In rowing –and life, there are very few sure things. Case in point, the constantly changing schedule at this year’s NCAAs - Race times and schedules have been altered four times before the athletes ever touched the water in the past couple days. I guess they want to keep everyone on their toes. But if there are no certainties in this sport, one thing you have been able to count on over the last 8 years is Williams being the team to beat in DIII rowing.
The DIII finals kicked off with the 2V8 final… you could probably guess who took the top prize, but early on it appeared as though Trinity had other plans. Trinity took an early lead in the race, apparently knowing they would need to take a big push if they had any hope of taking this event. By the 500 meter mark, however, Williams was able to power back into the lead to take a slight lead over Trinity and a resurgent Bates. By the 1000 meter mark, it looked as though the race was well in hand as Williams had crafted a six seat lead over Trinity and Bates. Suddenly, William caught a partial crab and momentarily lost their rhythm; Trinity and Bates tried to take advantage. Unfortunately for Bates and Trinity, it was a little too late. Williams was able to regain their composure, and when they hit the 250 to go, Williams opened it up and cruised to victory claiming the title of DIII 2V8 champion. Williams also took the top spot last year during the event's inception.
Now we turn to primetime, the DIII V8 final. Many expected Williams to take the title yet again however after yesterday’s heats, it appeared as though the field had closed in on Williams. The question was, could five-time runnerup Bates or Trinity deny Williams their 8th straight title? Williams answered that question very early and emphatically, pushing out to an early lead within the first 500 meters. Determined to deny Williams of a victory, Bates, Washington College, and William Smith sat bow ball to bow ball just a few seats behind the leader through the first part of the race. Surprisingly, early on it was not Bates, but Washington College who looked to be the team to challenge Williams. However as the crews approached the 1000, Williams finally started to pull away from the pack and Bates made their way into second.
In the second 1000, Williams started with about a 2 seat advantage, then pushed out to a 7 seat lead by the 1500. Seeing their chance of victory slowly slip away, Bates kicked in their sprint early. By the last 250 meters Bates was able to closing the gap slightly on WIlliams, but Williams would not be denied a shot at making history, not only by winning the first ever DIII 2V8, but winning their 8th consecutive V8 and team championship. Williams can now stand-alone as the only rowing team with 8 NCAA Championships (DI, DII, or DIII).
When asked how Williams is able to sustain such continued success, Williams coach Kate Maloney simply replied, “it’s the women at Williams. They feel a big obligation to continue the hard work necessary to continue to go fast, if they do the hard work, they put themselves in a position to be a championship crew.”
Bates came in second to Williams for the 5th consecutive year. Head coach Peter Steenstra after the race jokingly said, “We are still chasing that same purple boat.” On the positive side, he also mentioned “It’s satisfying to know only one crew at the moment can get in front of us.” As the entire DIII field continues to become more and more competitive, it will be interesting to see to see if Williams can continue their dominance. For now they can proudly say, they have made history 8 times in a row!