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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- After leading the Duke women's rowing team to first-place finishes in the Championship 8+ and Championship 4+ on Saturday, Duke senior Emily Theys and sophomore Claire Vannelli teamed up to win the Open 2- on day two of the Head of the Hooch.

Theys and Vannelli dominated a field of 44 entries that included boats from Louisville, Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee, finishing with a time of 19:26.3 that was over 40 seconds faster than second-place finisher Louisville (20:12.9). The win came one day after the Blue Devils won the Championship 8+ and the Championship 4+.

"This is a great ending to our fall season," head coach Robyn Horner said. "We have a lot of work to do over the winter, but we're excited to move the program forward."

Theys, who last season earned All-ACC and All-South Region honors for the second straight year, saw the three victories as the culmination of an intense fall training period.

"We've really prepared differently this year," Theys said. "Every practice we've taken full advantage of, and we never rested on our laurels, even when we're warming up. We're looking to take every chance we can to get better in the winter and going into the spring. Everyone's taking every stroke like it's our last one. It really makes a huge difference."

Theys has been a fixture of Duke's varsity 8 since her freshman year. Last season, she - joined by Vannelli, who was a freshman at the time - helped the Blue Devils place third in the varsity 8 at the ACC Championships. She and Vannelli return for the 2012-13 season as key member of a varsity 8 that returns five rowers from 2011-12.

"I've accepted the challenge of being a senior leader," Theys said. "I enjoy being able to show the others how I was in their place when I was a freshman, and I think the freshmen have an opportunity to push us forward. If I can teach them anything, whether it's how to have a strong mindset or how to prepare right, it will be a great takeaway."

Theys noted that ending the fall season on a high note is important in keeping momentum heading into the spring season, which begins with a race against Clemson and Northeastern on March 9 in Clemson, S.C. Even as a senior, however, Theys has set her sights not only on her final season but on the years to come as Horner continues to build a Duke rowing program that is in its 14th year of existence and in a conference that includes reigning NCAA Champion Virginia.

"Our goal is to get to NCAAs this year," Theys said. "But for the freshmen, they're going to build on that as they go through the program. Maybe for them, the goal is eventually to win NCAAs."


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