We're heading back to Windy Indy! Most collegiate rowers have packed up their dorm rooms, begun internships and maybe taken a few weeks off training to relax as they start their summer vacations, but for 34 women's teams training has ramped up and they are heading to Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis to compete for the title of NCAA Champion. (And we don't want to jinx it, but it looks like the weather may cooperate this year!)
The field of crews has continued to grow and change, with some perennial favorites returning as well as first time invitees joining the pack. The mix of teams is continuing to raise the bar, we may see a changing of the guard as all crews have gained speed and created a more competitive field.
This will be the second year of racing with the expanded pool of 22 schools, including 11 automatic qualifiers, and with the increased field there continue to be new programs introduced to the mix. Indiana University will be sending their team to the championships for the first time, and with the campus only an hour away from Indianapolis, we expect many Hoosier fans will be cheering from the shores of Eagle Creek.
The top programs have been tight this season, with last year's champion Ohio State topping the polls as we approach the championship weekend. The Buckeyes have had an incredibly strong season, with an undefeated 1V and wins in all the NCAA events at the Big 10 Championships, handily. They'll be looking to take the title home again, but will be faced with stiff competition; still, momentum is a powerful force, and going in as the number one seed will have its benefits both in the lane draw and in the confidence of the athletes. Having done it before never hurts, either.
Seeded second in the V8, Stanford started slowly this year with a few defeats in the season. The team seemed to pick up speed throughout the spring, ultimately sweeping the NCAA at PAC-12, bringing them to their first PAC-12 team victory as well.
As we have seen many times before, and as Ohio State showed again last year, the 1V winners do not necessarily take home the Championship. The Brown women, seeded first in the 2V8 and V4, have been particularly adept in this regard, and are looking to capture those wins; even without a gold in the 1V, with good program depth, Brown has a good shot at the NCAA title.
Princeton began the season with narrow losses to Brown and Virginia in the 1V, but continued the rest of their regular season with a winning streak against Yale, Clemson, Dartmouth and Penn. Come the big championship weekend two weeks ago, their 1V moved off the line rapidly at the Ivy League Championships to take the win and AQ spot.
The large field and top crews from both the East and West coasts who have not yet raced one another leaves open many possible scenarios in all the events, as well as the team trophy chase. With so many powerful teams, there are sure to be close finishes from the heats through the finals.
The Division II field is small but competitive. Last year's champions Nova Southeastern (winners of both the V4 and V8), had a strong season besting Barry, Humboldt State and Mercyhurst. The Sharks have not yet raced Western Washington, but given their strong performance all season, they are the favorite heading into both the V8 and V4. If they win, they'll be only the second sport at Nova Southeastern to win back-to-back championships.
The Williams women have dominated the DIII championship for eight consecutive years (and 9 out of the 13 total championships) relegating Bates to the #2 spot for five years straight (the NCAA selection show went as far as to refer to the Bates women as "always a bridesmaid"). At this year's New England Championships three weeks ago, the Trinity women dominated the varsity 8, followed closely behind by Bates, then Williams; then a week later at the ECAC/NIRC, the crews shuffled things a bit as the Bates 1V sprinted past their rivals to take the top spot followed by Williams, then Trinity. All three teams left ECAC/NIRC ready to put a fight up in Indy. After years of fairly predictable results, this year's race will be one to watch.
We'll be keeping you updated from the course in Indy as crews begin racing heats Friday morning.