May 27, 2006
WEST WINDSOR, N.J. - Washington's smallest crew came up the biggest Saturday.
The Huskies' varsity four crew guaranteed itself a top-six finish entering Sunday's finals while the school's two eight-oared entries narrowly missed qualifying for their grand final races during the second day of the NCAA Women's Rowing Championships, Saturday on Mercer Lake. The three-day regatta concludes Sunday with the grand and petite finals for all three categories of crews.
The first and second-place finishers in both varsity four repechage races received berths to the six-boat grand finals. The Huskies remained in the top-two positions throughout the entire 2,000-meter race, crossing the finish line just two seats behind Washington State. The Cougars' winning time was 7-minutes, 19.11-seconds and UW's was 7:19.93.
The Huskies and Cougars will be joined in the championship race by Ohio State and Michigan State, which finished one-two in the other repechage. California and Brown were automatic qualifiers for the final by virtue of first-place performances in Friday's heats.
Washington's varsity eight crew was seeking a top-three finish in Saturday's semifinal to reach the grand final for the first time since 2003. The Huskies charged hard over the final 1,000 meters, but came up six seats short of third-place Ohio State. Defending champion California won the semifinal race with a time of 6:30.47, Michigan State was second in 6:32.13. Ohio State's third-place time was 6:32.57, just 1.42-seconds quicker than UW's 6:33.99.
"We had a good start and counteracted moves with everyone. We just ran out of racecourse at the end there," explained junior stroke Courtney Plitt (Mill Creek, Wash./Jackson). Saturday marked the third race in two days for the Huskies' top crew. UW had to row twice Friday, including an impressive repechage victory that secured its semifinal berth.
"We've actually stepped it up a lot in the last couple races. Each race has gotten a little better, figuring things out," Plitt added. "Sunday we're ready to put it all together and have a good fight."
Third-year UW coach Eleanor McElvaine agrees that the varsity eight has been at its best in the last two races.
"We're definitely putting together the best races between Friday's rep and today's semifinal," she said. "I'm really proud of how they came fighting back today. We knew it was going to be really, really hard to make the top three. We were just going to fight to the very last stroke and try to get our bow ball in front and came up 10 feet short of that."
Top-ranked Princeton won the other varsity eight semifinal followed by grand final qualifiers Brown and Washington State.
The Huskies' second varsity eight also has a petite final date Sunday after a fourth-place effort in the repechage. They finished behind grand final qualifiers California and Washington State and third-place Yale.
After falling off the pace early, UW moved in the middle of the race to challenge the lead trio before finishing just over two seconds away from a qualifying position. The Golden Bears clocked a winning time of 6:42.00, WSU was second in 6:43.44, Yale was third in 6:45.29 and the Huskies were fourth in 6:45.99.
"If we could have had 10 more strokes worth of length, I think we could have gotten into first or second," said junior Cara Troelstra (Halifax, Nova Scotia) who rows in the No. 7 seat.
Wisconsin won the other second varsity repechage and Princeton was second to capture the other qualifying spot. They join a field that includes Ohio State and Brown crews that won Friday's heat races.
The team competition is wide open as four schools qualified for grand finals in all three events, including Brown, California, Ohio State and Washington State.
The Huskies seek to keep alive their streak of placing among the top-10 teams at every championship since the NCAA began sponsoring women's rowing in 1997. UW is one of only four teams with top-10 finishes every year, a list that will drop to three since Virginia did not qualify for this year's regatta. Brown and Princeton also have nine consecutive top-10 finishes to their credit.
The Huskies have a legacy of success in four-oared rowing. UW collected the bronze medal last season, earned silver in 2004 and won three consecutive national championships between 1999-2001. The current crop of rowers is aware of that recent success.
"I'm very aware of the legacy the fours have," said junior Asiha Grigsby (Graham, Wash./Spanaway Lake). "We have a great legacy going on. Two years ago we placed second, last year we were third. I want to keep that tradition going."
Grigsby is the only member of the UW four with previous NCAA championships experience. She rowed in the seventh-place second varsity crew last season.
This year's youthful varsity four crew has freshman coxswain Sofia Benson-Goldberg (Seattle, Wash./Forest Ridge) directing two sophomore and two junior rowers. Their success goes against the conventional wisdom that experience is necessary for postseason success.
"We're kind of defying the standards," Benson-Goldberg exclaimed about her young crew. "This is my first NCAAs, so I'm pumped to be here and to be in the final."
A major part of the success has been the coaching of assistant Sean Mulligan, who oversaw the previous two medal-winning crews. Does he believe this group also has medal potential?
"I think so. But they are a younger crew than we've had the last couple years so it depends on how they execute Sunday. You have to get into the final to be able to win the thing, and they did that."
2006 NCAA Women's Rowing Championships
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Mercer Lake; West Windsor, N.J.
(all races were 2,000 meters)
SECOND DAY RACE RESULTS
(top three finishers to grand final, rest to petite final)
Semifinal I -- 1, Princeton 6:20.85. 2, Brown 6:26.35. 3, Washington State 6:27.41. 4, Minnesota 6:28.81. 5, Yale 6:30.37. 6, USC 6:33.76. 7, Stanford 6:46.01.
Semifinal II -- 1, California 6:30.47. 2, Michigan State 6:32.13. 3, Ohio State 6:32.57. 4, Washington 6:33.99. 5, Notre Dame 6:36.93. 6, UCLA 6:43.10.
UW lineup: cox-Eva Anderson, stroke-Courtney Plitt, 7-Jamie Unwin, 6-Sarah Hubbard, 5-Kim Armstrong, 4-Megan Kalmoe, 3-Allison DePalma, 2-Olivia Morrow, bow-Marah Connole.
Finals Lane Assignments (Sunday, 11:45 a.m. EDT)
Grand Final: 1-Ohio State, 2-Brown, 3-California, 4-Princeton, 5-Michigan State, 6-Washington State.
Petite Final: 1-USC, 2-Notre Dame, 3-Washington, 4-Minnesota, 5-Yale, 6-UCLA, 7-Stanford.
Second Varsity Eights
(top two finishers to grand final, rest to petite final)
Repechage I -- 1, California 6:42.00. 2, Washington State 6:43.44. 3, Yale 6:45.29. 4, Washington 6:45.99. 5, Stanford 6:49.62.
Repechage II -- 1, Wisconsin 6:36.60. 2, Princeton 6:38.13. 3, Michigan State 6:38.89. 4, Notre Dame 6:49.04. 5, Tennessee 6:50.36.
UW lineup: cox-Alysha Koorji, stroke-Andrea Sooter, 7-Cara Troelstra, 6-Kim Kennedy, 5-Charlene Franklin, 4-Karen Magnuson, 3-Corianne Bowman, 2-Ivayla Dermendjieva, bow-Liz Simenstad.
Finals Lane Assignments (Sunday, 11:00 a.m. EDT)
Grand Final: 1-Washington State, 2-California, 3-Ohio State, 4-Brown, 5-Wisconsin, 6-Princeton.
Petite Final: 1-Tennessee, 2-Notre Dame, 3-Yale, 4-Michigan State, 5-Washington, 6-Stanford.
(top two finishers to grand final, rest to petite final)
Repechage I -- 1, Ohio State 7:21.12. 2, Michigan State 7:21.43. 3, Princeton 7:26.53. 4, Notre Dame 7:34.00. 5, Tennessee 7:42.03.
Repechage II -- 1, Washington State 7:19.11. 2, Washington 7:19.93. 3, Stanford 7:26.03. 4, Wisconsin 7:27.02. 5, Yale 7:31.17.
UW lineup: cox-Sofia Benson-Goldberg, stroke-Ashley Jones, 3-Asiha Grigsby, 2-Taryn Langlois, bow-Erika Sweet.
Finals Lane Assignments (Sunday, 10:30 a.m. EDT)
Grand Final: 1-Washington, 2-Ohio State, 3-Brown, 4-California, 5-Washington State, 6-Michigan State.
Petite Final: 1-Tennessee, 2-Wisconsin, 3-Princeton, 4-Stanford, 5-Notre Dame, 6-Yale.