The Bates Bobcats made it four NCAA championships in a row on Saturday in Sarasota, dating back to 2017, with the Bates 1V withstanding a withering challenge from Ithaca, who lead Bates by a whisker for 1000 meters before Bates could pull away for the win.
"About three strokes in I knew we were in for it," said Bates 1V coxswains Elizabeth Folsom. "We were all expecting a really good race. We executed our plan like we wanted to and it worked out. It was a little scary at points but it turned out fine!"
The Bates 2V had a more comfortable go of it, breaking open water by the 1250 and winning by half a length of open water ahead of Hamilton College and Wesleyan. It's the seventh straight NCAA win for the Bates 2V.
"Honestly until we were sitting at the starting line for the first heat, it all seemed unreal to me," senior captain Saylor Strugar said. "This team has made it so easy to train even with all the uncertainty because I know the person next to me is trying their hardest."
Bates celebrates their 4th straight NCAA DIII title
The Bates seniors have now won NCAAs every year they got a chance to, joining the class of 2020 (who won three straight before the NCAAs were cancelled last year) as the only classes to do so in Bates program history.
"I'm honored to be a part of it," said senior captain Hannah Beams. "It means that I've gotten the chance to be with these amazing women for the last four years. I remember hearing all the stories when I first got to Bates and I still can't believe I am part of this program."
Hamilton College finished 2nd in the DIII team standings, ahead of Ithaca and Wesleyan.
The top five ranked teams, Texas, No. 2 Washington, No. 3 Stanford, No. 4 Virgina and No. 5 Michigan all qualified all three of their crews into tomorrow's Grand Finals. The only teams to break through this five-team juggernaut were Rutgers in the 1V, and Ohio State in the 2V and V4.
And while press releases continue to almost dogmatically refer to the teams here by their rankings, a quick glance at today's results would seem to indicate that Stanford, who posted the fastest times today in two events, the 1V and V4+, and the second fastest in the 2V, is the team of the moment.
The Stanford 1V paced all crews on the day
Like Washington's coach Yaz Farooq, and Texas coach Dave O'Neill, Stanford coach Derek Byrnes demurred when asked about regatta favorites.
"Washington and Texas have clearly set the standard for women's rowing these past several years but you can't discount Michigan, Ohio State or Virginia's ability to race hard on that last Sunday in May," said Byrnes. "Somehow they each keep finding a way to step up onto the podium."
As with many other teams this year, Byrnes admitted that he was unsure how to get an exact read on his team. "Are we peaking? I have no clue," said Byrnes. "But I do know this group loves to race and they will do their best to bust down tomorrow."
Due to the pandemic, the Stanford women, like most teams out there, zigged and zagged in their training during the year.
"The team didn't return to campus until Feb 14th," said Byrnes. "After a 10 day quarantine and a few days of physicals the first team practice wasn't until Feb 26th. Three days later we had a little issue with social distancing, which culminated us suspending the team for a full week.
"So, our first full week of practice wasn't until the second week of March. Right now each week of training is huge for us and while I wish we had a few more weeks to prepare, I am also beside myself proud of what this team has been able to do this season."
The Texas 1V overcame breakage to win their semi
The Texas V8 suffered breakage just prior to their semifinal, which caused the race to be delayed as the Longhorns pulled over for a fix. No harm done, the crew rallied for their rescheduled semi and won handily after the repair.
"Saturday at this regatta is always a stressful day since the competition is so tough and there's always something that comes up," said Texas head coach Dave O'Neill. "That was definitely the case with the first eight when they hit a log and lost their skeg in the warmup. I give a lot of credit to our boatman, Spencer Kales, and our boat manufacturer for making a quick repair. The crew didn't miss a beat as they rowed back to the start and had a terrific race."
Lanes for all DI finals are now determined; bring on Sunday racing.
FIT captured both the DII Eights and Fours reps to join Central Oklahoma and Mercyhurst in the three-boat finals to determine the DII National Champions tomorrow.
material from Bates and Texas University sports information was used in this report