As the varsity eights lined up to cap off the 2018 MAAC Championship, the points race for the NCAA automatic qualifier spot showed only three points separating leader Jacksonville from Marist – the same number of points separating first from second in the V8 final. Without getting into the math too much, if Jacksonville won, they were champs; if Marist won over Jacksonville, it would be a tie – with the V8 being the tiebreaker and the AQ going to Marist.
And then the crews made it interesting, producing a tight race that came down to the final 500 before Jacksonville eked out a 1.7 second lead at the finish for the championship and the trip to NCAAs.
"Marist has been pushing us all year long," Jacksonville head coach Mike Lane said. "At the Head Of The Charles they beat us in the four, and all spring long we were really competitive with them in terms of watching results against similar competition, and then when we raced them here a few weeks ago at the Cherry Hill Invite. Then after this morning's heats, we knew it was going to be really competitive."
So what made the difference?
"I've been at JU for three years, and this is the best team I've had at JU so I felt good going into the day, but I know that Marist really wants to win it," he said. "From the athletes' standpoint, being here before and being in this position before I think really benefited us today, and I think you saw that in the last 500 meters. Before they launched, they told me they were taking it, and they did."
After a few 18-hour drives north to New Jersey this spring, Jacksonville gets to stay in state for the NCAAs, where they will focus on ticking their way up the ranks of NCAA crews.
"Our goal is to always be more and more competitive and raise the bar for the MAAC Conference at NCAAs," Lane said. "We've done that every year; every year we've gotten a little bit closer, so our goal this year was to go to NCAA and let's beat a boat. In the 1V, 2V, V4, let's beat a boat and start working our way down the top 20. It just takes time, and every year we've gotten faster."
JU repeated as conference champs