On Sunday, No. 5 Rutgers rowing finished a program best third at the 2021 Big Ten Championships at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Indiana. In a field of eight schools that included six ranked programs, including four in the top ten nationally, No. 6 Michigan won its second consecutive Big Ten title and seventh overall. The Wolverines had 191 team points, which was the second highest team total in Big Ten Championships history after winning six of seven races.
The Scarlet Knights produced its best team finish, points, medals and all-conference selections since joining the conference in the 2015 season. Five different boats produced best ever finishes at the Big Ten Championships with all of them earning medals in the process.
Rutgers won a silver medal for second place finish in the 1st Varsity 8, the final race of the event. The Varsity 8 boat had entered the Big Ten Championships with its only blemish on the season being a split second defeat to No. 3 Virginia in April. RU had beaten Michigan for the first time ever in that same race by just over half a second with a time of 6:33.760, but the Wolverines won Sunday’s race by 1.4 seconds after both boats finished much faster than they did in April. Michigan won the Big Ten Championship race with a time of 6:25.744 while Rutgers finished at 6:27.184 to win its first ever medal.
After such a strong performance in the marquee race, the 1st Varsity 8 crew had four members earn All-Conference honors. Emma Hopkins and Luisa Neerschulte were selected First Team All-Big Ten, while Olivia Maxton and Femke Paulis were selected Second Team All-Big Ten. It was the first time the four Scarlet Knights made all-conference teams.
The 3rd Varsity 4 boat also produced its best ever finish in second place at 7:38.576, over 13 seconds ahead of third place finisher Wisconsin.
Three boats earned bronze medals for Rutgers, including the 2nd Varsity 8 that finished just 0.8 seconds behind second place finisher Ohio State. The 1st Varsity 4 earned its first ever Big Ten medal, while the 2nd Varsity 4 won a medal for the second straight time at the conference championships.
Kathleen Butler earned the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner from Rutgers.
“Today was a big day for our team as we continue to make significant improvements as a program,” said head coach Justin Price. “It was great to see all five varsity events on the podium and I am really proud of the work done by those athletes to put them in that position today. It was a tough day for some of our younger athletes in the Novice 8, but I am proud of how they responded and know that today will only help build the resilience and grit that will help them compete for spots on the podium in the future.”
This is the third consecutive program best finish at the Big Ten Championships under Price, who led Rutgers to a seventh place finish in 2018 and a fourth place finish in 2019. The event was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19. For perspective, the 2019 team finished with 107 points and two medals, while the 2021 team finished with 143 points and five medals.
Here are the final standings of the Big Ten Championships:
No. 6 Michigan 191
No. 7 Ohio State 158
No. 5 Rutgers 143
No. 20 Wisconsin 116
No. 9 Indiana 87
No. 15 Minnesota 80
Michigan State 30
The focus now turns to the 2021 NCAA Championships taking place from May 28-30 at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida. The event only includes the 1st Varsity 8, 2nd Varsity 8, and 1st Varsity 4 crews. All three of those boats medaled at the Big Ten Championships for Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights finished in 11th place at the NCAA Championships in 2019, which was the program’s first appearance in 18 years. The field for the 2021 NCAA Championships will be announced today at 5 p.m. ET and RU is a lock to earn a at-large berth. I’ll update this post once the field is officially announced.