The NCAA is the final entry in what has been one of the most exciting and interesting collegiate championship seasons in recent memory. Like many other premier events this year, and unlike recent NCAA championships, the women’s Varsity 8 includes no undefeated crews, and no definitive favorite. On the 10 team bids and six at-large crews in the V8, most observers would say that 10 or more crews have made a very good case for being Grand Finalist varsities, and of those almost all of them could make the same case for a shot at a medal.
All of that said, the momentum goes to Stanford and Radcliffe. Coming off “surprise” victories at Pac-10’s and Eastern Sprints, and having either directly defeated or beaten crews that had beaten crews that had etc. in respect to the crews from the Central Sprints, they come to Indy on top of the heap.
But there will be many crews trying to shake that perch, including the defending UW varsity, which hasn’t lost the Pac-10’s since anyone can remember. Cal snuck a victory over UW earlier in the season, then placed fourth at Pac-10’s, and the rest of the west coast hasn’t been far off. Special mention of WSU is in order; their Pac-10 bronze denied Cal a medal.
Brown has run a little hot and cold, and they’ll be in the running to put together a good one; Princeton nipped them twice this season, and Yale has shadowed all three Eastern top seeds by a hair. BU makes a return appearance after placing fifth at Easterns.
And for all the tight racing and reversals this year, no championship was closer than the Central Sprints, with Virginia just nipping Ohio St. just nipping Michigan just nipping the field for the medals. Rather than just a few crews from each part of the country displaying high-level speed, women’s rowing went national this year, with big packs of crews from all over the place hauling arse.
In the second eight, entries are limited to those crews earning team bids. Cal handed UW its second silver of the day went they took the Pac-10s in a race that had only three seconds from first to fourth (Cal, UW, Stanford, WSU). In the east, Princeton arrived at Sprints undefeated, only to fall to a tough Brown crew. Radcliffe took bronze, with Yale’s fifth place placing assisting their team bid here. Michigan State grabbed the gold in the Central Sprints over Michigan, Iowa (not attending NCAA’s) and Virginia, who always have a strong 2V. Ohio State was a blink behind Virginia.
If the eights aren’t anybody’s race, the fours are even tougher to call, as teams sometimes decide to bring up members of their frosh/novice crews for the NCAA championship. Yale is probably unlikely to do so; their undefeated four has set the pace in the east. Well, almost undefeated – they fell to a Brown frosh four in the regular season. See what we mean? Cal is showing speed in every event; their four took Pac-10’s over Washington (yet another silver for Washington; makes you wonder if they’ll show up in Indy really ticked off), with WSU close behind for the bronze.
And that’s just the DI crews; there’s a full field in Indy for the DII and DIII championships; all three championships run concurrently over the three days. The DII and DIII teams did some outstanding racing last year; you can expect the same.