RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. — The University of Washington’s second varsity eight crew convincingly won its repechage, or second chance race, and the varsity eight was a semifinal runner-up on Saturday at the NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships.
The finishes secured the boats spots in their respective grand final races today on Lake Natoma. The Huskies varsity four already had earned a berth in its division’s grand final by winning its heat race on Friday.
“I’m just really proud of these kids because they stuck with me all year and they haven’t given up on each other,” UW women’s coach Bob Ernst said. “These kids just keep getting faster every time they race and that’s what it means to be a Husky rower.”
The three-day NCAA regatta concludes today with the championship races. Washington is one of only three schools with a boat in every grand final, joining California and defending national team titleist Brown. The last time the Huskies qualified all three crews for the NCAA grand finals was 2001, the year they captured the most recent of their three team championships.
“Our crews did what they were capable of doing,” Ernst said. “Now anything can happen. This is a team championship and we’ve got all of our boats in the final.”
The team champion is determined by combining results from the three competitions, assigning points to each finishing place. The point system is weighted to favor the results from the varsity eight event followed by the second varsity eight and then the varsity four.
In its second varsity repechage Saturday, Washington rowed to an early lead and sustained it the entire length of the 2,000-meter course, finishing first with a seven-seat advantage. The Huskies rowed the course in 6-minutes, 49.28-seconds.
Washington’s varsity eight, ranked 14th in the nation, secured a berth in its division championship race by finishing second in a semifinal, beating out four other eights ranked higher in the coaches poll.
The Huskies led early and paced the field until the 500-meter mark when No. 2 Brown took the lead. The Bears led by as many as four seats while fourth-ranked Virginia, sixth-ranked Michigan State and the UW were closely bunched in the battle for second.
The Huskies had slipped to fourth before a surge over the final 250 meters vaulted them to second. Brown won with a time of 6:34.93, followed three seats back by Washington (6:36.37), Michigan State (6:36.64), Virginia (6:36.92), No. 11 USC (6:46.00) and No. 10 Michigan (6:48.60).
“We were down coming into the last 500 and our boat just picked it up and went,” said UW sophomore Kayleigh Mack, who rows the No. 2 oar. “It’s just so awesome. I don’t think any of us have ever really pulled that hard in our lives before, so that last 250 was just unbelievable.
“I literally felt like I was going to die at the end of the race. The adrenaline was just so intense.”