Thursday, June 2, 2016

NCAA Rowing Championships, 2016: RR Recap and Review

Golden Bears claim top honors at NCAAs

The 2016 NCAA Rowing Championships in Sacramento, California, were the best kind of agonizing.

While there were a number of very close races throughout the weekend, the semis in the varsity eight were predictably outstanding—so much so that a Texas team that was clearly a step ahead of last year's Longhorns squad ended up finishing one place worse in the standings, with their varsity eight missing the final by the smallest of margins.



But if the semis were a battle all the way to the line, then they were the perfect prelude to the finals, where the top two teams in the country really showed their mettle. Coming out the the semifinals, only three teams managed to place all their crews in the medal rounds: Virginia, California, and the defending champion, (The) Ohio State. And, while there were no undefeated crews in the varsity eight entering the fray this year, it was no less dramatic than last year's showdown between the Golden Bears and the Buckeyes.

That drama was due at least in part to the tremendous performance of these crews' lower boats: Cal came into the varsity eight final looking to be the first team ever to win all three events, while Ohio State had nearly toppled Cal in the second varsity eight, and collected a significant contribution from their varsity four, which took fifth overall.

However, much as in 2015, it was the Buckeyes who prevailed on the grandest stage in the varsity eight, moving (characteristically) from the middle of the pack in the early stages of the race to take the victory by what at the NCAA Championships must be considered a broad margin of roughly two seconds. The pressure, then, was on California to hold off the rest of the field, which surged forward in the second half of the race—Cal needed to place as highly as they could in order to win the all-important points battle and claim their first national championship since 2006.

It was anything but easy, but that's just what they did.


Huge congrats to head coaches Al Acosta (winning the NCAA title in just his second year at the helm—yes, credit to Dave O'Neill for building the program into a perennial contender, but a tremendous accomplishment for Acosta nonetheless to continue to push the program forward), and Andy Teitelbaum—both coaches were on the cusp of something no team has ever done before: Cal nearly swept the event, and Ohio State was just three points away from their fourth straight national title (also winning their third straight varsity eight championship along the way). Kudos, indeed.



Meanwhile, at the Division II level, Barry took home the title (as we predicted), while Wellesley claimed their first championship in Division III after some very exciting racing throughout the season with rivals Williams and Bates—our favorites to take the crown this season.

Good race all crews!

-RR

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