Huskies Advance All Boats To NCAA Semifinals
May 27, 2011
GOLD RIVER, Calif. - All three Husky boats advanced to the semifinals, putting the Washington women's crew program in solid position heading into Saturday's races at the NCAA Championships.
The varsity eight went the unconventional route, finishing second in the repechage to secure their spot in the semis. Washington needed a tremendous push in the final 750 meters to move from fifth place, slowly walking through crews to take a firm hold on second place. The Huskies weren't satisfied, though, and began taking seats on first-place Wisconsin. Both crews crossed the finish line at seemingly the same time, but a photo finish gifted the win to the Badgers, whose time of 6:53.66 was so close to Washington's 6:53.82 you could slide a sheet of paper between them. Women's coach Bob Ernst was at the finish line and said there was less than "two feet" that separated the boats.
"That's what Day 1 is all about. You start out with hard races and then they get tougher and tougher," Ernst said. "That's what a National Championship is all about."
Conditions on the Lake Natoma course featured a light headwind and cold temperatures, atypical to Northern California in late May. This favored the higher-seeded crews, who took advantage of the fast water on the inside lanes. The weather shifted in the afternoon, as the sun broke through the clouds.
The best overall race of the afternoon went to the Huskies second varsity eight, which used a powerful move at the halfway point to slingshot from fifth to second. Although the Huskies finished third, just a hair behind USC and the winning Stanford eight, the gutsy charge is a positive sign of the boat's confidence. The finish was significant because the fourth-place crew (Yale) finished .3 seconds behind the Huskies and was sent to the repechage. The Huskies overall time of 6:40.65 was just .03 seconds in back of the Trojans as all three boats crossed the line in a tight group.
"It was a gut check," Ernst said. "They did what they had to do. There's a lot of difference between the race course this morning and this afternoon. A lot of teams got a second life this afternoon, and we were able to get it done."
Washington nearly had a win in its varsity four heat, but the Huskies could not hold off a determined Wisconsin squad down the stretch. Despite leading almost wire-to-wire, the Huskies ceded the lead to the Badgers at the 1750-meter mark and finished with a time of 7:23.57. The race was marred at the beginning by a false start, with the crews being called back to the start after a boat jumped out early. This tends to have an adverse effect on crews, but assistant coach Colin Sykes liked his team was able to move past the race interruption.
"The objective at this point is to learn something from every race between now and Sunday," Sykes said. "When they came back from the false start and really locked on. The goal was to win the heat, but I'm glad we gave it a great effort."
Note: There was a lengthy controversy following the race after several boats weighed under the official FISA/NCAA limit of 205 pounds. Following the racing of the day, the NCAA reinstated one second varsity boat (Yale) who had finished fourth in the repechage after the winner in the heat (Cal) was initially relegated. The NCAA later said they were not "comfortable with the integrity of the scales." The second varsity semifinals will feature 13 boats split between two heats, compared to the normal 12.
BOATINGS & RESULTS
Varsity Eight - Heat 1 (6:33.94); Repechage 1 (6:53.66)
Second Varsity Eight - Heat 2 (6:40.65)