No. 15 Indiana rowing finished in third place out of eight teams at the Big Ten Championships at Eagle Creek in Indianapolis Sunday, highlighted by a second-place finish in the First Varsity Eight race. Both the team and First Varsity Eight results were program-record performances for the conference championships.
Throughout the day, the Hoosiers were consistently fighting with other teams for points in the middle of the pack of races, leading to multiple close finishes decided by tenths of a second.
The narrow finishes started in the opening race of the day as Indiana and Wisconsin battled for third place through the full 2000 meters of the Second Novice Eight race. The Hoosiers closed out strong to edge out the Badgers by 0.262 seconds.
Michigan also eked past Ohio State to win the race by just 0.088 seconds, which ended up being the closest margin of the day. No. 11 Michigan went on to win the Big Ten team title with a score of 174, followed by No. 13 Ohio State in second place with 169.
"It's days like today that show every person in every boat matters, and that's how we were able to achieve our best team result to date," senior Second Novice Eight rower Nicole Killeen said.
In the First Novice Eight race, Indiana found itself on the other side of a narrow final margin as Wisconsin finished 0.542 seconds ahead, preventing the Hoosiers from earning a second podium finish in as many races.
The three Varsity Four races saw Indiana continue its run of consistent finishes with the high mark coming from a bronze finish in the Second Varsity Four heat.
"We knew that, to do well, we needed to stay internal and row our own race," senior Second Varsity Four rower Olivia Seifert said. "We executed that well.”
A fourth-place finish by Indiana in the Second Varsity Eight race — within a second of No. 16 Rutgers in third place — set up a decisive showdown in the final race of the day.
In each of the first six races of the day, Indiana had finished in third, fourth or fifth but needed to beat Rutgers — who had placed top three in all four varsity races to that point — by two places in the First Varsity Eight race to secure a third-place team finish.
Through the first 500 meters of the finale, no boat was able to create significant separation. The top four were all within one second of each other. By the midway point of the race, Michigan began to pull away and would go on to win comfortably. But Rutgers, Ohio State and Indiana continued to struggle gaining any edge over each other. With just 500 meters to go, Rutgers was running in second and held a 1.5 second lead over then-fourth place Indiana.
This left the Hoosiers with a significant amount of ground to make up in the final quarter of the race.
As the three boats raced to the finish line, a sustained push lifted the Hoosiers past both the Scarlet Knights and the Buckeyes in the final 100 meters to help them secure a second-place finish by 0.272 seconds, setting a program record for best First Varsity Eight finish at the Big Ten Championships and tying a program record with three medaling results.
"Each member of each boat gave it their all for every single meter," senior First Varsity Eight rower Ruby Leverington said. "That's why we saw the success we did today, and to do it this way makes it even more special."
The second-place finish alone was not enough to secure a podium team finish for Indiana. A third-place finish by Rutgers would still leave the Scarlet Knights with a slight points edge in the final team standings. However, Indiana got some help from Ohio State as the Buckeyes passed the Scarlet Knights late and took third by 0.394 seconds. Because of the two-place advantage in the final heat of the day, the Hoosiers finished with 137 points to beat the Scarlet Knights’ 131 and earn their first podium finish at the conference championships in program history.
"That finish was a pure example of digging deep and who wanted it more," senior First Varsity Eight rower Laura Feinson said. "I could not be prouder of every single Indiana boat. Everyone's hard work, from varsity to novice, has led to the success and our third-place team finish. It was an amazing day for this team, making history, and a memorable last Big Tens for me.”
In addition to the team’s bronze medal result, four of Indiana’s First Varsity Eight rowers received All-Conference honors — setting another program record. Feinson and senior Piper Maaka were named to the first team and Leverington and freshman Emily Bowden were named to the second team.
Indiana will wait to see if they are selected to compete at the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2019. The field will be announced on the NCAA website at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The competition will take place May 26-28 at Camden County Boathouse in Pennsauken, New Jersey.