After a 7:19.4 first-place finish at this past weekend’s quad meet in Princeton, the Rutgers rowing team’s Varsity 4 boat led by senior Mackenzie George was named Big Ten Boat of the Week on Tuesday.
It is the third time a Scarlet Knights boat has claimed the conference honor, and the first recognition for the Varsity 4 squad.
The other two boats in program history to win the honor were both Varsity 8 boats with senior Sarah Johanek in stroke seat, and both won the honor in the first race of the season.
This week’s winning boat featured George in stroke seat, senior Olivia Betz, sophomore Olivia Maxton, freshman Emily Meade at the bow and junior Rachel Usen at coxswain.
In the first race of the day against No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 7 Princeton, the squad opened the meet with a first-place finish for Rutgers.
“It made a nice statement and showed that we’re a program capable of competing at a high level and it shows our athletes as well that we’re capable of competing against some pretty good teams,” said rowing head coach Justin Price.
The 7:19.4 finish was a season best for Varsity 4, just 2.5 seconds ahead of the second-place Badgers and a 7.2-second margin of victory over the third-place Tigers.
“Times are hard in our sport, it's not like swimming because there's wind and current,” Price said. “But I would say thats as well as our Varsity 4 has performed all season, and that’s more important necessarily than the time. They did quite well and showed that we can be one of the top fours in the country. “
The opponents the Knights faced on Saturday featured two of the top-ranked programs in the country, and if Rutgers' national ranking is to make another jump on Wednesday, it will have most to do with the performance of the Varsity 4 boat.
“Our rankings have been like up there, so it’s been nice competing against these top teams and knowing that they’re that high is a goal of ours we’re always going towards,” Maxton said.
The only other events in which the Knights claimed top finishes were in the third Varsity 4A/4B, and Novice 8 events.
Rutgers finished in the bottom half of both Varsity 8 races including the Johanek-led boat that was the source of the last two Big Ten Boat of the Week honors, making the top finish in the Varsity 4 that much more significant for the team’s ranking going forward.
“To have three event wins in that race, especially with our depth, was really good for the trajectory of our program but I also learned that we have a lot of work still to do,” Price said.
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