When the Navy women's varsity eight crossed the line behind Patriot League Varsity 8 champion Boston University, their second varsity and varsity four had won their respective races only 10 and 20 minutes before them, and the V8 had no idea how their teammates had placed. The Navy V8 had come into the final 250 in third behind BU and MIT, but pulled up into second in the final strokes, and were understandably a bit spent.
At the finish line nearby, their teammates had a clue though, having won both the 2V8 and V4 just minutes earlier, but they were waiting for official word before saying anything; when word came, a big group of Midshipwomen ran along the shore toward the varsity.
"I knew that we had fought back into second, and I knew we weren't going to take it from from BU," Navy V8 bow seat and senior Julia Arthur said. "But I had every faith in our other two boats, and then I saw my teammates running on land… and it was not a sad run. I leaned to my pair partner, and I said 'Those girls look really happy.' And they just started screaming, we won, and you got second, so we won! And I just started crying."
Back on land, after racing in the bow seat of the four, Aria Dang had put her boat away, and was turning her attention to the racing.
"Our coach told us that first or second would win it, so when they were coming down, we were just thinking 'Please go faster!'" she said.
They did, and Navy pulled off a threepeat at the top of the Patriot League, earning their third consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships. Threepeats are tough, and Navy did it in unusual fashion, with one under previous Navy coach Mike Hughes, and two more with Joe Schlosberg, who also introduced a change in rowing style this year.
"The technique that we're using is more gather at the finish, and then holding the body in the bow while the hands are moving out," four-member and senior Olivia Czerewko said. "Instead of slowing down the slide into the catch, slowing down the slide, we’re increasing speed into the catch, and we’re holding bodies in back. Re-teaching an entire program a new stroke, but coming into the spring we were ready to do it not just on steady state but also applying that technique at the higher ratings."
Not to mention that Navy rowed the V8 final with a sheared rigger pin last year, and it has been an eventful run for the Navy women.
"Two years ago we won beating Bucknell by .3 seconds right at the line, and we won all three events," recalled Arthur, who has been in the V8 for all three championships. "It was a remarkable feeling to know that every crew had gunned it. Then last year in Worcester when the pin sheared, we rowed with seven and a half people, and we crossed the line second.
"This year to gut it through and to take back second, my favorite part about it is that it shows that you need every girl and every part of the team. You need the girl in the third four pushing the second four, them pushing the first four, and the first four pushing the second eight, and the second eight gunning for that first eight spot; because it's not just about the 1V."
In the end, the Midshipwomen see rowing and their mission at the Naval Academy almost as one thing. Captain Madison Vachris, who rowed in the four, said that for the seniors, "winning is part of it, but becoming the best people we can be is our goal, and we try to use rowing as a tool for that so we can be the best officers and Marines. I think our success over the past three years is a testament to continuing to strive for a strong legacy and passing that torch on to those behind us."
"In terms of leadership for the Marine Corps, this team has taught me commitment and selflessness at the highest level," she said. "That is really what I am going to take away from this - on top of a nice Patriot League win."
The boathouse is somewhat known as a bit of respite for Academy students, even on hard days.
"No matter what, you can come to the boathouse at 15:30 every day after having the worst day ever, and no matter what the workout is, even if it is terrible, you always leave the boathouse feeling better than when you came in," Varkas said. "You think, wow, I did that hard workout, that was great; a great practice with the best people."
"We are aggressively best friends," Arthur concluded.
Boston University Win the Varsity Eight
With the team trophy and the NCAA invite going to the points winner, Boston University had to settle for winning the V8, a repeat for them as well.
"This was tough for the crew, because they really want to compete at NCAAs, but more than anything but they want these two weeks together," BU coach Stacey Rippetoe said. "It's those two weeks, it's representing yourself on the national stage; but they love BU, they love the team, and they want some more time together.
"But for sure for the varsity, it feels good to do your job. That’s really the bottom line; it feels good to come through. We started off a little slower this season than we would have liked, and for them to be able to come through in the end when it counts, it's good."
The BU Women's 1V was named the 2017 Patriot League Boat of the Year, while MIT coach Holy Metcalf was voted 2017 Coach of the Year.
1. Navy 51 points
2. Boston University 46 points
3. Georgetown 36 points
4. Bucknell 34 points
5. MIT 33 points
t-6. Lehigh 26 points
t-6. Holy Cross 26 points
8. Colgate 11 points
9. Loyola Maryland 7 points