The V8 final was fantastic; six second separating all six crews, less than three and a half between the top four. The race for the lead played out mostly as a knife fight between semi winners Cal and Princeton, but the rest of the field was flashing metal as well, no question, with Radcliffe in particular charging at the close. And although winds were variable, making true comparison impossible, the times in the petite final weren’t far off, either. A winning time of 6:20 in a light cross-head and 54 degree water is pretty damn quick. I hope all the crews in the race are proud and satisfied to take part in a race like that one. Prior to today, there have been only three teams that won the V8, and three that have won the team championship (Brown, Washington, Harvad-Radcliffe). Cal’s victory in the V8 and team trophy is a welcome change-up.
At the DII level, Western Washington absolutely romped; they were the class of the field today, with open water wins in both the four and eight.
I posted some photos of the FIT four celebrating after the reps yesterday, and it turns out there was a good explanation for their exuberance. Two of the athletes in the boat were in pretty bad shape after the Friday heat, and ended up under doctor’s care; the turnaround from sickbed to qualifying was cause for celebration.
After winning both the four and 2V, Virginia had a solid lead in the points tally heading into the V8, with 36 points, followed by Cal and Brown tied at 31. However, due to the greater weight given to the varsity eight, Cal had to beat Virginia’s V8 placing by two spots to take the title. Cal’s win to Virginia’s fourth place tipped it to Cal.
The numbers seem to support the notion that the field continues to improve overall in women’s rowing. A couple statistical observations:
Only four teams had more than one crew in multiple A finals; Cal and Virginia had all three, Brown had two, and Ohio had two. The rest of the spots were spread around among eight teams who placed one crew into the grands. That’s 12 of 16 teams with a crew in the grand.
At breakfast this morning, a woman was wearing a polo shirt that had Virginia embroidered on the left chest, and Ohio State on the right; must have a kid rowing at both schools. Someone at breakfast asked “hey, where did you get that?!?” You would guess it was a custom job, unless some t-shirt maker in West Virginia or Tennessee saw fit to split the difference.
The Brown V8 was in the petite final, which clearly surprised a lot of folks. However, it wasn’t the first time they found themselves there; they won the petite two years ago after the victory-at-sea debacle in the semifinals. Today the crew had open water on field at one point, although a tenacious Tennessee crew came back to make it closer at the finish. Nonetheless, Brown’s ability to rebound from disappointment in the semis a couple times now shows a pattern of real resilience in the program.
The Cal coxswain may not seem physically formidable, but when Cal coach Dave O’Neill tried to escape a dunking his team was setting up, she chased him down, grabbed his arm, and flung him whole into the lake – solo. I’m pretty sure Dave was a lightweight, but this should have been a mismatch that went the other way entirely.
Techno anxiety: during the V8 petite final, just as the field was closing up, the jumbotron was going all pixelly every few strokes. You would see one or two strokes, and just as you started to figure out what was going on, the screen would dissolve again. More than a couple coaches were about to toss right there on the beach; would not have been pretty. They had it figured before the Grand; that would have been ugly.
On the medals platform, local photographer Bob did a great job setting the crews up for shots by the press, then directing the athlete’s attention to specific photo-takers in the crowd so the crews were looking and smiling right at their parents for the photos. “OK; one for me; one for this camera right here; one for this mom and dad, another for this mom and dad.” After three or four shots, one athlete was heard to say, teeth gritted behind a frozen smile; “Oh... My... God.” No question; that was her Dad with the camera.
When the whole Cal team got up to accept their team trophy, Cal coach O’Neill announced to the audience that he had promised the crew there was something they would do at the end of the season, but only if they won the NCAA championship. After a brief apology, O’Neill led the team in a chorus of “Living on a Prayer.” They made it all the way there this time.
QUOTES FROM WESTERN WASHINGTON AND CAL
Head Coach John Fuchs
“We’ve been the bridesmaids for way too long (in reference to two second-place finishes at the NCAA Cham-pionships), and to be able to finally break through is a great feeling.
“You can’t ask for anything more than what our teams did on the water today. They have performed well all season and to come here and peak and perform to perfection - hats off to them.
“This is the best venue in the country and I know we have to move it around, but we always feel like we are at home. The people here run a real quality event and everybody has been great.”
“We’re very excited about winning our first championship. We put in a lot of hard work, came out here and got the job done.”
“I think in every race, we consistently got better and it showed. We were confident and calm and I think that is what really got us through to the end.”
“At the beginning of the season, we set this goal. Last year, it was to win Pac-10s, and this year, it was to win the NCAA championship. Every practice, we learned to race our own race and how to reach that goal. Ultimately everyone was more focused then I have ever seen the team and we were completely together, calm and controlled. You could tell from all our races today, we were always racing our own race.”
“The road here took a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication. Everyone has been really focused all year and willing to put in the work. The last three days have been really intense. It has been a calm and confident feeling, but everyone knew what they had to do and we got the job done.”
Head Coach Dave O’Neill
“Coming into this year, the goal was to win the NCAA championship. The main thing was to treat every day and every race the same. We don’t need to do anything differently on race day than we do every day in practice. This team really took that to heart. This particular crew, every day in practice, they never had a bad day. They kept on challenging themselves and holding everyone to a high standard. “There have been a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff going on the last three days, because of a health issue with our varsity crew and that affects everybody. It has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but my job has been to keep everyone focused on what they need to do and only worry about themselves.”
I understand that the Championships will be televised on a CBS Sports program in July.
Next year’s championship site has not yet been decided, and should be announced sometime this summer. The candidates are Mercer Lake NJ and Oak Ridge TN.
I hope you have enjoyed our coverage of the NCAA’s; I hope it isn’t crass to remind folks we’re doing our spring fund drive... we can’t do this forever without your support. Ed out...