May 27, 2012
WEST WINDSOR, N.J. - When Bob Ernst set out his goals for the season in September, he wanted the varsity eight to reach the Grand Final. So for a young, developing Huskies team, their 2012 run at the NCAA Championships provides a lot of optimism going forward.
Washington ended up seventh in the overall standings with 62 points, based on two sixth-places finishes in the Grand Finals on Sunday. UCLA also finished with 62 points, but did not reach the Grand Final of the varsity eight so UW broke the tie. Virginia won the National Championship with a dominating effort by its varsity eight, beating second-place Michigan by open water.
The Huskies can extract a lot of positives from their trip to the East Coast. A varsity eight boat featuring just two seniors reached the Grand Finals, establishing themselves as one of the six-fastest boats in the nation. The varsity four also showed a lot of pluck, particularly when the boat advanced out of the semis by knocking off Harvard in the race's final strokes.
Considering the UW varsity eight featured just two seniors, this is a step in the right direction for the Huskies.
"The young kids have really stepped up," Ernst said. "The interesting observation is, if you come here, and if your varsity doesn't have 3-4 really solid seniors, you're really up against it. You also need a lot of depth. Right now, we're growing our depth."
Although the course conditions were ideal for the final race, the hour-plus long rain delay sent crews scrambling for cover. Junior coxswain Kelsey Jackson admitted the wait was unbearable, with her teammates passing the time by attempting to make a music video. Once the boats were back on the water, the Huskies knew they would need to have their best race against a field stacked with Cal, UVA, Michigan, USC and Princeton. Ernst felt his varsity rowed as fast as they could go, and he tipped his cap to the Cavaliers for leaving no doubt in the final.
"I'm really proud of these kids. When it comes down to it, this lineup has only been together since the Pac-12's," Ernst said. "And most of these kids are going to be back next year, and I know they'll be better. Man, I want to start practice tomorrow."
What helped the Huskies cement their overall position was a resilient effort by the second varsity eight, which finished second in the petite final. UW was less than a second from winning the race, crossing a bow ball's length behind USC. This came after Washington was in fourth place with 1,500 meters to go.
The Husky varsity four was the last entrant into their Grand Final, needing a furious sprint to take down Harvard at the finish line of the semifinals. The Huskies couldn't summon the energy for another late kick in the Grand Finals, finishing sixth in a time of 7:29.20. Ohio State won the final in 7:13.09, upsetting the Cavaliers in the process.
Following the races, the Huskies hurried to load up their boats and get to the airport. A few tears were shed by the seniors, but for the most part the scene was full of athletes excited for the future. All season long, these Huskies proved they could hang with the best crews in the nation, and they can feel the fruits of their labor starting to pay off.
"I know at the beginning of this season we talked about wanting to get to the Grand Final," said senior Erin Lauber. "So in that sense, we accomplished a lot. But we also left a lot for the younger girls to shoot for next year."
Overall Point Standings (Top-10)
Virginia 87, Michigan 82, California 78, Princeton 77, Ohio State 67, Southern Cal 66, Washington 62, UCLA 62, Stanford, Yale
Varsity Eight, Grand Final
Virginia 6:18.72, Michigan 6:22.09, Southern Cal 6:25.90, California 6:27.19, Washington 6:29.11
Second Varsity Eight, Petite Final>
USC 6:42.97, Washington 6:43.26, Brown 6:45.51, Wisconsin 6:45.81, Stanford 6:46.64, Yale 6:47.58
Varsity Four, Grand Final
Ohio State 7:13.09, Virginia 7:15.18, California 7:21.15, Yale 7:23.53, Princeton 7:26.23, Washington 7:29.20