It would be hard to say if the Princeton varsity eight is the best collegiate women's crew ever - the crew rowed almost not at all in tailwinds this year, so no major course records fell - but it certainly was the most dominant in recent history. In the 10 years of the NCAA Championships, never has a varsity eight had open water on the field before the 400 meter mark, and extended from there to win by a couple lengths almost without sprinting in front of a batch of great crews engaged in a fierce and bloody battle for the medals.Complete racing results can be found here
And it was that pitched battle over the medals that ultimate decided the overall team championship. Rowing in second place for most of the final, Brown blasted their bow out to six-seven seats over Cal in the first 1000, but Cal replayed the form that won them the V8 last year and kept in touch until the final 500, then drew even; the two crews raced side-by-side for what seemed like an eternity until Cal succeeded in shoving their bow ahead just at the finish line to take silver by 0.26 seconds
Cal's silver to Brown's bronze forced a tie in the team standings at 66 points each; a deadlock that was decided in Cal's favor due to the crew's higher finish in the Eights, as the tiebreaker is the Varsity 8. That quarter-second gave Cal their second consecutive points championship, the first team to repeat since Brown did it in 1999 and 2000. And whereas last year, Cal coach Dave O'Neill was dunked by a single 110-lb coxswain, this year it took six of his strongest athletes to dunk him this year; someone remarked "he's been working out."
In the Division II racing, Western Washington took their time in a firm headwind to overcome an early deficit in the DII V8 and grind out a powerful finishing 250 to reel in a fast-starting Nova Southeastern crew and a Barry crew that pretty much owned the middle 1000 to win by just over one second at the finish line. WWU also won the DII V4, pocketing the team trophy in undefeated fashion; see quotes from WWU coach John Fuchs below.
The Western Washington boatings:
V4: Coree Naslund, Hilary Gastwirth, Katie Saelens, Katrina Anderson, Kirsten Mathers, Head Coach: John Fuchs
V8: Elisabeth Johnson, Staci Reynolds, Julia Gamache, Jordon Tobler, Lindsay Mann-King, Rebecca Willms, Metta Gilbert, Samantha Marikis, Amelia Whitcomb, Head Coach: John Fuchs
Back in the DI V8, with their victory the Princeton crew (and third trimester mother-to-be Dauphiny) won their first-ever NCAA championship and completed an undefeated season today with an unprecedented streak of open water victories (including all three races at NCAA's) dating back to March 25. The crew certainly has talent, including US national teamer Caroline Lind in the stroke seat and Canadian Olympian Andie Morin in the engine room, but it would be tough to call it truly stacked; the sweet spot middle of the boat held down by Morin also includes a walk-on, Princeton captain Devan Darby, and the crew includes a couple mighty mites who come in a handful of lbs south of 150 lbs. in street clothes. Much of the strength comes from a core of seniors who have been rowing together for most of their careers, however, and while it took them 3-4 years to pull it off, the crew was all but untouchable at NCAA's. The Princeton Boating: Caroline Lind, Kristin Haraldsdottir, Jackie Zider, Devan Darby, Andreanne Morin, Carrie Kruse, Gevvie Stone, Kate Bertko, Lizzie Agnew, Head Coach: Lori Dauphiny
At the close of racing, when the boats were put away and strapped down, the California V8 walked over to the Princeton trailer to present The Ferguson Bowl, which is the same bowl that was presented at the very first women's National Championships in 1979. The NCAA does not recognize the bowl in the official competition, but the crews have kept the tradition alive by handing over the bowl informally (in fact, in a brown paper bag if that is informal enough) each year to the V8 winner, who then engraves their team name on the bowl and brings it to the next championship the following year. Find the full history of the winners below, and a photo in the Sunday galleries when they are posted. Thanking the Cal crew, Princeton coach and UW grad Lori Dauphiny remarked "Wow, this is the same trophy I competed for when I was rowing! Well, I guess I never made the varsity, so not quite..."
(As an aside, there are a heap of current coaches who were classmates in those UW boats - Dauphiny, Eleanor McElvaine, Kris Sanford, Sara Nevin - did I miss any?)
It turns out that first-time winner Dauphiny was unaware of the tradition, and still has the JV Eight trophy from 1996 when her novice crew rowed as a JV and won the event, the last one before the first NCAA Championships - she is planning to engrave the 2V trophy with every winner since, and send it to Brown to put it back in circulation.
Before the V8 final, tho, it was Brown who was handing out nearly "easily" verdicts (as the Henley Royal Regatta vernacular would have it) in the 2V8 and V4, winning each by six and four seconds respectively with races that were more dominant than the times even suggest; it was only extremely tight tussles over the other medal spots that kept the rest of the field close. Cal took second in both races, setting the stage for the points race in the V8 final.
The Brown 2V Boating: Brown Boatings: Jeanette Saraidardis, Sarah Bowman, Meg Anderson, Dove West, Corey Finnerty-Ludwig, Katie Reynolds, Elizabeth Fison, Vanessa Rathbone, Sarah Wu.
The Brown V4 boating: Anne Van Beuningen, Carly Traub, Joanna Jacob, Casey Collins, Christina Caligiuri.
Note also that both the Brown 2V and V4 also capped off undefeated seasons at Mercer; the Brown program has been the exemplary team performer at the NCAA, having won more team trophies than any other program with four, and having placed second three times now. Cal is clearly trying to replicate this kind of depth and consistency at present, but Brown's run is a pretty damn good decade of rowing from one program, especially with all the changes that have taken place in women's rowing.
Princeton took third in the overall points by virtue of a tenacious row in the 2V reps yesterday that put their 2V in the grand, and a big win in the petite final of the V4 this morning, earning a total of 56 points. Washington State took the fourth team trophy on the strength of their fourth place finish in the V8; they too tied with Ohio State in the points tally, but nipped Ohio State by ¾ of a second in the V8 to earn the trophy.
As reported repeatedly here over the past few days, racing was outstanding throughout almost the entire field of each event, but it is worth mentioning a few crews who made the DI medal stand who you don't always see up there. Wisconsin took the bronze in the 2V eight with a courageous front-loaded race, and Ohio State took the bronze in the four, their first NCAA medal. These two were the only teams besides Cal, Brown, and Princeton to make the medal podium.
Mercer Lake charitably provided perfect and perfectly fair racing conditions all weekend; the PNRA (it doesn't hurt that the organization is headed by double Olympic gold medalist Kay Worthington) and Rutgers folks provided a great setting for what was the best overall field at an NCAA Championships all told; the racing across the board has been improving every year, especially in Divisions II and III this year in particular, to my eye.
It seems fitting at the end of the season to give the last word to the coaches.
From Lori Dauphiny, Princeton coach:
"That's the way we row," head coach Lori Dauphiny said afterwards. "We get out quickly, but we've done that before and lost. We were committed to the body of the race, those 1,000 meters in between. I just couldn't be any prouder of this team," Dauphiny said. "It's been a process. These women have competed since they were freshmen. I put this boat right up there with the '95 one, the last championship boat."
From Dave O'Neill:
"On the varsity eight, we knew Princeton had a very good varsity eight and we expected them to have a length or more after 500 meters," O'Neill said. "Our varsity eight was not allowed to race Princeton until the 1000 meter mark because we would be sacrificing the team goal of winning the national championship. We raced hard against Brown and did what we had to do."
"It was a pretty long wait," O'Neill said after the V8 final. "But when we heard 'Second, California,' that was the sweetest time we ever heard the word California."
"It's a little bittersweet, because we came so close," coach John Murphy said. "We were up about three seats but I knew California was coming up. It was tough, but we'll we back."
More from John Fuchs of Western Washington:
"Last year was such a big deal for the program in general to win that first one," said Western coach John Fuchs. "But this year, we were never trying to repeat. It was more about accomplishing a goal and going through the proper steps to do it. And they did that. So, it's not quite as emotional, but I think that it's more rewarding this year."
"It's amazing ... it's an amazing accomplishment by these rowers," Fuchs said. "It could have gone either way. Barry had such a good program this year, especially the eight, and we knew that it was going to very, very close, and it was. It was a great performance by both boats. We wanted to perform our best and we did that. It was flawless, flawless racing by both crews."
"It's really a great thing for the seniors, who have been with the program for four years. What they've watched this program go through to progress to this point is amazing. We won last year too, but to take two national championships in their careers is quite an accomplishment. That rarely happens."
Western finished with a perfect score of 20 points to 15 for Barry. Nova Southeastern followed with 6, UC San Diego 4 and Florida Tech 3.
"It came down to the eight," said Fuchs. "They (Barry) had us early by seven seats, but we kept plugging away and eventually pulled even with around 200 meters to go. Up till then, we were down the whole way."
"We were even with Barry about 250 meters in when we settled into our cadence," Fuchs said in describing the eight final. "Then Barry started to push and did that to the point it had about seven seats on us. But our girls were patient. They knew that if they stayed within striking distance at the end that they would be able to have a great finish. And that's exactly what they did.
"To stay cool and calm under that kind of pressure was just absolutely fabulous. They'd been training for this as soon as we got here. We knew that was what was going to happen. So, I was pretty lucky in predicting their (Barry) race plan, but the girls were even better at working it through."
"They got off the line and slowly dug into the field and just kind of inched their way ahead on each stroke," said Fuchs about the four final. "The other crews would make a push every now and then and try to get back with them, but they were patient and steady and kept pushing down the course. With 500 meters to go, they had some open water, and then they opened that up a little more by the time that they got to the finish line. It was just a good, steady, solid race."
"The fours rowed a great race," head coach Paul Mokha said. "They really rowed their best. Elise (Carlson), who was injured in the heats on Friday, just sucked it up and raced. She and the whole boat did a great job and were able to come second. We knew that's what they needed to do for us to have a shot at the team title."
"The eights rowed a perfect race," Mokha said. "They took the lead at the right point, but at the end, they just didn't have the pop in the last 20 stokes and Western Washington was able to pull ahead. As painful as it is to lose a championship by one second," Mokha said, "there are no regrets. This is a great bunch of kids and they laid it all out, gave it everything they had. I'm very proud of them."
Ties in team scoring are broken by finish in Eights
The Ferguson Bowl
Women's National Intercollegiate Eights Championship
1991- Boston University
1992- Boston University