Sunday, April 25, 2004

Seton graduate Becca Brinker part of top-ranked Ohio State rowing team

College update

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After getting lost on the way to the first team meeting, Becca Brinker assumed her future as an Ohio State rower was doomed and her prospects as a college athlete were over.

Oh well, sighed the former Seton track runner and softball player. What did she know about rowing, anyway?

"Not a clue. I took a flier about it and honestly, the reason I was interested was because it was the only sport that was free," Brinker said, laughing. "And I wanted to stay involved with sports after high school."

New to the campus and unfamiliar with buildings - "I had my map out and everything," she said - Brinker missed the rowing meeting but made it to the second, and four years later she's part of the top-ranked program in the nation. Following upsets of Princeton and Brown, Ohio State is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. Rowing/CRCA Division I Varsity Eight Coaches Poll.

What Brinker learned early was that Ohio State races four boats at the varsity level. The top eight rowers, or "first string," fills the First Varsity Eight boat. The next best rowers are the Second Varsity Eight, followed by the First Varsity Four and the Second Varsity Four. Brinker is in the bow position, or last rower, for the First Varsity Four.

The national ranking is solely based on the achievements of the First Varsity Eight, but their success indicates a rich roster throughout the program.

"We're excited to have a first-eight that's No. 1 in the country. It gives us something to strive for," Brinker said.

The team has some of the world's best talent, from Cincinnati to Sydney, Australia. Brinker, a senior, is joined by juniors and Notre Dame Academy graduates Laureen Ellison and Maggie Kathman. Walnut Hills alum Katie Machingo is also on the varsity squad but has not competed.

Ellison and Kathman, who rowed together in the Cincinnati Junior Rowing Club, propel the Second Varsity Eight Boat.

Not many rowers on the 35-member roster were walk-ons like Brinker. One hundred girls tried out for the team when she was a freshman. Fifty made it. Sixteen stayed through the first season in a novice program that taught the basics. Four, including Brinker, transitioned to varsity.

"She wasn't a standout when she was first on varsity. She just kept rowing," said coach Andy Teitelbaum. "That she had never rowed before she got here wasn't rare, but she (has become) impressive."

The physical demands of the varsity team were worse than Brinker imagined. After learning the sport as a freshman, including the positions and strategies, she graduated to two-a-day practices.

She still came back during the year to prepare for her annual job at Kings Island, and even debated leaving school when her mother, Carol, was diagnosed with cancer between her sophomore and junior years. Brinker stuck with rowing, and now that her mother is in remission, she's glad she did.

"(Rowing) has been the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," Brinker said. "And it's been the best experience."


Xavier junior center fielder Jay Johnson (Dixie Heights) was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Week after Xavier won its first Atlantic 10 series of the year over the weekend, taking two of three games from Duquesne. Johnson led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a homer to break a 6-all tie and give the Musketeers the edge for a 7-6 win over Duquesne on Sunday.

Bellarmine University named sophomore midfielder Danielle Polce (Loveland) Offensive Player of the Year for women's soccer. Newcomer of the Year honors went to Erin Strouse (Anderson).

Miami junior catcher John Slone (St. Xavier) was named Mid-American Conference East Player of the Week after leading the RedHawks with a .615 batting average in three games against Wright State and Buffalo.

Miami junior Jackie Poggendorf was named the Mid-American Conference East Pitcher of the Week after leading the RedHawks to a 2-1 record at Marshall. She held the league's top-hitting team to eight hits and one earned run in 14 innings.

Capital University junior Robert Caress (Princeton) was named Ohio Athletic Conference Men's Tennis Player of the Week after going 3-0 last week at No. 1 singles and staying undefeated in Ohio Athletic Conference play (6-0). He helped lead the Crusaders to a season-best three-match win streak. He and doubles partner Jeff Good are 13-4 overall (6-0 OAC) at No. 1 doubles.

Cincinnati Bearcats senior guard Valerie King was named Most Outstanding Player at the women's basketball banquet. King concluded her career as the second-leading scorer in UC women's history and the fourth in Conference USA annals. Senior Brittani Young won her fourth Best Defensive Player Award.



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