Reed City grad is a Big Ten champion

ANN ARBOR — April Newberry played five sports in high school and amazingly, not one of them is the one in which she is a Division 1 athlete.

The Reed City graduate recently was crowned a Big Ten champion after the University of Michigan captured the women’s rowing title in Indianapolis.

Newberry got interested in rowing when she first arrived in Ann Arbor. Standing 5-foot, 10 1/2-inches tall, her height was a major asset for the sport and attracted interest from the coaches, who recruit by trying to find as many athletes  as possible through the novice program.

Newberry earned a spot on the novice team and had hopes of making the varsity boats beginning her sophomore year. Newberry did, making the fourth boat for both her sophomore and junior years.

“I made the novice team and that is when I fell in love with the sport,” Newberry said. “It’s something that I haven’t experienced in any other sport. It is such as team sport, we you have concentrate on pulling for my teammates and the block M.”

Entering this season, Newberry had the goal of rowing for the second varsity eight boat for Michigan — a team of eight girls to go along with the coxswain, who sits at the front of the boat giving directions.

Newberry reached that goal and had a banner season.

Newberry and her second boat teammates have not lost a meet all season, including defeating Ohio State, which was seeded No. 1 in the Big Ten championships, in the Big Ten championship.

“I don’t know if that was our goal exactly,” Newberry said about going undefeated. “We did have the goal of winning the Big Ten.”

Scoring in a race is determined by the race itself, the number of boats and where a team finishes in the race, much like a track meet. The first varsity boat is worth more points than the second varsity boat all the way down to the fourth boat.

As Newberry and her teammates won the Big Ten championship by open water (no connection with another boat and is rare in rowing), she knew the team was in good position to win its first title since 2004.

As the first varsity boat crossed the finish line in the 2,000 meter race, Newberry and the Wolverines began to celebrate.

“We honestly didn’t know if we won until the first varsity boat crossed the finish line, it was that close,” Newberry said.

By virtue of winning the Big Ten, Michigan qualified for the NCAA championships last weekend in New Jersey, where only three boats will be scored instead of the four that it usually competes with. With classes completed and graduating with a  degree in Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Science,  Newberry and her teammates are practicing twice a day.

The goals remained the same in the 16-team national championship, Newberry said.

“Ultimately, we want to win,” she said. “We are going there to being named national champions, we just have to perform on race day.”


Meanwhile, the No. 2-ranked Michigan women's rowing team earned a runner-up finish and rowed to a 2V8 national championship on Sunday (May 27) in the final day of the 2012 NCAA Championships on Mercer Lake. It would the second time in school history that Michigan earned a 2V8 national title and ties the highest overall team finish for the Wolverines.

The varsity four was the first event of the day for the Wolverines and the boat finished in sixth place in the petite final and 12th place overall, earning five points in the standings for the team.

After more than an hour rain delay, racing resumed and Michigan's 2V8 boat was next up. Needing a win to keep the Wolverines realistically within striking distance for the team title, U-M's second varsity crew blew the field away from start to finish to close the season unbeaten. Michigan took an early lead in the 2V grand final and held strong for a near two-second victory over second-place Ohio State. The win put Michigan within five points of the championship heading into the 1V8 grand final.

Michigan entered the 1V8 event needing a win and a third-or-worse finish by Cal to clinch the first team title in program history. Virginia rowed to an impressive boat-length victory to clinch the national title for the Cavaliers. Michigan finished the 1V race in second place and helped U-M earn a runner-up finish in the overall team competition. It marks the second time in program history that the Wolverines have finished in second place overall.