Bears Varsity 8 Heading Back to NCAA's

NEW LONDON, CONN.--(5/14/12)--For the first time since 2008, the Coast Guard Academy women's crew team is heading to the NCAA Division III Championship as the Bears Varsity 8 received an at-large bid on Monday night.

In 2008, the Bears made history when they became the first Division III at-large eight to make reach the grand final and finished sixth. Coast Guard's best finish since a fifth place finish in 2004.

The championships will be held May 25-27 at Lake Mercer in West Windsor, N.J., with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Rider serving as hosts.

"This has been our goal for four years ," said head coach Jen Meuse in her fourth season. "I am so proud that we kept working toward the goal of an NCAA bid. Each year they picked up where they left off the year before and our theme this year has been one step at a time, I couldn't be happier and now we have the opportunity to race against the best the crews on the national stage."

The championships are comprised of six teams and each team is required to field two boats of eight rowers and a coxswain. Those six teams are Bates, Marietta, Trinity, NEWMAC champion Wellesley, Williams and William Smith.

Coast Guard, which finished second at the NEWMAC championship this season for the second straight season, and Puget Sound were named as the two at-large eights.

The Bears, ranked fifth nationally, return to the NCAA Championships for the sixth time. The team earned three straight berths in 2003, 2004 and 2005. In 2003, the Bears Varsity Eight captured the bronze and the team brought home the NCAA 4th place finish team trophy. In 2004 the Bears placed fifth while finishing eighth in 2005 and 2007.

The varsity eight consists of six seniors; coxswain Julianna Harvin, Sarah Jane Otey, Holly Madden, Tiffany Zehnle, Erin Nolan and Kelli Normoyle along with juniors Jess Ward and Catherine Schmitz and freshman Brynna Cooke.

Otey, a CRCA All-American, was a member of the 2008 varsity 8 which competed at the NCAA championships. Otey is a four-year All-conference selection while Madden is a two-time All-NEWMAC selection after both earned NEWMAC honors this year.