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Rowing captures sixth consecutive ACC Championship

The No. 3 Virginia rowing team won the ACC Championship Saturday in Clemson, South Carolina, finishing first in all five races and dominating ACC foes, including nationally ranked No. 16 Syracuse, No. 19 Notre Dame and No. 23 Louisville. The conference title is the Cavaliers’ sixth consecutive and 15th in the last 16 years.

In the preliminary heats Friday evening, Virginia shattered the ACC Championship records for all five races — the First Varsity Eight, Second Varsity Eight, Third Varsity Eight, First Varsity Four and Second Varsity Four — besting records all previously set by the Cavaliers.

The First Varsity Eight boat, which was named ACC Crew of the Year, finished first in its heat, breaking its own 2008 record with a time of 6:10.0, and won the final with a time of 6:21.3, seven seconds ahead of Notre Dame and 10 seconds ahead of Syracuse.

The First Varsity Eight consisted of Colette Lucas-Conwell as coxswain, Mackenzi Sherman in stroke, Erin Briggs in 7-seat, Eliza Spilsbury in 6-seat, Georgia Ratcliff in 5-seat, Hemingway Benton in 4-seat, Lizzy Youngling in 3-seat, Sam Casto in 2-seat and Tessa Dikkers in bow.

The Second Varsity Eight set a record time of 6:21.8 in its heat and then finished the final in 6:28.8, beating second-place Louisville (6:33.3) and Notre Dame (6:36.6). They were the third-fastest crew across all grand final races.

Virginia displayed its depth, also winning the Third Varsity Eight race — which was just added to the conference championships last year — and both the First and Second Varsity Fours. The Cavaliers’ Third Eight (6:37.0) defeated Louisville (6:43.7) and Syracuse (6:50.0), while the First Varsity Four finished in 7:12.3, ahead of Notre Dame (7:18.1) and Syracuse (7:20.4). The Second Varsity Four (7:17.0) bested Louisville by 14 seconds and Syracuse by 15 seconds.

The Cavaliers finished with 99 team points. The Fighting Irish finished second with 82, and third-place Syracuse posted 73.

Virginia received numerous ACC honors, announced at the regatta. In addition to the First Varsity Eight’s ACC Crew of the Year recognition, coach Kevin Sauer was named ACC Coach of the Year for the 11th time. Coxswain Hayley LaFleche and rowers Youngling, Chandler Lally and Benton — all seniors — were named first-team All-ACC.

The Cavaliers, in strong form, look to finish their season with a top-notch showing at the NCAA Championships May 29-31 in Gold River, California.