Ohio State uses a total team effort
Coach says entire team contributed to championship
INDIANAPOLIS -- On Sunday, Ohio State's varsity four and second varsity eight won their grand finals and the first varsity eight placed third to earn Ohio State its first NCAA team championship and the first for a Big Ten team.
"I let them know [Saturday] night that I was pretty confident that we were going to do this," head coach Andy Teitelbaum said. "They have worked tremendously hard and watching us build momentum throughout the regatta had me really believing we were going to pull off [the win].
"They had done all the work necessary, they had shown their speed and now it was just the question of reaching out and trying to take it and they did it."
But it wasn't one coxswain or bow or boat that won it for the Buckeyes, but their entire roster of almost 40 rowers.
"We have two more fours and two novice eights back home who are also just tremendous competitors and big parts of the program," Teitelbaum said. "I think more than anything that was the thing that got us to the championship, to the top."
Last year, Ohio State lost six seniors from its 1V8 alone. Thankfully, the Buckeyes had the depth to fill those seats without sacrificing the success of its other boats.
"The six kids that came into that boat are every bit as good or better than the people they replaced," Teitelbaum said. "A lot of them came out of the 2V8, one of them came out of the [V4]. And all of the kids, the freshmen and the novices who stepped up and filled those seats, they got the 4 back to the national championship and the 2 one place higher than it finished a year ago.
"There's no one person or group of people that can fill all of those seats. There's no Lebron James that can just step up and score 40 for you. It really was 36 women just deciding together we're going to do this."
Junior Katie King was one such rower that rose through the ranks to fill vital positions. Although she rowed in high school, King spend her first year on the novice crew, then moved up to 2V4 and then the V4 last year, winning Ohio State's first rowing event title at the 2012 championships. This year she moved again to the bow seat of the 1V8.
"Coming off of last year, we had so many giant shoes to fill," King said. "I think having that relationship that we had with each other last year in the V4 was awesome and then winning [at NCAAs], we just wanted to do that for our entire team this year."
The Buckeye rowers have had to be flexible and willing to fill in wherever needed and change up lineups for the sake of the team. For V4 rower Taylore Urban, this meant displaying serious trust in her coaches.
"This weekend is only the second time we raced in the lineup that we did, so we didn't have the whole beginning of the season to grow and learn and row together," Urban said. "But we trusted in each other and our coaches and everything that [the other rowers] have done."
Part of this cohesion from novice to varsity, from fours to eights, is each rower's commitment to the team.
"A group of athletes who are perpetuating a tremendous culture really just decided we're going to commit to seeing if we can get to the very top and they lived that the entire year," Teitelbaum said. "That's a lot of choices that a college student needs to make in order to stay on that track and they did that, they did that as a group beyond those that raced here [on Sunday]."
Junior Lauren Eckles, who decided to check out rowing after club lacrosse didn't fit her schedule, started out strong as a novice, but hit a rough patch during her first year on varsity. She didn't compete at Big 10s and therefore didn't have a chance to compete at nationals.
"I watched from my computer at home," Eckles said. "I kind of used that over the summer as my motivation because I knew how hard everyone else worked. So I trained really hard and I came back and ended up being in the 2V8 with eight other amazing women."
Her team pushed her to reach for more and she did the same, helping the 2V8 come in first in Sunday's grand final ahead of Cal and Brown.
"I think that's one of the coolest parts of our team, the fact that people that don't have the fastest 2k are still pushing everyone else to get better," Eckles said. "We were the 2V but we pushed the 1V to get faster every practice and they were pushing us to catch up. It's a constant competition within but it's just for the betterment of the team."
Rowing is one of the few varsity sports in Division I that gives people completely new to the sport a chance to work up to racing for a national championship. The stream of new talent and competition for seats encourages younger rowers to improve and pushes experienced rowers to continue to raise the bar for themselves.
"My freshman year, I did the walk-on novice program and I actually didn't race my freshman year," Urban said. "I was ready to go the next year to show I deserved to be on the team. Last year I found myself on the first four and we ended up capturing a national title last year in New Jersey and we won again this year as well.
"It just goes to show that if you really want something and really go after it enough and really believe in your teammates and coaches that you can accomplish anything with this sport. This is so near and dear to my heart, this sport. I didn't start it until I was in college and I'm very thankful my mother told me I should do this because mothers are always right."
Even though the Buckeyes fell short of the first NCAA three-event sweep with their third-place finish in the 1V8, that didn't stop their celebration, with girls holding back tears as they hoisted the championship trophy and sang their alma mater with a cheer of "O-H!" "I-O!"
"We're a team," Eckles said. "It's not about one boat. We live as a team, we lose as a team. And here we are."