The Trinity varsity 8, as well as Williams entire squad, brought it all together late this morning to split between them all of the top medal positions in the DIII NCAA Championship. Trinity rowed a dominant first 1000 that allowed them almost to cruise home for the gold, while the Williams 1V and 2V topped all other comers to take silver and bronze, and seize the team trophy for the Ephs in the offing.
After falling to Williams by a nose at the qualifier ECAC regatta, Trinity returned to Hartford and began a final phase of selection, much like many other crews trying to find speed in the final couple weeks of the season.
"We experimented with a lot of lineups, but ended up back in the original lineup," said Trinity coach Wesley Ng. "It turned out the we had the fastest lineup from the start."
But clearly something was different this weekend? Ng said he was surprised at how the V8 ran away with the race early on. "The crew was more focused and relaxed this morning than I have seen them all year," he said. "There was a very different mentality here, and the crew finally learned to relax here. " Ng said that all of the selection helped the crew to realize that they had "explored all of the areas in which we might find more speed, which gave them confidence."
"We learned a lot from Williams' efficiency" at the earlier regattas, he said. "At the ECACs we overstroked them the whole way, and were not going as fast as we thought we could. Here we longer in the water and more relaxed on the recovery" than a few weeks earlier. "I was also proud of the way they managed the pressure." Ng said he was also very proud of his second varsity; "They're not a big crew, but they're incredibly feisty, and I was really happy with their racing this weekend."
Williams 2-3 feat is not a first for them; they did it two years ago as well to take the team championship; today's championship makes three in a row. Head coach Justin Moore said the squad has had an "extremely challenging year," including starting the year with no coxswains; the bow seat of last year's second varsity accepted the call last fall and coxed the crew today. And it was that crew's remarkable surge at the championship that helped lock up the team championship.
"The 2v was confident racing as a 2V, but when they got here and saw so much good rowing, they weren't as sure," said Williams head coach Justin Moore. "We told them we expected nothing more than to be the crew they are, and then after that race yesterday they started to think they could do it."
That race was a win in the heats, something that I don't believe a 2v has ever done in the D3 championships.
"To watch these women overcome challenge over challenge over challenge and continue to come back with this as a goal, of winning a national championship, was just phenomenal; absolutely phenomenal," Moore said. The team is led by seven seniors, five of them in the 1V; after three championships in their careers, Moore is confident that the younger members of the crew can carry the torch.. "This is a great class of seniors, and their example should help our returnees carry on; it wouldn't be for lack of having been showed the way."
Moore on getting both Williams boats in the V8 final:
"We were pretty confident in our first varsity?s ability to win that heat, but this is the first time that our second varsity has seen any of the first varsity. They lined up on the outside, and we just asked them to be as audacious as possible and not think that they were supposed to be anywhere, just racing. They had a great start. When they got to the 1,000-meter mark and were ahead, their attitude started to change about their ability to win the heat. Persistence showed up in that last 1,200 for us."
In-season changes that sparked the team:
"One of the huge changes was that in the middle of the year, Mary Shofner came to be our assistant coach. She had an immediate and tremendous impact on our team. That really helped some of the younger women to grow up and evolve into athletes who could come to a regatta like this and compete."
On which of Williams? four NCAA titles is the most special:
"The first one, of course, was incredibly special. With this one, right now it?s our graduation week at the college, and we have six seniors here who have made the choice to forego their Senior Week, to basically miss all the activities other than walking with their class. That was something that wasn?t our choice to make, because graduating is a once in a lifetime opportunity. For them to come out here and give us a chance to win like they did was absolutely phenomenal, and I think that makes this an incredibly special victory, because there was so much sacrifice that went into it."
Williams College Sr. Abigail Weir
On winning a third consecutive NCAA Division III Championship:
"It?s amazing. Last year, I was in the first boat that ever came in first. But this morning, seeing our second eight always there with us, it was an awesome feeling to know that we have that many women that can row that fast."
In the DI racing today, Brown kept alive their hopes to defend their team championship race by placing all three crews in Sunday's grand final. They are joined in this select group by Cal and surprise Washington; after very nearly missing a bid at all, a courageous row in the second V8 semi was the catalyst for all three Washington crews to make the grand finals.
In the first V8 semi, Yale showed some formidable bursts of speed mid-race to win the first V8 semi by right around a length, followed by Cal and Stanford, who was able to counter an aggressive first 1000 by Radcliffe. The second semi was a much more bruising affair, largely inspired by Washington leading, then trailing, then finally bursting back into the qualifying group. After racing in a thick pack for most of the race, Brown finally found a little breathing room near the end of the race to win by a second and a half, followed by Washington, and MSU and Virginia in a photo finish. Virginia found themselves the victims of Washington's spoiler semifinal effort, and heads to the petites just two weeks after winning the South Central races.
The cross headwind off the Lane 1 shore was definitely a factor today (this common Natoma wind is the reason all races are seeded from Lane 1 to 6 on the lake); in several of the races, crews in the outside lanes stayed in the fray as long as they could, then one by one dropped off the pace starting from the far side of the course. Even Washington looked headed for the same fate, although their late surge was really the only effort that defied the trend. In a rep or two, some crews looked ready to put out considerable extra effort to place up a spot (and over a lane) in tomorrow's finals.