May 28, 2011
GOLD RIVER, Calif. - Fourth-ranked Stanford women's rowing took another big step towards a second NCAA team title Saturday, leading the way on a day of competition dominated by the West Coast as one of just three schools to qualify each of its boats in the NCAA Grand Final for its respective class.
Stanford was joined by Pac-10 rivals California and USC as the only schools to have a boat in each grand final.
All three of Stanford's boats, the I Eight, II Eight and Four, turned in top-three finishes in their respective semifinal races to advance to Sunday's championship finals. The I and II Eights highlighted the day by capturing their heats, with each boat turning in the fastest time of the day for its respective class.
Sunday's NCAA champions will be decided in the morning. The Four championship final is set for a 10:25 a.m. start, while the II Eight will go for its first NCAA title at 11:15 a.m. In the day's main event, the I Eight will race for not only its second individual title in three years but also Stanford's second team title in three years in the championship final at 12:05 p.m.
The I Eight, which will race for its second individual NCAA title Sunday, found itself in a two-boat dogfight with the Brown crew in the morning's opener. Brown led by two seconds after the opening 500 meters, but Stanford chipped away at the lead, pulling to within a half-second at the three-quarters mark of the course. Over that final 500, a strong Cardinal push nosed Stanford ahead of the Bears and the Cardinal crossed the line in its class' fastest time, 6:21.68, just barely under one second before Brown.
For the second straight day, the Cardinal II Eight showed why it is the boat to beat at this weekend's competition, leading off the line and extending its advantage to three seconds over second-place California at the halfway mark. Despite the Golden Bears pulling to within two seconds with 500 meters to go, the Cardinal answered with its own surge, leaving the rest of the field behind and cruising over the line in a time of 6:36.04, four seconds ahead of the next boat from California.
The Cardinal Four made it three-for-three in the final Division I race of the day. Racing in the second semifinal, the Cardinal boat got off to a strong start, opening in the second position, just behind Virginia. Wisconsin would overtake the Cardinal by the halfway mark, leaving Stanford in a battle with Ohio State for the third and final championship final spot.
The Buckeyes trailed the Cardinal by just over a second at the halfway point, but Stanford would hold its own over the final 1,000 meters. The Cardinal picked up another second on the Buckeyes over the third 500, then finished strong over the final quarter of the race to claim the final championship final spot by nearly four seconds over Ohio State, finishing with a time of 7:39.27. That time was eight seconds back of Virginia, which captured the semifinal heat.