INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A photo finish was needed in the eight grand final to determine that Western Washington University had fallen short in its bid for an eighth national team championship at the 13th annual NCAA Division II National Women’s Rowing Championships which ended Sunday at the Eagle Creek Reservoir.
Just two points separated the top three teams, the tightest finish in the history of the event.
Humboldt State took its second crown in three years with 16 points, one ahead of defending champion Nova Southeastern FL and two in front of the Vikings.
“It was one to remember for sure,” said WWU head coach John Fuchs. “To be that close, a photo finish, from being the national champs is pretty crazy.
“I’m really proud of them. They were upset, but at the same time they knew that there was just nothing else they could have done.”
WWU began the morning with the four making a late move to take its grand final by less than two seconds over Nova Southeastern with Humboldt State third.
Photo Credit: Justin Casterline. Courtesy of WWU Athletics
The Vikings’ eight led for the first half of its grand final before being passed by Humboldt State, which won by one-half boat length.
However, WWU was still in position to win the team championship with a runner-up finish, and it battled Nova Southeastern for the last 200 meters before being edged out by one foot on the final stroke. A photo finish was required to determine the placing of the two schools.
“We thought we were second on the big screen,” Fuchs said. “It looked as though we crossed the line ahead, but when the photo came out we were .06 of a second back. We thought we got it, so we went from `Yes, got it,’ to `Oh, now we’re third.’ We’d been through a similar situation in 2004, but this was just craziness.”
WWU’s eight finished third in 7:15.42 over the 2,000-meter race, just a fraction of a second behind runner-up Nova Southeastern with a 7:15.36 clocking. Humboldt State’s winning time was 7:13.41 and Barry was fourth in 7:31.28.
“The kids just totally threw down,” said Fuchs. “They had such a good race, it was their best one of the year … It could have gone either way. It was just a flip of a coin. Whoever crossed the line first, whoever was taking a stroke and whoever was finishing between us and Nova.”
The Vikings’ four, which did not lose to a DII school this season, placed first in 7:59.31 with Nova Southeastern second in 8:01.60 and Humboldt State a distant third in 8:23.50.
It is the seventh time that a WWU four has taken top honors at nationals.
“We knew that after the four race that all we had to do was beat Nova and we would be national champions,” Fuchs said. “And we also knew that if Humboldt won and we didn’t do something, that we would be third. So, it was either all or nothing. So, it was good that we were right next to them (Nova Southeastern).
“It was just kind of who was finishing their stroke. Pure luck. Pure luck. It could have gone either way. It didn’t go our way.
“It was a great effort. The four had kind of a conservative start and came back and won. And the eight had such a great race, they just kind of kept going and going and going, but couldn’t hang on to it.”
WWU, which has competed in every DII national meet since the event began in 2002, continued its streak of always placing among the top three. The Vikings won seven national titles from 2005 to 2011, an NCAA record for all rowing divisions, and have never had an eight or four not reach a grand final at nationals.
WWU entered the national championships ranked No.3 in the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association/USRowing DII Poll with Nova Southeastern No.1 and Humboldt State No.3.
Seated in the Vikings’ four were coxswain Kate Nelson (Jr., Moscow, ID), stroke Audra Massey (Jr., Albuquerque, NM), No.3 Jenny Chang (Fr., Sammamish/Int. School of Beijing), No.2 Olivia Gangmark-Strickland (So., Bainbridge Island), and bow Katya Hewitt (So., Bellingham).
The WWU eight was made up of coxswain Maeghan Callegari (Jr., Kirkland/Lake Washington), stroke Catrina Cuadra (Sr., Lake Stevens), No.7 Regan Wessman (Sr., Kirkland/Lake Washington), No.6 Lauren Ramstead (Sr., Everson/Nooksack Valley), No.5 Megan Marler (So., Morrison, CO/D’Evelyn), No.4 Olivia Rowland (Sr., Seattle/Holy Names), No.3 Christine Henie (Sr., Chugiak, AK), No.2 Emily Bartlett (Fr., Broadlands, VA/Thomas Jefferson S&T), and bow Emily Little (So., Port Angeles/Peninsula CC).
This was the third national run for WWU’s Callegari, the assistant captain; team captain Henie, Wessman and Rowland. They were in the varsity four in 2012.
It was the second trip to nationals for Cuadra, Gangmark-Strickland, Massey, Nelson and Ramstead, and the first for Bartlett, Chang, Hewitt, Little, Marler and Still.