Cloud cover and the occasional drizzle set the stage for Sunday Finals at the ACRA Championship Regatta, and were there ever some close races. Reports were circulating that the finish line flagperson had developed something similar to tennis elbow from having to whip the flag up and down in such quick succession as boats crossed the line.
The Women's Varsity 8 featured another dominating performance by the Grand Valley Women as they pulled away from the field for a nine second win. Although UNH and Grand Valley posted comparable times in the heats, it was clear that Grand Valley had a lot more in reserve. As expected, the real drama in this race was for the silver as UNH and Purdue battled down the course. It is safe to say that Purdue may have been saving something in the heat when UNH beat them by five seconds. Despite it being a close race, Purdue reversed the results from the heat to take the silver over UNH by 2 seconds. Rochester, Tulane and Ohio State rounded out the Grand Final in that order.
The Women's Novice 8 saw some very tight racing. At about the thousand meter mark, Colorado and Grand Valley were running even and were bow to stern over third place Georgia, who had a couple of seats on Washington University and UC-Santa Barbara, who were running even, with only a length and a few seats separating all crews. For the gold, Colorado put together a strong second thousand to beat Grand Valley by an even three seconds. Georgia appeared to have come a little too hard out of the gates, as they dropped off in the second thousand to finish fourth, while WashU and UC-Santa Barbara ran neck and neck down the course in a fight for the bronze. In the end, it was WashU outsprinting Santa Barbara to take the bronze medal by exactly eight tenths of a second.
The men's events at the ACRA championship can be summed up in one word: Michigan. They proved to be the dominant team as the won the first Novice 8, second Novice 8, second Varsity 8 and finally the Varsity 8. The question on everyone's mind was whether their success is derived from the tremendous mustaches that so many Wolverines were sporting, and could mustaches be the best thing for boat speed since the introduction of the hatchet blade?
In the Men's Varsity 8, Michigan laid down a blistering first thousand that earned them open water on the field by the 750 to go mark. Not to say that this wasn't a race. As they passed this observer with 750 to go, the other five boats were in a dog fight. Purdue had maybe three seats on Grand Valley, UC-Davis, Rochester and Lehigh, who were running dead even four across. These five boats did sort it in the last 500, but barely. When the dust had cleared, only a second and a half separated the second, third and fourth place boats. With Michigan in first by a solid eight seconds, UC-Davis represented the west coast well, walking away with silver by a sliver over a Grand Valley crew that had just edged out fourth place Purdue. It was a few more seconds back to fifth place Lehigh and sixth place Rochester.
The Men's Novice 8 saw less drama as the medal crews saw three seconds between them across the line. Michigan took the gold while Washington State made amends for their second place finish in the heat by taking the silver and Notre Dame took bronze. UNH took fourth while Minnesota took fifth and was finally able to get the "monkey off their back" and beat Bucknell.
The Men's Lightweight 8 once again saw very close racing as only three seconds separated the first, second and third place crews. After a heat that was likely closer than they imagined, Georgia Tech was able to defend their number one seed and hold off WashU by two seconds. After relinquishing the lead in their heat to WashU in the final 300 meters on Saturday, Michigan almost paid WashU back in kind. They closed the final with a strong sprint that left them less than a second shy of the silver medal. Michigan State and Chicago rounded out the final in that order.
For the Love of the Game
If you had been at the starting docks at 7:20am for the Women's 1x final on Sunday you would have heard the starter poll the crews as follows, "Oklahoma City, Wichita State, Washington University, Oklahoma City." If you had looked out at the water however, all you would have seen was a lone single, representing Washington University. After the two Oklahoma City University rowers decided to row a double at the last minute, and the Wichita State rower scratched, there was only the WashU single and it seemed likely she would scratch as well. However, the WashU single, rowed by Ruth Mandelbaum decided she would not scratch. The ACRA championship was to be her last race as a collegiate rower and she wanted to end her career pulling a 2k down a race course, with or without competition. Many rowers can well appreciate the sentiment.
Needless to say, she took first.