The Michigan State Spartans women’s rowing team for 2021 is best described as young. MSU had 34 athletes competing at the college level for the first time after the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19.
The season opener came with a trip to Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, March 27. The Spartans faced No. 6 Ohio State in both morning and afternoon racing. Additionally, races were also against No. 7 Michigan and Oregon State crews that had received votes in that week’s CRCA National Poll. MSU finished last in each of the day’s races.
Heading back to Ohio this weekend for the Big Ten/ACC Double Dual! pic.twitter.com/SQJDmPG9Xu— Spartan Rowing (@MSURowing) March 29, 2021
The team went right back to Columbus for the next meet as well. This one was the Big Ten/ACC Double Dual, hosted by Ohio State on April 3. The Spartans joined Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio State for the Big Ten teams, while Duke and Virginia represented the ACC. The Spartans again finished last in each race, but head coach Kim Chavers noted the young teams managed to improve their starts and gain valuable experience.
Another race weekend, another trip to Ohio. This time the Spartans were off to Cincinnati for the Big Ten Invitational on April 18. MSU brought four boats for this trip, including two varsity eights, a novice eight, and a varsity four. The event was a big one, with all the teams from the Big Ten in addition to eight other crews from the ACC, SEC and Pac 12.
Saturday morning’s racing saw the second varsity eight finish third, almost eight seconds ahead of Louisville, but four seconds behind Notre Dame, while Iowa got the first place finish. The rest of the days races were fourth place finishes. In Sunday morning’s varsity four race, though, the Spartans managed to squeak in ahead of No. 17 Minnesota at the finish line for third place, but finishing almost 13 second behind second-place finisher Notre Dame.
The one and only race of the season in-state for Michigan State took place April 24 in Ypsilanti against Eastern Michigan. The Spartans beat the in-state foe in seven of eight races on the day. The two teams competed in a regular schedule of 2,000-meter races in the varsity and second varsity eight, varsity four, and novice eight. They remained on the water after the 2,000 meter races to compete in a modified 500-meter sprint race in all four boats.
EMU managed to beat out the Spartans in the second varsity four race, finishing the 500-meter race in 1:58.88 to MSU’s 2:00.89. The novice eight/four varsity 500 meter race saw the MSU novice eight take the win over Eastern Michigan, but the Eagles edged the four varsity team of MSU by 0.84 seconds.
The final regular season races saw a trip to Lake Lemon in Bloomington, Indiana to face the Hoosiers and Minnesota Golden Gophers at the Dale England Cup on May 1. The Spartans managed to beat out Indiana in the second varsity four race in a photo finish, edging the Hoosiers for the win by 0.4 seconds. Indiana and Minnesota beat the Spartans in the other events, with Indiana finishing first in all but the second varsity four race. Minnesota did not compete in the novice eight or second varsity eight races.
The season finale came at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis at the Big Ten Rowing Championship on May 16. The Spartans came in last on the team points board with just 30, finishing in eighth place. Michigan won the conference crown by a wide margin, taking 191 points total, with Ohio State finishing second with 158.
Michigan State managed to take sixth place in the second varsity four, edging out Iowa and Indiana. The novice eight team took seventh place, beating out Rutgers by a wide margin.
Let’s give it up for our All-Big Ten Selections and Sportsmanship Award Winner pic.twitter.com/YDtmMGQlWf— Spartan Rowing (@MSURowing) May 17, 2021
The Spartans did finish the season with Big Ten honors, however. Junior Sarah Flowney of Rochester Hills, Michigan earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. Freshman Maya Albaranes of Vienna, Austria earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. Finally, sophomore Kendall Carlin of Macomb, Michigan earned the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Elbaranes has since been named to Austria’s U-23 Championship team to complete in the Czech Republic later this summer.
The team may be young, and it may have struggled on the water this season, but the Spartans have been working hard to be a welcoming and academic-focused environment as evidenced in the below tweet.
"There's nothing more important than feeling like you have a community where you can be yourself."@MaddieShellgren | @MSURowing— Michigan State Athletics (@MSU_Athletics) April 15, 2021
Hear how MSU Rowing is building a community within their team so everyone feels seen and supported. pic.twitter.com/YCWSklUIje