May 28, 2011
GOLD RIVER, Calif. - The middle day of the NCAA Rowing Championships offers stark judgments on both side of the spectrum. Crews are either painfully relegated to the petite finals, or sent through for the opportunity to race for National Championships.
The Huskies' varsity four is headed to the Grand Final, earning their place in the medal race by holding off a determined Princeton crew Saturday in the waning moments of the semifinals. Washington's two other boats - the varsity eight and the second varsity eight - both finished fourth in fast heats and will head to the petite finals.
On another blustery day at Lake Natoma, the Huskies helped kicked off racing in the first varsity eight semifinal heat. Situated in the outside lane, the Huskies soon found themselves in fifth after the starting call. The Dawgs hung within seconds the leading pack of USC, Princeton and California while also taking seats from defending National Champion Virginia. The Huskies walked through the Cavaliers, but could not catch up to the three crews in the advancing group, finishing in a time of 6:37.37. Women's coach and rowing director Bob Ernst felt these semifinals were a valuable experience for a Huskies team lean on senior leadership.
"I thought (the varsity eight) had a great race this morning," Ernst said. "I think they've gotten faster as they've been going through the regatta. For as young a group as we have, I think they're going to take a lot from it (on Sunday)."
Wind is always a factor at Lake Natoma and the morning's semifinals, particularly for the crews seated in the outside lanes. In both the V8 and 2V8 races, the Huskies battled not only their opposition but 10-15 mph crosswinds that forced the crews, as Ernst put it, to "row above themselves."
The Husky second eight had not only the disadvantage of the outside lane, but had to row in a seven-boat race after a situation with the weight scales yesterday allowed Yale to advance, despite having finished fourth in its repechage. In a race that nearly mirrored the first, Washington hung tight with the pack from the onset. But the Huskies could not chase down an Ohio State boat that finished third. Washington was less than four seconds behind with a time of 6:47.34.
For an event that has featured photo finishes in several races, the varsity four semis treated fans to another dramatic ending. The Huskies initially trailed the Tigers at the halfway mark of the race, but were able to retake the lead with a move at the 1,250-meter mark. Princeton refused to cede seats, and both boats hung neck and neck going to the finish, with the Huskies pushing across first at the end in a time of 7:28.14. The time was less than seven seconds behind the winning Cal boat, but faster than every crew who raced in the second heat.
"I think that all three of the boats rowed well up to their potential," Ernst said.