in the First Varsity-Eight grand final.
Stephanie Hauck, an Egg Harbor Township graduate, helped Nova Southeastern capture that program’s first Division II varsity-eight title. Amber Morrell, a Holy Spirit alumna from Brigantine, helped the Sharks win their second varsity-four title.
Their performances helped the Sharks also take the overall Division II title.
Hauck, a junior, and her teammates defeated top-ranked and Sunshine State Conference rival Barry University for the first time this season. The Sharks finished in 6 minutes, 42.75 seconds, just 5 seconds ahead of Barry.
“It’s pretty unreal,” Hauck said by telephone Monday. “It hasn’t really hit me yet that we accomplished this. I had a really good feeling going into the race. We were super prepared and trusted our coach and the race plan.”
After multiple lead changes, Nova Southeastern pulled ahead and gained a boat-length lead before crossing the finish line.
“We peaked at just the right time,” Hauck said. “It meant a lot because it’s much bigger than just winning the race. It was a lot of firsts for us, and it’s really exciting.”
NSU’s team title wouldn’t have been possible without the performance of Morell and the rest of the varsity-four crew.
The varsity-four boat put NSU in a position to win the team title by beating Barry by 7 seconds in 7:43.85. The win gave the Sharks eight points before the varsity-eight race began.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but it was really exciting,” Morell said by telephone Monday. “Coach would say that four had to be the hero, so we took on the pressure and did our best to win. It was a good feeling to know that all our hard work throughout the season was enough to put us in that position to help the team claim the top spot.
“Winning the four wasn’t anything unless the eight won, too, so it was exciting to see everyone do well,” the senior said.
Other local rowers on the champions’ roster (listed with class, hometown and high school): Victoria Ciccone (jr., Brigantine, Holy Spirit), Caroline Kelly (jr., Seaville, Holy Spirit), Remi McClellan (soph., Mullica Township, Oakcrest), Kelsey Obringer (soph., Port Republic, Holy Spirit), Abbey Schiavo (jr., Northfield, Mainland Regional),
Beletskaya and Birkbeck, both of whom are juniors, helped Ohio State win its fourth Big Ten title this year.
At the nationals Sunday, Beleskaya and the Buckeyes won the Second Varsity-Four grand final in 6:27.86 to finish the season 12-0. California (6:29.89) took second place and Brown (6:30.14) third.
Birkbeck and her crew finished the First Varsity-Eight grand final in 6:23.19, behind only California (6:21.42) and (Princeton 6:22.59).
Beletskaya and Birkbeck could not be reached for comment Monday night.
“It’s hard to put into words what it means to win a national championship,” Buckeyes coach Andy Teitelbaum said in a story on the team’s website. “To be able to walk out of here with the NCAA ... championship is unbelievably gratifying and really speaks to the athletes who’ve had a great year.
“This is something they’ve committed themselves to and remained committed to, and it’s very gratifying as a coach to see a group of women work so hard together to achieve something of this magnitude.”
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