Women's Crew Repeats as NCAA Team and Varsity 8 Champions
May 31, 1998
LAKE LANIER, GA -- Fittingly, for the second year in a row, the NCAA Women's Rowing Championship came down to the final race. Following the Fours and Varsity II (junior varsity) competition, Washington, Brown and Virginia were deadlocked for first place with 43 points each. The only three schools from the team competition to qualify all three boats in the finals, the top finisher among the three in the Varsity I race was set to take home the championship trophy.
Rowing into a stiff headwind the Huskies exploded off of the start line. Within the first 100 meters Washington built a half-boat lead with Michigan and Brown in pursuit. The Huskies crossed the 500-meter mark with a four-seat lead over Michigan.
"We didnt know about the three-way tie at the start of our race," said senior Denni Nessler. "Our plan was to get off the line strong and to get out in front of everyone."
"We came off the line and settled down our stroke rate to 36," said coxswain Missy Collins. "That is a little high for us, but we were pretty efficient with that rate."
The Huskies proved the fast start was no fluke. While Michigan could not keep up the torrid pace and slid back into the pack, Brown trailed the Huskies by four seats at the midway mark. That's when Washington surprised the Bears, the prerace favorites to unseat the defending national champions. Over the next 250 yards the Huskies opened their lead to a full boat length.
"We thought we were strong at the start and charging in the last 1,000," said Washington head coach Jan Harville. "Our weakness all along this year has been the point between 300 and 400 meters and the 1,000-meter mark. Maybe not being willing to take the pain that early or something has always been a little difficult for us. We focused on, Well, if we go out and kill ourselves in the first 1,000 meters, well see what is left for the second 1,000. We talk about that a lot and we finally decided we needed to do that or the race might pass us by."
By the 1,500-meter mark the Huskies held nearly a three-second lead over Brown, who fell to third place at the finish behind a sprinting Massachusetts squad. Michigan, which attempted to stay with Washington at the start, finished in fifth place. Washington won the race in a time of 6:52.0, almost 34 seconds slower than their semifinal win due to the headwinds.
"We talked before the race and said that we were committed to staying out front," said senior Kelly Horton. "Today, it worked for us."
"They told me that was as perfect of a race as they have ever raced," said Harville.
The victory gave Washington 91 total points in the team competition while Brown finished second with 85 points and Virginia was third at 76 points.
"The competition here is so much tougher this year that it really makes it that much sweeter," said senior Annie Christie about Washingtons repeat national championships.
In the Varsity II (junior varsity) race the Huskies put on a strong sprint in the final 500 meters to pull ahead of Brown and knot up the point standings. Virginia jumped out to a two-second lead in the first 500 meters and never looked back as the Cavaliers cruised to their first individual title in a time of 7:11.2. That left Washington, Princeton and Brown to duel it out for second place.
The Huskies were in fourth place after the first 1,000 meters and finally pulled away from Princeton early in the second half of the race. Brown, which could never muster more than a half boat lead on the Huskies during the race, passed the 1,500-meter mark with a slim six-tenths of a second lead.
"We knew what we had to do in the final 500 meters and everyone put it all on the line and gave it their all," said sophomore coxswain Paige Pfunder, who ironically grew up in neighboring Gainesville. We had a great last 500 meters.
"I've never felt a 500 like that," said junior Jan Williamson of Edmonds. "We knew that we had about a half boat length to make up. I could see out of the corner of my eye us gaining more and more and I could feel the energy in the boat."
"Paige was great letting us know how much more we had to make up," said Harville.
In the Fours final the Husky team, in only its third race together, finished fourth with a time of 7:59.2. USC took the early lead in the race and held off a challenge by Brown two-thirds of the way through the 2,000-meter course to win with a time of 7:52.1. Brown was second, three seconds behind the Trojans while North Carolina, making its first appearance at the NCAA regatta, took third at 7:57.6.
"We knew that we were really going to be up against it today because we came back and surprised USC Saturday and all of the other coaches saw that," said Husky assistant coach Eleanor McElvaine. "I think the other coaches felt they had to get far enough up on Washington that they could hold us off when we sprinted. It was evident that it was everyone's race plan and we didn't really have a whole lot more to give through the middle of the race. Was it as good as yesterdays race? Well, maybe not. Its easier to row well when you're moving through somebody than when they are holding you off."
NCAA Womens Rowing Championships
Team Standings: 1. Washington 91, 2. Brown 85, 3. Virginia 76, 4. Massachusetts 72, 5. Michigan 70, 6. Princeton 62, 7. Harvard 54, 8. Dartmouth 36
Petite Finals: 1. Princeton 7:00.6, 2. Harvard 7:03.7, 3. Michigan State 7:07.1, 4. California 7:10.7, 5. Georgetown 7:13.8, 6. Dartmouth 7:14.2
Petite Finals: 1. Harvard 7:29.0, 2. Dartmouth 7:30.9
Petite Finals: 1. Michigan 7:57.7, 2. Iowa 7:59.3, 3. Pennsylvania 8:06.0, 4. Harvard 8:07.7, 5. Princeton 8:10.6, 6. Massachusetts 8:10.9