IRA Championships Central at row2k.com
LAKE NATOMA, Calif. - Stanford's men's I Eight and Lightweight Eight boats each made the medal stand on Saturday's final day of competition at the IRA Championships at Lake Natoma, claiming bronze medals and third-place national finishes in their respective Grand Finals. The finish matches the lightweight boat's highest-ever national finish, set last year, and for the second-ranked men's I Eight, it improved two spots from last year's fifth-place national finish.
"In trying conditions the men battled a cross head wind from Lane 3," said Stanford Director of Rowing and men's head coach Craig Amerkhanian. "The conditions favored the inside of the race course. Lane 1 won every eight's final today. We led for the first 800 meters. The men rowed with tenacity and raced to win. A bronze medal ends a great season. Considering we defeated eventual winner Washington the last two times we faced them, in a dual race and at the Pac-10 Championships, we know we're right there."
The men's II Eight crossed the line in a dead heat with Syracuse in the Petite Final, while the Cardinal Frosh Eight took fourth in its Petite Final Saturday morning.
In the main event of the day, the I Eight Grand Final, Stanford, along with Pac-10 rivals California and Washington, did not disappoint in providing an entertaining and dramatic race for the national title.
The Cardinal opened the race in first position, leading California by 0.82 of a second and Washington by 1.26 seconds after 500 meters. By the halfway point, California had made up the difference and led by 0.22 of a second, with the Cardinal extending its advantage over Washington to just over two seconds.
Yet in the third 500, Washington made its move, climbing to nearly a half-second lead over the Cardinal and getting to within just under a second of the Golden Bears. Stanford, meanwhile, trails California by just 1.37 seconds. But in the final 500 meters, Stanford could not overcome the two rivals, while Washington surged ahead of California to claim the gold medal with a winning time of 5:50.91. Stanford's bronze medal-winning time was 5:56.45.
The Lightweight Eight Grand Final started with the Cardinal getting off the line second just behind Wisconsin. The top three of Wisconsin, Stanford and Bucknell remained in that order through the first three-quarters of the 2,000-meter race, although the Badgers were able to expand their lead over that distance.
With 500 meters remaining, Wisconsin was able to move into open water, leaving Stanford and Bucknell to fight for second place. The Cardinal led the Bison by just under four seconds at that mark, but immediately faced a challenge in the form of a final surge from the Bucknell boat. The two boats battled over the final sprint, with Bucknell eventually pulling even just before the line and denying Stanford the silver by just 0.22 of a second. The Cardinal would end up with the bronze, crossing the line with a time of 7:07.93.
In the II Eight Petite Final, the Cardinal surged out to an early lead, and would hold that position by no more than just over a second at any given time over Syracuse over the first 1,500 meters. Heading into the final sprint, the Orange made its final charge, with the Cardinal attempting to push it back. Approaching the final line, the boats were neck-and-neck and both crossed the line in 6:02.12.
The Frosh Eight had a tougher go of its Petite Final, running fifth for much of a tight race in which the top five boats were separated by only about four and a half seconds through the 1,500 meters. A late charge helped the Cardinal overcome Navy and move into fourth place, and Stanford was breathing down the necks of the third-place Northeastern crew, but ran out of water, coming in with a time of 6:09.75, just 0.42 of a second back of Northeastern, and 5.14 seconds back of the winning time of 6:04.61 turned in by Princeton.
The event concluded a successful 2008-09 rowing season for Stanford, in which the women claimed the team NCAA title as well as the I Eight title and a third-place finish by the II Eight, the men's I Eight claimed a third-place national finish and the Lightweight Eight also took third in the nation.