As the Texas 1V powered away from the field in the A Final, stamping their mark on the championship by winning the one boat class that really counts when you are trying to win it all at the NCAAs, announcer David Wyant made the call of the weekend from the commentary car:
"I think they are trying to turn the Texas Two-Step into the Texas Two-Peat, we'll see if they can do it."
That is exactly what the Longhorn Varsity did. We'll get into the math below and, in truth, any one of the last four teams standing at this year's NCAA Women's Championship, as we discussed yesterday, could have won the title with a 1V gold in the end, but it was Texas all the way in this year's final: no waiting to strike, no "Here Comes Texas" racing from behind, just a crew firing on all cylinders against what was arguably the fastest field in the 25 year history of the Championship.
When asked about the Team Championship which that Varsity Eight sealed up, Texas Head Coach Dave O'Neill said:
"It was an absolute awesome performance by everyone, and I'm so proud of everyone on this team. We have a terrific team that goes beyond the three boats that raced here. We had to leave some very fast women off this travel squad as this was the deepest team I've ever had. It was great to so many of those teammates on the beach this week. It made a difference."
Varsity Eight Champion - Texas
If anything, what the Texas 1V did today was unveil an extra gear they just hadn't needed to tap into as they won both heat and semis in tighter, but still comfortable margins, and if they did not come from behind dramatically like last year, they did keep coming: it was clear that coxswain Rachel Rane continued to call her Longhorns up in the final 500--even as they led by open water--all the way until she could flash the "Hook 'em" horns crossing the finish line.
Rane at the reins of Texas 1V, with Kate Knifton stroke, Fran Raggi seven, Aspa Christodoulidis six
"The first eight gave it their absolute best today," said O'Neill. "We discussed that there was nothing tomorrow or the next day or beyond, so it was time to give it everything, both physically and emotionally. They were pretty smart throughout the heat and semi, so there was some confidence they could do something special in the final. We had been building towards today throughout the entire year, so it was fun to see it all come together."
When the final started, Stanford had a 3 point lead in the points after taking second in the 2V behind the Yale crew that dominated that final-so the Cardinal was in a spot win the team, but a standing three-way tie for 2nd between Texas, Princeton, and Washington meant that the Stanford would have to finish ahead of all of them to do it: any three points for any of them being 1 spot ahead of Stanford would just mean a tie-and ties as we were reminded last year and again today, go to the fastest 1V Eight.
Conversely, Princeton, Washington and, yes, Texas, were all in a spot to win by, well, winning: be ahead of everyone and the title would be theirs.
In a lot of ways, that made it simple, especially for the crews on the water, who are of course just intent on going fast and winning their race regardless of the points totals. There is no scoreboard to look up at as time winds down in rowing, and no way even really of knowing what they teammates in the 2V and V4 might have done--or not done--while they were out warming up for their own final.
Of those crews, when the boots dropped and the race was on, Texas quickly showed themselves as the class of the field.
"Our first eight has been terrific all year, and they've stepped up to every challenge put in front of them," said O'Neill. "After the finish of the second eight, we knew: if the first eight wins, we win, and that's the way it should be."
"They had a great start, and there was some real confidence when they had a two or three seat lead at 500 meters We say they were built for 2000 meters, and their base speed was really good. For them to finish open water ahead of a really fast field says a lot about them. I couldn't be more proud of that boat and the entire team."
Texas seven-seat Fran Raggi talked about her crew's start, as well:
"Every race this year, we've been down off the start in the first 500, and it's been fun because our race plan is just a strong second half. Yesterday, we had a real focus on the first 500 to try and see what kind of speed we could get and then maintain in the semi, and that ended up going well for us.
"Today, we went out with the same focus and then just raced our second half how we normally do and I think [our fast start] was an added excitement. When you're up off the start, you think, 'Okay, we're in this, we got this,' especially when you can see that you're up off the start, like I can in the stern. It can make a huge difference.
"I think a lot of what we do is try to visualize the certain situations that we could see ourselves in during races," she added, "and what was fun about today was that it wasn't a situation that we saw ourselves in, at least in the first half of the race. Getting to experience that was really cool."
Raggi sat seven last year, too, when she was one of the younger rowers in a very experienced Longhorn lineup. This year, her championship experience paid dividends.
"We have two people in our boat racing at their first NCAAs, so that that was different than last year, when we had a very experienced boat. So this year, I think that was different for me at least in that Kate Knifton and I, and Lisa Gutfleisch, Anna Jenson and Susanna Temming were the more experienced ones this time around and that was a different perspective."
Stanford did give it a run here: finally facing off in all three boats with Texas after an unbeaten weekend on the opposite side of the draw. The Cardinal 1V was the boat best able to hang with Texas, trailing by just three-quarters of a length at the 1000 and comfortably ahead of Princeton and, just as crucially, a Washington 1V that was having all sorts of trouble with Cal on the near side.
In the end though, holding on to 2nd just ahead of a fast-closing Princeton in third, Stanford preserved a tie with Texas that would put them in second place overall for the second year in a row, an impressive mark of consistency at the head of such a tight field. With Princeton taking bronze, Cal would hold on to 4th ahead of Washington in 5th and Brown in 6th.
2nd Varsity Eight Champion - Yale
The 2V Final went a long way to determining the championship--behind winner Yale, it was here that Stanford edged Washington, Texas and Princeton (plus Virginia) to grab the 3 point lead that would keep them tied with Texas in the end--but all of that was going on for places 2-6, a length and sometimes more astern of the 2V Champion from Yale.
A poised and powerful crew which won the Ivy Championship handily if not by a huge margin over Brown, the Yale 2V sailed through its heat, qualified comfortably behind Stanford in its semi, and then turned all the horses loose today to win going away. Before Stanford rallied to close the gap, Yale led by as much as length throughout the middle 1000, and the win was enough to vault Yale into 5th place overall as a team.
Yale 2V, Ivy and now NCAA Champs
"We've had speed in that in that boat all year," said Yale Coach Will Porter, "so I don't think it was a surprise to us, how the how the race actually unfolded. It was a little bit exciting for us, because being able to get out on a field like that is tricky. They're racers and they got caught up in the moment. And they just let it rip."
As mentioned in earlier reports, being back at NCAAs and even training at all was a long time in coming for Yale at times during the pandemic.
"We're all just really grateful to be back here and be racing after two years away, said Porter. "That long of a break really called for almost a complete restart of our program. We only had about seven kids who had even raced at the NCAAs before when we when we showed up here, and we only have four seniors in this mix, three rowers and a coxswain. I definitely would like to thank Laura Simon, who's no longer here on staff but helped me recruit all these guys. She played a big part in that and we all know how important recruiting athletes are to the success of a program, and I definitely want to thank my current assistant coaches, Jamie Snider and Kristen Wilhelm."
"It was a long process getting back here. There's no question we're not 100% healthy, we had to leave a couple of our top athletes at home, and so we're just really pleased with the finish. I think we worked really hard for it. It's nice to finish fifth when we're not actually at our full strength, and I'm just proud of the team for that."
For Texas, taking fourth in the 2V was another vital step in the building up their points, even though Washington and Stanford got by them.
"The level of racing in the second eight was impressive," said Texas' O'Neill. "Our crew might have had their best race of the year, and their fourth place finish showed that things can go either way on any given day. I'm really proud of their resilience and fight to the finish, and that set us up perfectly for the last race."
Varsity Four Champion - Princeton
In 25 years, competing at every NCAA Championship ever held, Princeton had never won the Varsity Four, but that changed today with a gutsy row out in lane 2 by a Tiger four that came in as the Ivy Champion, took a hit from Stanford in the semi but advanced, and then turned it on today to lead the field--and more crucially Stanford, Texas, and Washington--to grab that first-ever win.
While Princeton's Four was busy staking their team to an early points lead, the Ohio State Four on the other side of the course proceeded to blow the points predictions up entirely: sprinting through Texas to snatch second by a canvas, the Buckeye's efforts pushed Stanford into fourth and Washington into 5th. When you consider that each V4 placing is worth 1 point, Ohio State did quite a bit to create the tie that determined things in the end.
For the Texas Four, holding on to 3rd, and that precious point over Stanford, would prove telling.
"The four came up in a huge way, and that performance really set us up," said O'Neill. "We knew Stanford and Washington were going to be very fast, so getting ahead of them was really big. Of course, we then had to really worry about Princeton after they won the four."
Point Tallying & Team Results
If you're curious as to how all these point totals work, and played out, check out how the team standings are calculated with our NCAA Championship D1 Team Standings w/Points Calculations, posted here.
Behind Texas and Stanford in those top two spots, both Princeton and Washington made it onto the NCAA's "top four" podium. Princeton's 3rd place was their best team finish since 2013, and it was the first time since the very first NCAA Championship back in 1997 that the Tigers collected medals in two events at a single championship.
"We are excited and extremely proud of the team’s performance," said Princeton's Lori Dauphiny.
"The four came together and was a magical combo. They started the day with an amazing performance that will go down in history. The 2V defied rankings and had their best performance yet. The 1V shined and raced an impressive race with great determination. They are a positive force who could dig deep and race."
Fourth for Washington was impressive in the end, even for that storied program which tied for first last year and won outright in 2019, coming as it did at the end of a season where a number of top rowers were out with COVID complications and injuries at times in Head Coach Yaz Farooq's squad.
“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the squad back home," said Farooq. "Those women played key roles in helping the team forge ahead when so many were out. This included a number of first year walk-ons who raced in NCAA lineups for the first month of the season.
"The whole season has felt like a race against the clock," she added. "First, getting people healthy, then helping them rebuild rowing fitness and get back in boats, and last getting them race-ready in a tight window. The progress in the last few weeks has been inspiring and the team made a ton of progress. Earning spots in the grand finals for all three boats was a major achievement. We knew the field would step it up on Sunday and did all we could to be in the hunt."
"We’re heading to Henley so I’m glad our squad will have a few more weeks together to develop and build speed."
You can find the full list of where each of the 22 teams placed at the end of the all the racing here, but the field was definitely deeper this year with the return of Ivy's like Yale, after a a 2021 COVID hiatus from competition, and the ability of many programs to return to full training after a year of pandemic precautions and restricted training.
The result was that six programs that made it to NCAAs in 2021 finished lower, but one of the ones that managed to hold serve was Duke, who finished 16th again in the tougher field.
Head Coach Megan Cooke Carcagno said she was "proud of our team's efforts this weekend."
"The NCAA Championships continues to get faster every year, so being a part of it is a testament to our continued growth and determination. Obviously I'm disappointed to not finish higher as a team. We came into this year wanting a top ten performance and came up short. Back to work this summer and next fall. We'll be back and better."
There were a few teams that moved up: among them Princeton from the 12th and Brown from the 8th they each earned after a very limited training year and racing season mid-COVID, and Gonzaga up from 20th to 18th.
California, on the strength of a 1V that made the Grand and a Four that won the B Final, got itself into 6th overall by pulling things together at the right time after an up-and-down season:
"Our training, like most teams I imagine, kind of went in fits and starts with Covid issues and injuries to some top rowers," said Head Coach Al Acosta. "I think post PAC-12's, it was great to be out of school, get healthy, and build some momentum. The team was amazing in their belief in each other through the whole process."
The Cal V4 that did so well in the B Final was co-coached by long-time Cal assistant Sara Nevin, who is retiring this year, says Acosta.
"Sara won multiple championships with the Huskies at a time when [women's racing] was only 1K, then 1500M. She's an inspiration to our team and I think all of us who are fortunate to compete at the NCAAs stand on the shoulders of women like Sara."
Notes From the Course
- 50 Years and 25 Years: the conjunction of the 50th anniversary of 1972's Title IX legislation and the 25th year of this Championship was mentioned a few times over the loudspeakers--and the NCAA folks at the awards ceremony wore shirts referencing the Title IX anniversary. It is certainly no stretch to imagine that this event--in this form and with this impressive depth of speed and talent--would not exist without Title IX, nor the tireless efforts of all those who worked to coach, fund, and develop women's rowing.
- Overheard in the B Final: Didn't I see you in Tokyo: not really, of course--folks were busy racing after all--but a few coaches pointed out that the NCAA has gotten competitive enough that an Olympian or two wound up in the Petites - whoa.
- Time to Hit the Showers? Have to hand it to Texas, they know how to do a post race cool-down: lifting a boat full of water overhead.
- Different Rules, Perchance? We mentioned yesterday that the D2 and D3 teams had been told that there would be no swimming allowed but as one onlooker predicted, that rule probably wouldn't apply to D1 a day later... and it sure didn't. Good for the D1 teams that got in their traditional coxswain tosses and full-on "let's swim out and say hi" celebrations, but sure would have been nice to allow ALL the champions to celebrate that way.