row2k Features
The ROWed to the NCAA's
April 12, 2018
Max Borghard

The 2018 spring season for women's rowing has been well underway for several weeks now as teams are competing for conference titles and gaining one of the 22 spots for the NCAA Rowing Championships.

The 11 rowing conferences each get one Automatic Qualifier spots by winning their conference points championship, except for the Ivy League whose AQ goes to the Varsity Eight winner. The other 11 At-Large spots must demonstrate good boat speed during the season that is worthy of making the NCAA's. When racing out of conference, those are keys times to help not only your own school, but also to help the conference garnering multiple bids.

The best way to figure out who has the inside track on the 11 At-Large bids, look at the top 16 schools ranked in the CRCA ranking poll. With five of the top 16 likely winning AQ spots, the rest will be battling for the At-Large bids.

This coming weekend there will be two major regattas taking place where top crews will be facing off against one another to move toward clarifying the field: the Clemson Invite will be hosting 21 schools over a two-day event; meanwhile on the west coast the Lake Natoma Invitational will be hosting about 10 of the top crews also over two days creating great competition.

Let's go around the rowing leagues.

Pac 12

2017 Conference winner: Washington

2017 NCAA bids for the conference: 4

Last season Washington went from winning their first Pac 12 conference title since 2003 to sweeping the 2017 NCAA events, a first in NCAA rowing history. Cal was the runnerup to Washington both at the Pac 12 and the NCAA championships. These two powerhouses are looking to lead the charge again as Washington is ranked #1 and Cal #2.

Washington raced against in-state rival Washington St #15 as the Huskies swept all events against a good Washington St squad who also made the NCAA's in 2017. Meanwhile Cal also started fast with wins in all their events at the San Diego Crew Classic one weekend, then wins over Michigan St #18, Iowa #11 and Louisville the following weekend. Stanford #7(tied) also raced in the Pac 12 Challenge, and showed why the Pac 12 is a strong and deep conference as they too swept Michigan St, Iowa and Louisville.

USC #14 who is looking to return to the NCAA's as they missed out in 2017 were able to win the V8 and 2V8 against Louisville and Michigan St before getting swept by Iowa. UCLA and Oregon St round out the conference where they squared off early in the season where OSU to the V8 event and UCLA won the rest of the day.

Big 12

2017 Conference winner: Texas

2017 NCAA bids for the conference: 1

Texas (#3 nationally) have dominated the conference for the last several years and are not only looking to repeat as Big 12 champions, but are looking to be NCAA champions. At the San Diego Crew Classic, the Longhorns ran second to Cal in the three NCAA events before traveling to Virginia the following weekend where they raced in the Big 12 double dual, at which Texas swept all of their events against West Virginia and Old Dominion. Oklahoma #20 have had pretty good speed the last few years and they look like they are poised to close the gap on Texas from a year ago and make a run at the NCAA's.

Ivy League

2017 Conference winner: Brown

2017 NCAA bids for the conference: 3

At last year's Ivy Championships, Brown took the points title with their notorious depth and Princeton took the Varsity Eight event which gave them the AQ. This spring, Princeton #4 and Brown #9 got right back to squaring off along with Big Ten opponent Michigan #6 on March 24. To show how fierce the competition is these days, each school won one of the three NCAA events. Looking like they are in mid-season form, Princeotn took the Varsity Eight, Brown with their depth took the 2V8, and Michigan who was in the hunt in all the races took the Varsity Four in the closest race of the day.

Moving to last weekend's racing, Princeton played host the other six Ivy League schools as four of the traditional cup races took place in one day. Yale #7 (tied) took care of business in both sessions in sweeping Penn, Dartmouth #19 and Columbia in the morning session and Cornell and Columbia in the afternoon session. Princeton meanwhile followed suit by winning all their races against Harvard-Radcliffe #13 and Cornell in the morning racing, then Dartmouth, Harvard-Radcliffe and Penn in the afternoon.

Yale and Princeton, who didn't match up this past weekend, will have a major showdown this coming weekend. Brown, who was off this past weekend, will certainly be moving their lineups around and with their depth, they are always a threat to win the Varsity Eight event. Harvard-Radcliffe is looking to push back into the top three, as they had close races with Brown in the V8 and 2V8 two weeks ago while Penn and Dartmouth are also looking to contend. Penn last year had a strong finish at the Ivy League Championships taking fourth in all three NCAA events. Dartmouth had a good showing this past weekend with their V8 falling to Penn and Yale in the morning but coming back in the afternoon to beat Harvard-Radcliffe and Penn in the afternoon.

Big Ten

2017 Conference winner: Ohio State

2017 NCAA bids for the conference: 4

Ohio State #5 has been leading the charge the last several years winning Big Ten and NCAA titles. On March 24, the Buckeyes traveled to the Cooper River taking on Yale, who won the V8 in a close race while Ohio State swept the rest of the events. In the afternoon session, The Buckeyes made it a clean sweep over Harvard-Radcliffe.

The following weekend, Ohio St and Virginia squared off in one of the tightest races in the early season with Ohio St taking the win by 0.6 seconds. The Ohio St also took the 2V8 and V4, which made for an undefeated weekend as they swept Clemson in the second session. Meanwhile, last season, Michigan #6 came within one point of winning the Big Ten Championships and are looking to finish the job this season. The Wolverines had a good showing in the early season and Michigan was able to knock off Virginia in the V8 in another close race as well as winning the V4.

Last year, the Big Ten had five teams qualify for the NCAA's and this season the conference is looking even deeper in the early going with six teams currently ranked in the top 20. Iowa #11 qualified for their first NCAA's in 2017 and they are showing everyone they have arrived as a program. Last weekend, the Hawkeyes traveled to the west coast having a good showing against Cal and Stanford keeping the races close. On the third round of racing, they were matched up against USC #14 and took all three races in very competitive racing.

At the Big Ten double dual, Iowa won all their races against Michigan St #18 and took the V8 against Michigan before dropping the 2V8 and V4 to the Wolverines. Additionally Indiana #16 had two tight races in the V8 against Michigan and Michigan St, coming up short by about two seconds. Indiana did win the V4 event against Michigan St for their other win.

One week earlier at the Doc Hosea Regatta, Indiana won the V8 and V4 events while placing 4th in the 2V8. Two other Big Ten schools were there with a strong showing from Rutgers, finishing 4th in the V8 and the V4. Minnesota also made the trip, finishing 2nd in the 2V8 Two other Big Ten open The other ranked school, Wisconsin #12 were to host the other half of the Big Ten double duals, but Mother Nature had other plans. Wisconsin did open their season with a sweep over Central Florida and Miami. The following weekend, the Badgers had a solid performance finishing second to Yale at the Cardinal Invite.


2017 Conference winner: Virginia

2017 NCAA bids for the conference: 3

The ACC conference has been ruled by Virginia #10 for a few years but Syracuse #17 has been gaining on the Cavaliers over the last two seasons. Virginia had this past weekend off after three weeks of racing to start the season, and last raced Ohio St and Michigan on the Griggs River in Ohio. The varsity dropped two very tight races but split the races in the 2V8. Syracuse in the meantime opened their season at the Doc Hosea Regatta on the Cooper River and had a strong showing finishing third in the V8, first in the 2V8 and sixth in the four. Both Syracuse and Virginia will be heading to the Clemson Invite this coming weekend. Stay tuned!

The past several seasons, heading into the conference championship weekend, the "bubble" teams to make the NCAA's have come from ACC. Last year Duke, Notre Dame, and Louisville were looking for that great race day and the Fighting Irish rose to that occasion finishing second in the V8 and third overall to punch their ticket. This year the all three of these school are currently sitting outside the top 20 but can elevate themselves this weekend as they will also be meeting in Clemson.

Atlantic 10

2017 Conference winner: UMass

2017 NCAA bids for the conference: 1

The Atlantic 10 has been a two-school faceoff with UMass and URI. Last season it was the Minutemen took the championship and the AQ to the NCAA's. In the early season these two school met at the Doc Hosea Regatta where the Rhodies had the upper hand beating UMass in the V8 and 2V8. GW finished third at the A10's last season and last weekend went up against URI at the GW Invite. URI finished ahead of GW by a length, while Drexel finish first by a half a second. In the 2V8, URI won the event by a bowball over Drexel and GW ¾ of a length back. GW and UMass will match up this coming weekend at the Knecht Cup.


2017 Conference winner: UCF

2017 NCAA bids for the conference: 1

UCF, winners of last season championship, already faced off with runner-up Tulsa last weekend in Florida, racing once on Friday and again on Saturday at the Sunshine State Invitational. Tulsa came out firing on all cylinders, winning the V8 over UCF and finishing second in the 2V8, ahead of UCF. In the V4, UCF finished second ahead of Tulsa.

The next day was a new day for racing and UFC had turned the tables on Tulsa winning both the V8 and the 2V8.

On the other coast San Diego St and Sac St met in the finals of the Varsity Cal Cup in the Crew Classic where San Diego St won by open water against Sac St.


2017 Conference winner: Northeastern

2017 NCAA bids for the conference: 1

The Huskies from Northeastern have been a solid program through the years, and they took home another conference title in 2017. Drexel, the runner up to Northeastern last season, will line up against Northeastern in late April at the Eastern Sprint in Worcester, MA. Both schools have narrowly beaten URI (of the Atlantic 10) in the V8, foreboding a tight race at the end of the season as well.

One footnote for this conference is they will be racing five schools this year after Buffalo dropped their program. The conference has a waiver for two years to return to the minimum six schools to qualify for the AQ status for the NCAA's.

Patriot League

2017 Conference winner: Navy

2017 NCAA bids for the conference: 1

This conference is the one league where anything can happen. Last year, Boston won the V8 but it was Navy who won the conference by finishing second in the V8 and winning the 2V8 and the V4. Those two schools did compete at the Doc Hosea Regatta, where Navy finished ahead of the Terriers in all three NCAA events. At the Cooper Cup, Navy won the V8 and 2V8 events ahead of in-conference Bucknell.

West Coast

2017 Conference winner: Gonzaga

2017 NCAA bids for the conference: 1

Coming off 2017 Gonzaga are hoping to repeat, and they have loaded up their schedule with strong competition. The Zags competed at the San Diego Crew Classic and had a good showing beating conference rival University of San Diego. Both schools will be competing at the Lake Natoma Invite this coming weekend.


2017 Conference winner: Jacksonville

2017 NCAA bids for the conference: 1

Jacksonville saw some good action this weekend in the Sunshine State Invitational, finishing sixth out of eight schools on the first day. Marist, racing up north in completely opposite weather, won the President's Cup on Saturday and came back on Sunday to win the Cooper Invitational. These two schools won't see each other until the day of the finals of the MAAC.


Washington, Michigan and Texas @ Las Vegas, NV Lake Natoma Invitational Clemson Invite Yale and Iowa @ Princeton

Division 2

Last year, we saw the return of Western Washington (WWU) to grab the 2017 NCAA title over Central Oklahoma by one point. While Central Oklahoma (UCO) was the runner up for the second year in a row, it was Western Washington’s eighth national title, and both schools would be heavy favorites to grab one of the four team-bids that are available for the Division 2 schools in women’s rowing. Those four teams will be racing in the Varsity Eight and the Varsity Four to compete for the NCAA title, while two more school receive at At-Large bid for the Varsity Eight event only and don’t count towards any team points. Mercyhurst and UC San Diego (UCSD) were the two schools to receive team bids for the 2017 NCAA’s, while Barry and Florida Tech were the two At-Large eights.

The 2018 season started for UCO against Tulsa with an in-state tussle on a windy day. D1 team Tulsa won comfortably, but it was good race experience for OCU to see some faster competition. Central Oklahoma followed up with a solid performance by winning the V8 and V4 against Humboldt State and Nova Southeastern, which vaulted UCO from the #5 spot in the polls to #1. This sets up a great match this weekend as UCO travels to Seattle to take on WWU #4.

At the Pacific Lutheran (PLU) Invite WWU took the V8 over PLU and University of Puget Sound, while winning one of the two 2V8 events. At the Husky Open, WWU won the V8 over Seattle Pacific by a length and was second to Portland in the 2V8.

UCSD #2 kicked off their season at the San Diego Crew Classic by winning the D2/D3/Club event for the V8, besting Purdue ad Grand Valley. In the V4 event, UCSD took second to the University of Calgary. At the Berg Cup race in Newport, UCSD finished second to LMU in the Varsity 4 before having the V8 getting fogged out.

Mercyhurst traveled to Pennsylvania to race host Lehigh, Jefferson and Lafayette. In the V8 race, Lehigh was victorious by a length over Mercyhurst with Jefferson a close third. Lafayette was overlapping as well, as the racing was tight most of race. These great side-by-side races are so valuable as the rowers learn so much about themselves.

Barry #5 and FIT #3 met up on Canal 54 along with Columbia, who won all the races. FIT did manage to defeat Barry in the V8 but Barry came back and beat FIT in the V4. Both crews will met up again in Benderson Park to race the FIRA’s. The V8 was won by FIT and Barry second with a tighter margin between those two. Barry did repeat winning the V4 by a comfortable margin. Look for Barry to shuffle their lineup around to step up to FIT’s boat speed in the V8. And of course, they meet again in two week in Oak Ridge.

There will be some good racing going on in the D2 ranks and I have a feeling after this weekend, rankings may get shuffled again.

Races to watch: UCSD / LMU / San Diego St @ Marina Del Ray CA OCU / WW / SPU @ Seattle WA

Division 3

Last year the NCAA Championships for Division 3 saw Bates College take the title over Williams by one point, and Wellesley finishing third just another four points back. With Bates winning the last two out of three NCAA titles, Wellesley being the 2016 NCAA Champs, and Williams having won nine NCAA titles, these three schools are certainly the powerhouses in this division.

The NCAA "team" for the D3 schools consists of two eights from each school, with a big format change this year as a complex system of team and at-large bids has been replaced by eight full team bids (ed. note: we outlined the old selection system in the original posting of this article).

This past weekend, Bates #1 won both the V8 and 2V8 in Worcester in a seven-school event. The runner up in both eights race was #5 Hamilton, with Hamilton’s V8 finishing 2 seconds off the winning crew. Finishing third in the event was #11 Pacific Lutheran. Meanwhile in Boston, Williams #3 took the V8 event over MIT-lights and Wellesley #2 by a touch of open water. In the 2V8, it was a barn-burner type race with Wellesley winning by a half a deck over Williams.

The following day in Worcester, Wesleyan #2 swept both the V8 and 2V8 over PLU and WPI #7. Over in Rochester, Ithaca #4 defeated RIT #6 in a double-dual format and Ithaca is looking to push into the top three in pursuit of their third NCAA title, last won in 2005. These crews tend to race each other quite a bit and it will be interesting to see who can sustain their boat speed in the second half of the season and the run up to the NCAAs.


Collegiate lightweight women’s rowing is certainly different than the rest of collegiate rowing. First, the championship is held at the IRA’s which had been a men’s event for over 100 years, and it's great seeing the lights have a home to race for a national title. Secondly, unlike the lightweight men who have most of the schools in the northeast, the lightweight women are spread from coast to coast.

This allowed the lightweight crews to go up against the open weight without traveling too far to fill out their schedule. This has caused the lightweight schools to work hard at developing their sport, and one thing they have done is to incorporate a sculling event at their championship race.

In 2017 the Stanford Cardinals won all three events (eight, four and double) to win their third title in a row and seventh overall. Boston took second place narrowly ahead of third place Wisconsin. This season Stanford #1 first hosted Princeton #2 at the Redwood Shores. Princeton, who has been gaining speed over the last two years, came up short in the eight and four event but did win the double against the Cardinals.

The next weekend, both teams raced on the east coast with Stanford racing in Boston against BU #3-tie while Princeton hosted Radcliffe#6. In the BU/Stanford V8 race, the two crews raced side-by-side the length of the race with BU winning by a 1.5 second margin. The two schools raced a 2V8 and Stanford won easily to split the morning with BU.

On Lake Carnegie, Princeton won all three events against Harvard-Radcliffe in a comfortable manner. Harvard-Radcliffe hosted Georgetown #3 (tie) where the Hoyas won both eight events with the 2V8 race being the closest race of the day. The Wisconsin Badgers #3 (tie) had some good racing traveling with their open weights to Florida to race UCF and Miami. The squad was pleased with their speed and are looking forward to MIT #7 at the Knecht Cup this coming weekend. The Engineers also had good races with Williams, Wellesley and William Smith finishing second in the V8.

RACES to Watch Knecht Cup – Princeton, BU, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Harvard-Radcliffe, MIT


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