The final day of the NCAA Championships began with a strange sight - a glowing orb floating in the middle of the sky providing light to the venue. This strange object, which those in many parts of the world this weekend refer to as the “sun” finally made an appearance. The downside to the sun’s return was the direct crosswind that came with it. The course earned its nickname, “Windianapolis” or “Windy Indy”. Despite the constant crosswind blowing from lane 6 towards lane 1, these top athletes had little trouble traversing these challenging conditions today.
After winning their heat and semifinal in convincing fashion, the consensus was the women of Troy would take the grand final in the varsity 4. After commanding a fairly notable lead 500 meters into the race, Southern Cal was unable to hold off the rest of the pack. Dogged by Ohio State, Washington, and UVA as they approached the thousand, USC was still able to maintain their lead, but with only 500 meters to go, USC was unable to hold back Ohio State as they pushed ahead of USC in front of a deafening crowd filled with parents and friends from neighboring Ohio - Indianapolis is only 170 miles from Ohio State’s campus. Let's just say the Buckeyes brought a lot of fans, and when Ohio State pulled into the lead, the entire place went nuts. The speakers at the venue were notably loud the entire weekend, but whenever Ohio State was mentioned, the cacophony from the crowd completely downed out the commentators. Crossing the finish line it was Ohio State (07:08.262), USC (07:11.025), and Washington (07:12.039) who just nipped UVA by .1 seconds.
2V8 Grand Final
Brown looked to show off their perennially great squad depth in the 2V8 final, and jumped out to an early lead through the first 500 meters, but they were unable to sustain their place in front over a very competitive field. After crossing the 500, Bruno had the lead, but once again, here come the Buckeyes. Ohio State suddenly had a few seat lead over a virtually even battle for second between USC, Brown, and Cal. For a long stretch, it was still anyone’s race as all four crews remained in a fairly close pack until they reached the 1000 meter mark where Ohio State began to pull away.
With 750 meters to go, the Buckeyes had a 6 set lead over the too close to call battle for second. USC and Brown may have expended too much energy trying to keep pace with the Buckeyes as the lead pack approached the last quarter of the race. With 500 meters to go, Cal finally generated a discernible lead over Brown and USC. The battle for medals remained incredibly close, but as the crews surged across the finish line, it was Ohio State who took home their second gold of the day, followed two seconds later by Cal, who was .26 seconds ahead of Brown, who was .28 seconds ahead of USC. Whew, that was a close race!
V8 Grand Final
Going into the V8 final, it looked as though the battle for team supremacy would be between The University of Southern California and The Ohio State University. Ohio State would need to place no more than two places behind USC to take the championship. Using the heats as an indicator, everyone assumed either USC or UVA would take the top spot, which would mean Ohio State would need to come in at least 3rd. Princeton and Cal had other ideas.
Princeton took early command of the race with almost a three second lead as the crews crossed the 500. As expected, with so many strong crews in the final, it was a virtual dead heat for second place across the other 5 lanes. The announcer was unsure what to even call because how closely matched the crews behind Princeton were. Princeton retained their lead through the 1000 over the pack battling for second. Just before 500 to go, the race for NCAA glory took as sudden turn. The University of California broke away from the pack and began to run down the leader, Princeton. With 500 meters to go Cal had a .155 second lead over Princeton and continued to notch out tenths of seconds approaching the finish. As the teams crossed the line it was Cal (06:21.426), Princeton (06:22.595), Ohio State (06:23.197). Cal claimed their second title in the varsity 8 (first in 2005) and Ohio State won their first NCAA team championship ever.
After the race, head coach for Ohio State, Andy Tietelbaum, reflected on the events of this weekend. “Each race is different because each year is different," he said. "This year was very special for us. We've been saying for the past nine months that this was our goal, to win a National Championship, and to have your entire team completely commit at the beginning of the season back in August, it's just an incredible feeling to know that over this much time we've been able to accomplish our dream and our goal for the season. We couldn't be more proud of everyone, those who raced today and those who have been racing all season and have been there from the start. You take it and you run with it, and we're going to keep working and tomorrow starts day one of next year's season." Not only was this Ohio States first national championship, but it was also the school’s first national championship in any women’s sport, whoa!
As the crews rowed past their fans, there were tears of joy and defeat. Cal and Ohio State teammates swam out to meet their V8 as they returned to the docks and coaches took a well-earned Eagle Creek Park bath. The 2013 NCAA championships had come to a close and what an event it turned out to be. The racing was great, but what made the weekend one to remember was how unexpected the results, as well as the truly unexpected events over the three days of racing. A small school from Ft. Lauderdale Florida was able to take the DII title for the first time despite having no history of success at NCAAs. Ohio State was able to win their first team championship in program history. Then, the 6th seed in the varsity 8 final (Cal) crossed the line to win their second NCAA title in that event.
What a weekend! The weather was outrageous, the results were unexpected, the schedule… what schedule? Just show up and we will race eventually. From the expanded field, to the sinking shells, unexpected is really the best way to describe the 2013 NCAA Championships. It’s that element of the unknown and the drive of a champion that makes these events so special. Congratulations to all of the crews at the NCAA who competed this weekend! We hope to see you back next season!