After the Bates second varsity eight won gold in their event - the team's fourth straight in the 2V8 - the 2V members collected at the jumbotron in the athlete area to watch their varsity come down the course. As the Bates varsity passed by them out on the water in second place, just a few seats behind eventual winner Williams, the Bates 2V knew something their 1V did not: the running points tally for the team national championship.
"We knew that all they needed to do was get second," Bates 2V coxswain and senior Abby Bierman said. "We were watching the last 500 of the race, watching Wellesley taking this huge move and then watching Bates taking another huge move at the end. As they got to the finish line our bow seat Alex Salazar turned around and covered her face, she couldn't watch it. Then they finished second, and we all whipped around to look at the coaches to see...
"And they nodded, and we were cheering, and ran down to the pier and we were looking for them, and looking for them, wondering if they knew."
Meanwhile the varsity was rowing back from the finish line in near-dejection; they did not know how the 2V had placed, the official points tally took much longer than usual, and the crew assumed from the lack of celebration among the fans on the shore that they had not won the points trophy.
"In all my previous experiences, there has been the team, and the spectators, and everyone yelling to the boat that they had won the team championship," varsity eight stroke and senior captain Molly Pritz said. "We weren't hearing anything, and nobody was saying anything to us, so I thought it was done."
"I was crying, really upset," varsity coxswain and senior Kate Traquina said.
Back up the course, the 2V had bolted out to the gazebo at the 500 meter mark on Mercer Lake to greet their teammates as they came by.
Finally the announcers started counting down the points tally; fourth, Ithaca; third, Wellesley; second, Williams...
"I started to hear the countdown of places, and I thought they were doing it in the opposite order - starting with the winner," Pritz continued. "I was a little quiet, and then IU realized that there were doing 4, 3, and then they said 2 and it wasn't us, and apparently I stopped rowing, and she (Taquina) jumped up and fell over onto me."
"I was just like rowing along, looking at Pritzie's face, both of us kind of sad," Taquina recalled. "Then her face just completely turned and I finally realized what just happened, and I launched onto her."
Throughout, the 2V was on the gazebo watching it all unfold.
"We knew they didn't know how we did so we were on our tippy toes 500 meters away, just watching, and then we saw them stop, and we saw a couple hands going up, and we all said "They know! They know!" Bierman said.
They won this one in almost identical fashion to the 2015 regatta, with a win the 2v and a silver in the 1V that earned them the points championship by a mere one point - this time over Williams, who won the top Varsity Eight event with an inspired row. For Bates, those two points add up to the college's only two national championships in any sport, so as close as it may seem, it is huge for the team. They shared the win across (and over the top of) the fences separating the NCAA roster team members from those who are in the lower boats that are not credentialed at the NCAA
"It is less about the 21 of us that are here that are here and more about the people that are on the other side of that fence," Bierman said. "They're the reason we were able to do it this year, because we had such a deep strong team. The competition to get into this 21 here was really strong, and we need that 3V that is a second off first place at NIRCs. We need that because that pushes us (in the 2V) every day at practice, and we pushed them (the 1v). It's really about the full team; that's what got us here, and that is what is going to have to continue."
Meanwhile, at the same time their non-rowing senior classmates were collecting their diplomas, the Bates women's crew was collecting the trophies for their second national championship in the past three years - even the school's Twitter feed goes back and forth between graduation and rowing posts
Williams Wins the D3 V8
Williams won the V8 with a wire to wire victory in nearly perfect conditions in which they held off numerous challenges from the field, all while racing from the front, which they are not known to do.
"We haven't been up off the start all year, and I don't think I've been up off the start in a boat in years,:" senior captain and varsity five-seat Gabby Markel said. "We are a consistent, base crew, and when we came off the line in the lead, our coxswain Louisa (Abel) spent about 400m saying 'We're up! We're up! We're up!,' and everyone complete dug in.
"The main difference in this race was that we typically try to find our base a little sooner, because when we find it, it feels like we can walk through a brick wall."
Even with the slight change in how the race played out, Markel felt a lot of confidence coming into the race thanks in part to a good showing followed by a teammate's bold comment a few weeks back.
"When we came over the line after the NIRCs, Reb (four-seat Rebecca Smith) turned to me and said 'Gabby, we're gonna win it. Here comes another national championship.'"
Markel enjoys the season-long racing among the eastern D3 ranks.
"We came over the finish line in the heats yesterday right with Ithaca, who in the last three weeks we have both won over and lost to by less than a second, and all of them were smiling at us," she said. "I don't know that many of them personally, but I think like being around them all the time; it has been awesome."
Markel also thinks the way the league has tightened up has made the whole venture more interesting and fun.
"When I got here, in my freshmen year, we had a ten-year winning legacy," she recalled. "That's kind of a heavy thing. In my freshmen and sophomore years it was kind of scary because all of a sudden Williams is not winning by mile anymore. Now I think what has happened is that everyone in the D3 has really stepped it up. And to be honest, it is really fun, and makes the whole experience so much more validating. Coming into this race, while I love that Rebs had the )@!^& to call that, when we get here it's more like there are at least three other teams who could have won that race. That's super exciting. All these crews are fast, and when we see them, we are all thinking 'well, we are working hard, but so are they.' It's great."
D1 and D2
In the D1 ranks, after the semifinals only Cal, Michigan, and Washington had crews in the grand final of all three events, and, somewhat oddly, no other teams have crews in both the 1V and 2V grand finals, so at least one of the four team trips to the podium may lean heavily on results in the fours. In the D2 ranks, Central Oklahoma, Mercyhurst, and Western Washington have crews in both grand finals.
On Sunday, it will be the D1 and D2 crews' turn to vie for the medals, likely in light headwind conditions that should bring good racing conditions while providing a bit of a stamina test for all involved on the third and final day of the season-ending regatta; see you in Mercer Park tomorrow.