May 20, 2008
The selection was very much in doubt for the Huskies who placed fourth in the team standings at Sunday's Pac-10 regatta. Their NCAA championship fate was in the hands of the selection committee that had only seven at-large berths to distribute.
The uneasy period before the early afternoon announcement was prolonged for Coach Bob Ernst, who was attempting to view the selection show on his office monitor.
"I was watching it on the webcast, but my computer is slow or something," he explained. "All the other coaches saw it earlier and came in and said `We're in.' It wasn't even up on my screen yet, so it wasn't much of a surprise."
Along with perhaps obtaining a faster computer, Ernst will concentrate next week on accelerating his crews before returning to Lake Natoma. That is the same venue that hosted Sunday's Pac-10 Championships.
"It's about excellence and we've got to be about getting better in a week. We're looking for speed. We've got to get some more speed before we go back there. We're not going just to be participants."
The Huskies are one of three teams from the West Region that also supplied the championship regatta with Pac-10 winner California and Washington State.
Each of the 12 schools vying for the team championship is required to enter a crew in three events: the varsity eight, second varsity eight and varsity four. The NCAA team champion is determined by combining the results from the three events. In addition, four schools received at-large berths to enter boats in the varsity eight competition.
The field includes nine of the same schools from last season's championships. The new entries for 2008 are Michigan State, Washington State and Wisconsin.
Washington is one of only three schools to receive invitations to all 12 championships since the NCAA began sponsoring women's rowing in 1997. The Huskies are joined in that elite group by Brown and Princeton.
"That's a real tribute to the program. I'm really proud of the kids and I'm glad they got the break," said Ernst. "I'm anxious to coach them another two weeks. We're going to treat it like a week-and-a-half training camp before the national championships, There are no locks in any of the seats that we had at the Pac-10s."
The prowess of the Pac-10 was rewarded with the three team berths, while Stanford and USC received at-large varsity eight entries. Five of the six teams that competed in Sunday's varsity eight grand final at the Pac-10 regatta will row at the NCAA championships.
The year's complete field of schools vying for the team championship includes, Brown, California, Harvard, Michigan State, Ohio State, Princeton, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, Washington State, Wisconsin and Yale. The four at-large varsity eights are Clemson, Michigan, Stanford and USC.
Brown won its record fifth NCAA team title in 2007 at Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The Huskies placed 10th in last year's team standings.
Washington is a three-time national champion, winning in 1997, 1998 and 2001. Two-time champion California won the 2005 title, the last time the NCAA regatta was contested on Lake Natoma.
The 15th-ranked Huskies return four athletes from the crew that finished 15th among varsity eights at the 2007 NCAA regatta. Senior rowers Ashley Jones and Kim Kennedy along with senior coxswain Alysha Koorji and junior Kim Kennedy are back from last year's top UW crew.
The Husky men's team will also row for national titles. They compete June 5-7 at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) Championships on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, N.J.
Ernst returned this season to coach the UW women after 20 seasons with the Husky men's rowing team. He directed the men's varsity eight to the 2007 national championship. During his previous stint as the women's head coach, Ernst led UW to six varsity eight titles between 1981-87.
The Huskies finished fifth in the women's varsity eight grand final at Sunday's Pac-10 Regatta, fourth in the second varsity race and second among novice eight crews.
Washington won its second straight varsity four Pac-10 championship. Last year, the Huskies followed their conference title with a fifth-place NCAA showing.
"We were disappointed in some of our performances this weekend, but this is a new lease on life," Ernst exclaimed.
2008 NCAA Women's Rowing Championships Field
May 30-June 1 in Rancho Cordova, Calif.
At-Large Varsity Eights