Brown University bagged the two big eights as well as a bronze in the V4 and the team title as well today at the NCAA Champs in Sacramento this morning. In nearly perfect conditions, with a puff of a crosshead and perfect water.
In the three weeks since Eastersn, some lineup shuffling and the move of a couple frosh into the V8 paid off big, and after yesterday's semi Brown looked all but unbeatable. Nonetheless, the field ran with them, even after their bruising move mid-race; with some very sure and confident rowing in the lead, Brown repelled several challenges in the second thousand, especially from Yale. Yale powered through the field in the third 500, and looked prime to give even Brown a run, but Brown responded valiantly, held on, pushed away, and took the V8 gold.
The first 1000 saw plenty of shuffling of position, but by the middle of the third 500, Brown and Yale were leading the field from the middle of the race course. All crews were within closed water at 500 to go, but the two lead crews rode their momentum home, and the crews on the far side of the course, OSU and Michigan, chugged through the crews on the far side of the course, Princeton and Cal, to punch into fifth and third respectively. Order of finish: Brown, Yale, Michigan, Princeton, Ohio State, Cal.
My sense going into the championship was that the field wasn't quite as tight as last year, when I thought any of the top 10 crews could have medaled, and perhaps even won. This spring, several of the top crews seemed to race hot and cold, and you weren't sure what kind of speed they might bring on race day. This seemed to play out this weekend, as the finish order failed to synch up with the rankings coming in; always keeps things interesting. At this championships, some of the shuffling in the ranks was due to lineup changes, specifically moving frosh into varsity programs bringing some speed (Brown and Washington used this to superb effect, although Washington fell just short in the semi, having to settle for the petite win); also, a couple nagging injuries in at least a couple of the top crews may have made the road to the finals a little rougher.
In the 2V8, Brown completed an undefeated season with a bruising win; Cal looked to run Brown down late in the race, but as soon as Cal surged, Brown seemed almost to find more water against their blades, and shoved toward the finish line for the win. Cal took the silver, and Washington State rowed from sixth at 500 gone into bronze at the finish line by a blink over Michigan.
The Virginia V4 took almost all the suspense out of their event this morning, leading wire to wire; in fact, the top three medal positions remained the same for the entire 2k, with Washington and Brown taking silver and bronze. Sounds easy enough, but their stroke seat was pretty out of it at the finish line; I'm hoping our photos turned out, but she almost fell out of the shell in exhaustion on the other side of the finish buoys.
In the DII events, Mercyhurst overcame a smoking hot (maybe too hot, as the WWU stroke caught a massive crab in the 2nd 1000 that dropped them four places) first thousand from Western Washington to power to an open water victory in the eight. Humboldt rowed their green to the gold for a wire-to-wire effort in the four.
Absolutely uncontested, unanimously chosen, debut of the year: Nova Southeastern, which did not have a program before this year, won the petite final of the DII eight. That's right, no program - not a club, not a club varsity, nothing. The crew consisted of 100% novices. Even to get invited to the Nationals is a tremendous feat, and they did a great job on the water to boot.
In the end, the racing at the NCAA Championships was unarguably outstanding; despite some ongoing growing pains in the overall picture, when the best women's crews get out on the water side by side and between the lane lines, the athletes are bringing it.