Men's Pair Makes Grand Final at IRA National Championships

May 31, 2003

CAMDEN, NJ (May 31) -- Loyola's men's varsity pair of senior Mike Ferguson and sophomore Will Farrell became the first Greyhound rowers to reach a grand final at the annual Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) championships, placing sixth in the championship race against rowing powers Wisconsin, Princeton and Cornell on the Cooper River.

Rowing into a slight headwind, Farrell and Ferguson finished in a time of 7:22.75 in the grand final. Wisconsin won the event in a time of 7:08.60. Loyola's time was more than 12 seconds better than UCLA, the winner of the petite final race that was held immediately prior to the grand final. The Greyhounds had defeated UCLA by just 3.6 seconds the day before to earn a place in the championship race.

"We're very pleased with our finish and hope to improve our presence at the IRA meet next year," says Loyola head coach Al Ramirez. "We know that the returning rowers are set on improving over the summer so that we can have an even better performance next season."

The pair, who had won the bronze medal in the pairs event at the Dad Vails Regatta three weeks earlier, finished third a Thursday heat that featured Wisconsin, Cornell, Princeton, Lehigh and William & Mary. Farrell and Ferguson's time of 7:23.9 was the sixth fastest time of the day overall and gave the Greyhounds an excellent lane assignment for Friday's second round.

Friday, Farrell and Ferguson clinched a grand final berth by winning their second round heat. The pair made an all-out sprint to gain the lead at the start and held on at the end to defeat the Bruin pair by just less than four seconds.

"Our strategy in Friday's heat was to get first--ensuring our place in the medal round," said Ramirez. "We got enough of a lead that UCLA could never damage our position and were able to win despite being a little bit spent by the end of the race."

Farrell and Ferguson then had an outstanding final 1500 meters in Saturday's grand final race, coming within four seconds of St. Mary's fifth-place time of 7:18.51.

The grand final appearance marked the Loyola program's best finish the IRA meet, the unofficial national championship of men's rowing. In 1999, the Greyhound pair of Doug Sanford and Rich Bounds finished first in the petite final--in 7th place overall.