CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The UNC rowing team will compete Sunday at the Atlantic Coast Conference Rowing Championships at Lake Hartwell in Clemson, S.C. Racing begins at 9 a.m. with the varsity fours, followed by the novice eights at 9:20, the second varsity eights at 9:40 and the varsity eights at 10 a.m.
Defending NCAA and ACC Champion Virginia is the top seed in three of the four events, with the exception the novice eight, in which host Clemson is the top seed. UVa has won 12 of the previous 13 conference championships, and the Tigers won the other, in 2009.
UNC is seeded sixth in the varsity eight, second varsity eight and varsity four and fifth in the novice eight.
For more information on the ACC Championship, click here.
UNC last raced on April 14 at the Knecht Cup. As her team members finished up finals on Tuesday, coach Sarah Haney took time to look ahead to the weekend.
Q: How has the team prepared for the ACC Championship?
Sarah Haney: "We had a little over four weeks between our last race and ACCs so as a staff we tried to figure out how we could make the most of that time and keep them motivated, also knowing that we had exams to cross through. So the first thing we did is program seat racing, novice and varsity all together, and the fastest eight rowers and coxswain would be in the varsity eight, the second fastest in the second varsity eight, and so on. That proved to be one way to keep them motivated and there were definitely some switches. So we've got new lineups in the second eight and in the four and therefore in the novice eight.
"For exams we tried to keep practices short, keep them active but not mentally challenging. Obviously exams are their first priority. We haven't been in perfect lineups every day, but today (Tuesday) is the last day of finals so we know we'll at least have everyone at the practices from here on out.
"Because this is our last race of the year we will taper. We started a couple of days ago bringing them down from a volume standpoint - the intensity doesn't change, but the volume does. Hopefully they'll be ready to go on Sunday."
Q: The ACC Championship is later than it's ever been. This year the date is the same as UNC's commencement, meaning that your seniors will miss their graduation ceremony, and also the same weekend as Dad Vails, the traditional season-ending regatta for UNC. What are your thoughts on the change?
Haney: "Now that rowing has gone to the automatic qualifier for NCAAs, we felt like it was just fair to name our conference AQ two weeks before NCAAs. Otherwise it was in the middle of April - you're talking about a month or a month and a half before NCAAs and maybe that's not the fastest team when NCAAs come. In that sense I like it.
"It's tough for our team - we really like Dad Vails and we really will miss going, and then to miss graduation is huge. As far as missing graduation, we tried to do a lot of things with our senior banquet to make up for that - the chancellor came to speak and passed out diplomas, they got pictures in their cap and gown with him and he was wearing his academic gown as well. So they had a great time with that."
(Note: This is the first year that the NCAA Rowing Championship has had automatic qualifiers. Going forward, the ACC Championships will be held two weeks before NCAAs, so won't always conflict with UNC's commencement.)
Q: A quick preview of the championship?
Haney: "Virginia is the defending national champion, so it's always fun to go up against the national champion and see what you can do. We're always excited about that.
"Our conference is showing a lot of speed this year in general, so we're looking forward to seeing where we are. We've proved this year to be faster than in years past, so it's a nice test to go up against some really fast schools and we're lucky to be in a conference that shows so much speed. We saw Boston College at Knecht Cup, so we're looking forward to seeing them again, We just want to be able to race our fastest race in each boat with no regrets at the end of the day."
Q: The ACC Championships is the last race on the schedule for UNC's seven seniors. What kind of impact have they had on the team and program?
Haney: Those seven seniors have had a large impact on the team, and not only in quantity. We started off the year talking about how we were going to have to do something different this year. This was our year to really make a change. Graduating those seven seniors, we were going to lose a lot of talent, so we've been really focused on making sure this was the year. We have to do it now. That is a testament to those seniors because they do have that ability.
"We're definitely going to miss their leadership, we're going to miss their talent, we're going to miss their speed. And obviously we'll just miss them as people. So it will be a tough trip back from Clemson - there's no doubt about that. But we're trying not to think about that much right now because we have such a big race coming up."