May 13, 2012
GOLD RIVER, Calif. - Washington's won two medals at the inaugural Pac-12 Championships to cap a successful performance on Lake Natoma.
Facing a gauntlet of the nation's best crews, the No. 8 Huskies more than held their own, highlighted by a bronze-medal finish in the varsity eight race. The Huskies also won silver with their varsity four, authoring a strong comeback in a race that saw the Huskies near the back of the pack at the first 500-meter mark.
California won the Pac-12s by sweeping all four races to take home the maximum 63 points available, justifying its No. 1 national ranking. Washington finished second overall with 31 points, followed by UCLA with 30 points. It was the Huskies' best finish at the conference championships since the 2006 season.
"The kids did a good job," said women's coach and rowing director Bob Ernst. "Coming into the season, we wanted to turn a corner and with our attitude and our performance. I think we're getting there."
But in order to win the varsity eight, the Golden Bears had to fend off a furious kitchen-sink sprint from USC and Washington in the 2,000-meter race on Lake Natoma. The Huskies and the Trojans needed a photo finish, with USC taking the silver medal by the narrowest of margins (6:32.70 to 6:32.80). The Trojans had come into the race with a perfect record in their varsity eight boat.
Ernst said after the race he looked at the finish-line video, which confirmed the Trojans edged the Huskies by just four inches. The timing service JAMCO initially had the Huskies finishing second after the race.
After falling to fourth at the first 500-meter mark, the Husky varsity eight began to creep back in the race. By the third 500, the Huskies had a solid hold on third before overtaking USC near the finish line. Washington's final 500-meter split of 1:38.07 was the fastest of seven crews in the race.
In the varsity four race, the Huskies rebounded from a slow start to overtake a handful of crews heading toward the finish. At the first 500-meter checkpoint, the Huskies were in sixth place, but used a sprint to regain control of the race by the halfway point. Although no crew was going to be able to chase down California, the Huskies managed to breeze past UCLA in the last part of the race to finish comfortably in second place at 7:20.80.
In the novice eight category, the racing remained static as crews maintained their positions throughout the race. California had the gold-medal winning time of 6:47.00, two seconds ahead of second-place UCLA. Washington finished fourth with a time of 7:03.90.
The Huskies also finished fourth in the second varsity eight race, missing out on a medal after UCLA fended off a challenge for the third-place spot. UW was in a tight group of boats at the start, with Cal leading the way at the 500-meter mark. The Golden Bears began to lengthen their lead at the 1,500-meter mark, followed by Stanford, UCLA and Washington, who was in contact with the Bruins. But UCLA pulled away at the finish to take the bronze, with Washington coming in fourth at 6:46.90.
Next up for the Huskies is the NCAA Championships, which begins on May 25 in West Mercer, N.J. Washington is one of just three programs to have been selected to the 16-team field each year since its inception in 1997.
Lake Natoma, Calif. All races 2,000 meters
Varsity Eight: Cal 6:30.90, USC 6:32.70, Washington 6:32.80, UCLA 6:36.30, Stanford 6:38.10, Washington State 6:48.00, Oregon State 6:49.50
Second Varsity Eight: California 6:39.30, Stanford 6:42.70, UCLA 6:43.00, Washington 6:46.90, Washington State 6:48.60, USC 6:49.60, Oregon State 7:05.30
Varsity Four: California 7:13.90, Washington 7:20.80, UCLA 7:23.40, Washington State 7:28.90, Stanford 7:29.30, Oregon State 7:36.90, USC 7:40.10
Freshmen Eight: California 6:47.00, UCLA 6:49.00, Washington State 6:55.70, Washington 7:03.90, Oregon State 7:05.90, Stanford 7:17.30, USC 7:21.00.