Let's start with the newly crowned national champions: two first year coaches led their squads to the top two places in the DIII racing today, with interim coach Pat Tynan's varsity eight clinching the team title for Williams, and first-year Trinity coach Wesley Ng's crews placing about a length behind on both the 1V and 2V levels to take a solid silver. Williams varsity eight took top honors, leading wire-to-wire to take the eights gold by a hair over a length; Trinity took a solid second, and Bates and Puget Sound crossed the line very nearly in a draw that eventually saw the bronze go to Bates by 0.07 seconds, whew.
Interim coach Tynan did not inherit a seasoned crowd of repeat NCAA contenders, as it would be easy to assume; rather the squad had only one senior in the ranks all year. "It is a young group, and they didn't really have a sense of what they could do," Tynan recalled of his first couple weeks with the squad. "Then we had some good results in the fall, and they started to think, hey, we might be able to do this," he said. "From there it was a matter of getting them to row together, and to build their confidence along the way; we had some good early season results, and that really helped." The second varsity, however, struggled a bit mid-season, Tynan recalled.
"They really became the lynchpin of the whole operation for winning the championships, but over the last two weeks they found some speed, right on time," he said. "I think the late spring was part of it, and they mainly needed some time together."
Tynan's run as the interim coach comes to an end today. "It was really exciting to take a team to a national championship," he said as the interview was interrupted by a soaking with an alcoholic beverage - c'mon, it wasn't Tennessee mash; champagne folks. Next for Tynan: "I'll be looking for a job!"
Wesley Ng's first campaign at the helm of the Trinity squad ended almost as well; Ng's more seasoned squad was "in different places mentally with how they approach things early on, but they came together really well," he said. Ng credits the seniors on the squad; "We gave them positions of responsibility on the team," he said. "It was tough as a coach to give up some control, but it worked out really well; and they really stepped up and were able to take ownership of the team. And we're all really proud of this 2V; they're tiny, but they're really scrappy, and did a great job."
As for the rivalry between the two programs, it is more institutional than personal at this point; Tynan and Ng are close friends, and each was as enthusiastic about the other's triumphs as about his own. This type of sportspersonship (to use a gender-neutral neologism) was on display after the final when one crew yelled the cheer "All crews rock."
Speaking of which, the Bates crew definitely rocked a bit this weekend, placing third in both the V8 and point on their first trip to the NCAA.
More quotes: Williams Head Coach Pat Tynan On winning the school's second consecutive national championship: "We were pretty unsure coming in to the season if our team could do it a second time, but we gained a lot of confi dence through our training in the wintertime and as the season went on. We seemed to get in a pretty good groove while we were down here in Tennessee and felt like we were getting faster each time we were on the water. It's just a special day for this team. It's been a lot of fun to coach them. It's a great group."
On what made them successful: "We took the season one race at a time. We defi nitely had a national championship in the back of our minds. It was a team goal to be competitive down here, but we just took it one week and one race at a time."
Williams Co-Captain Carolyn Skudder On winning the national championship: "A lot of people told us that we were going to be rebuilding this year and didn't expect to see us around. The fact that we were able to surprise them and ourselves is the most exciting part of this. It's been an unbelievable year that none of us could have expected, and that's what makes it great."
Williams Co-Captain Kate Sortun On the deciding factor in their victory this weekend: "The hard work of the whole team throughout the year. Not just the top boat or the second boat, but even the people that didn't get the chance to come. They put in the hard work every day and pushed us to get better."
Back at the DI level, the first semi of the V8, which we noted last night was a re-race of the Eastern Sprints final plus Minnesota, played out almost identically to the Sprints final, with Yale pushing out on the field early, Brown nudging their bow out of the pack at about two minutes in, and Princeton, Harvard, and Dartmouth duking it out all the way down the course - with all five finishing in the same order as at Sprints, with Minnesota in sixth. Harvard nearly upset the order with severe persistence through the entire second 1000, but Princeton refused to roll over and nipped Harvard by a quarter second at the line. (One of the Princeton rowers then proceeded to roll over after the finish line, and the EMT folks spent some time hovering over the boat in the warm-down area; they all looked fine and entertained a bit later taking an ice bath, however; of course we'll post the evidence in the row2k galleries later today.)
Princeton's third place may be the first time a crew came through the reps to make the Grand Final at the NCAA - although I admit I don't have the time to do the research this afternoon, and row2k's massive staff must be on Memorial Day vacation - please feel free to send any info to the contrary. (Oli R. of row2k's massive staff corrects me: "NCAA rep-to-final was accomplished in 1999 by UVa V8, who went through the rep and ended up finishing 2nd overall.")
In the second semi, USC's year-long unbeaten streak was almost broken as Virginia led the Trojans for the better part of 1600 meters in a tight semi that saw four boats within a couple seconds at the finish line. Virginia faltered a bit late, and USC took the cue; Ohio State seemed to get the memo as well, moving up into second just ahead of Virginia. Notre Dame succumbed to being on the line as the flag went back up for the second time, missing the grand final by just over a second. The country has been getting closer almost by the day to top-ranked USC; early speed may be both an upside and downside of rowing in Southern California. It is always a possibility that they have a championship final gear that they haven't shown just yet; we'll see tomorrow!
Yale's win in the first semi, which was the faster of the two races, was emphatic enough that it becomes difficult to imagine anyone knocking them off in tomorrow's final; while they did not ditch the field at any point, they seemed very much in control of the race from fairly early on, much as they did two weeks ago on the Cooper River. And if you go on times as well, they're a good 10 seats up on all comers; of course all this gets decided on a last trip down the course tomorrow.
The finals, from Lane 1 to Lane 6:
In the 2V and V4 reps, California and Washington made up for troubles in the V8 by qualifying both boats for the grands through the reps. Yale fell just short of California in the 2V, Yale's only boat not to make the grands.
In the race for the team trophy, after Yale's 2V failed to qualify for the grand this morning, only Brown and Virginia have a crew in all three grand finals, so barring some mathematical anomaly, it will likely come down to these two crews for the overall points championship.
Team tallies of V8 grand finalist crews with other crews in grand finals:
Ohio State 2
In DII racing, a pair of reps saw Nova Southeastern qualifying both their four and eight for the grand, and UC San Diego qualifying their eight. Seattle Pacific gave a game run in the second 1000, but it was too little too late, and
Racing was delayed by one hour in the morning when the previously pristine Melton Hill Lake was heavily littered with debris from a dam opening the night before; the LOC scrambled into launches to clean up the course, and while a couple of the outside lanes were still a bit troubled come race-time, it did not appear to affect the racing, thankfully.
At press time, results for the annual Riggers National Croquet Tournament had just arrived, and of course the row2k photographer was on hand to document the proceedings; we'll post in the galleries if we can handle all that star power on the site at one time.
Finally - did anyone else notice yesterday that the Tennessee varsity showed up at the starting line in different unis? They left the usual orange unis behind for the afternoon, and during the rep instead wore a blue get-up with aqua designs; even locals on the starting docks were saying "uh, who is that?"