East Lansing, Mich. — Michigan State rowing begins it’s 2016 racing season on Saturday morning when the team takes part in the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational, hosted by Louisville on Melton Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

The Spartans are encouraged by tangible improvements throughout the fall and winter training sessions, as well as a strong performance by its varsity eight at the Head of the Charles Regatta last October. MSU has also had the benefit of being on spring break leading up to its first competition, allowing the rowers to practice outdoors in warmer weather and focus nearly solely on fine-tuning timing and technique away from classes and campus life.

Head coach Matt Weise is in his 12th season as the head coach of the Spartans, and 19th overall as a part of the varsity rowing program at his alma mater. Helen Tilghman is beginning her second season on the Spartan staff as the varsity assistant coach, and former MSU coxswainKatie Bitz enters her fourth season as the novice coach.

“These races are to get a gauge of our spring speed. We have spent the week working on our race rhythm and boat line-ups are based on those that have been executing this rhythm most consistently,” said Weise on Friday. “Our team has had a good winter training and has made great strides this week. I am looking forward to seeing them perform this weekend.”

MSU’s roster is led by seven seniors, but only two were in the Spartan varsity eighth that took 10th at the Head of the Charles – Joanna Beatonand coxswain Julianne Calzonetti. Three juniors (Brianna HigginsBrook Edgar, and Lillian Thompson) as well as sophomores Becca Uebele,Nicole Marek, and Taylor Hentgen were also a part of that crew, giving the Spartans not only strong results to build on, but also a different level of experience in handling the emotion and mindset needed in marquee races.

This weekend at Oak Ridge, the Spartans will field six boats – two each varsity eights, varsity fours, and novice eights. MSU’s first race starts at approximately 11 am on Saturday morning, when MSU lines up with Alabama, Kansas, and Oklahoma. MSU is also the final set of races in the Saturday evening session, which will begin for the Spartans at approximately 5 p.m. when they will race Kansas, Notre Dame, and Virginia. Sunday morning racing will start for MSU at 10 am, where the Spartans will race Central Florida, West Virginia, and Big Ten foe Minnesota.

Live results will not be available for this weekend’s racing, but Louisville’s official twitter feed (@uoflrowing) will have updates throughout the day. Racing results can also be found on Row2K.com at the completion of competition.