Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The NCAA Rowing Championships, 2015: RR Recap and Review

And they're off! (Photo: M. Davis)
The 2015 NCAA Championships were arguably the most exciting to date, and featured a Division I finale that pitted the defending champs against an undefeated crew. Meanwhile, both Division II and Division III crowned new champions, while newcomers also made a lasting impression. Let's take a closer look.

Division I
What more can we say about Ohio State? The Buckeyes sealed the first-ever trifecta, three-peat, whatever you want to call it, in the most dramatic way possible: they found a way to beat an undefeated California varsity eight by roughly five tenths of a second after a fantastic race by both crews, to keep cap an undefeated season of their own. And, as they tweeted shortly thereafter, it was no small task taking down the Golden Bears.



Even if the Bears' varsity eight had pulled off a victory over the Buckeyes, the standings would have still favored Ohio State, but the Buckeyes' top crew posted a record of 15-0 for the season, and while an NCAA title is an NCAA title, it always feels better in rowing when you win the varsity eight, too. Congrats to 2014 RoRy Coach of the Year Award winner Andy Teitelbaum and the whole staff at OSU on the historic victory (interesting stat on Buckeye assistant coach Madeline Davis: every season that she has coached to date, going back to her days as an assistant coach with Al Acosta and the Stanford lightweights, has ended in a national title).



Not to be ignored were the runners up, the Golden Bears, who had a fantastic season in the first year of Al Acosta's tenure—Acosta crossed the San Francisco Bay after a very successful stint with the Stanford lightweights, and showed that he was ready to take the reins of one of the nation's top programs.



Another standout performance this year came from Washington. The Huskies were the only team other than Ohio State to land all of their boats in the grand finals (and the only program in the country that saw every one of it's crews—both men's and women's—racing for medals this year)—and things were very interesting going into the varsity eight final in Sacramento.



However, though the Huskies battled well throughout the regatta, the top-end speed of the competition proved a little too much for Washington, as they finished sixth overall in the grand final, landing them at fourth place in the team standings. What of the other crews in the finals? Well, as expected once Dave O'Neill took over at the beginning of the 2014-2015 season, it looks like there's still more reason why you don't mess with Texas. The Longhorns, in their first-ever appearance at the NCAA Championships, not only fit right in with the nation's top programs, finishing seventh in the points, but also landed their varsity eight in the grand final, edging Pac-12 powerhouses Stanford and Washington along the way to claim fourth place.



Also, looking ahead to next season, watch out for the Stanford Cardinal, who will be losing very few of their top athletes to graduation this year, and could be well positioned to challenge Cal for the Pac-12 title next season. Lastly, had Brown been able to make the final in the women's varsity eight, it might have been one of the closest championships ever—the Bears were our preseason no. 1, and they didn't miss by much. A tough heat that put them into the reps may have been their undoing this season, though they still managed to make the podium as a team, taking third in the points.

Divisions II and III
In 2013, Barry nearly pulled it off, but suffered a setback last season. Not so for the Buccaneers this year. Not only did they win the team title (the first-ever for Barry), they did it in style, taking both the varsity eight and the varsity four to firmly stamp their dominance on DII rowing at the national level in Sacramento. Hats off to head coach Boban Rankovic (in just his second year) and the Bucs squad!

And, switching gears to DIII rowing, Bates ended a streak of near misses with a great team performance to claim their first NCAA title for the program (ever the bridesmaid no longer!). While Trinity was not to be denied in the varsity eight, Bates hung on well to take second, and given their victory in the second varsity eight, the team championship was theirs. It's been great to see the recent shakeups at the DII and DIII level, as parity continues to be the name of the game in women's collegiate rowing.

More links:
Complete 2015 NCAA Rowing Championships results
Complete final NCAA Division I standings for 2015
The home of rowing on NCAA.com

What's on tap for next season? We can't wait to find out!

-RR

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