May 28, 2010

All Three Yale Boats Advance To Semifinals On First Day Of NCAA Championships

Second Varsity Edges Tennessee For Final Spot

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GOLD RIVER, Calif. –With six members of Yale's second varsity racing at the NCAA Championships for the first time, expectations were a little unclear. The inexperience, though, didn't prove to be a problem as the Bulldogs fought off a late charge from Tennessee to place third in their heat and earn a spot in Saturday's semifinals. Yale's varsity eight and varsity four also had top-three finishes to qualify for the semis and make for a successful first day on Lake Natoma.

“I'm pleased that all three of our boats advanced,” said Yale head coach Will Porter. “At the NCAAs there are teams that we don't see during the regular season. The early races give us some feedback on how the other crews pace themselves so going into the semis, we'll have a better sense of what our opponents are doing.”

The second varsity of Catherine McDermott, Mary Jo Toothman, Kathryn D'Andrea, Natalie King, Armine Afeyan, Kathleen O'Keefe, Allix Wilde, Eliza Hastings and coxswain Sarah Brownlee had the most difficult path to the semifinals. The Bulldogs finished in 6:46.67, less than two seconds ahead of fourth-place Tennessee. Virginia won the heat with a time of 6:35.42 and Princeton was second in 6:39.04.

“This was a huge step to get under their belt,” Porter said of the second varsity. “There has been a massive learning curve for them this year. The biggest area of growth has been in the expectations of their own performance. They've realized how hard they have to work and how fast they can be. The best strokes they've taken all year are right now.”

The varsity four of Amanda Grady, Alexandra Fields, Elizabeth McDermott, Mary Pat Wixted and coxswain Erica Segall had perhaps the most interesting heat. The Bulldogs were matched up against four Pac-10 schools – Washington, USC, UCLA and Washington State. Yale ended up third but was never really in danger of not advancing, finishing more than five seconds faster than fourth-place UCLA. The Bulldogs had a time of 7:20.07. Washington won in 7:14.71.

“Our four is in a good place,” Porter said. “They've set themselves up well for the semis.”

Yale's varsity eight of Dara Dickson, Stephanie Madner, Catherine Hart, Caroline Nash, Maren McCrea, Alice Henly, Tess Gerrand, Taylor Ritzel and coxswain Mia Kanak cruised into the semifinals. The Bulldogs finished second with a time of 6:17.22, less than a second behind Stanford, but almost 10 seconds better than third-place Brown. Yale led for the first 1500 meters before the Cardinal made a late push.

“The varsity eight did a nice job,” Porter said. “They knew they were going to qualify [for the semifinals] easily so they may have let up a bit at the end. We're right where we want to be.”

Saturday's semifinals begin at 9 a.m. PDT. Video of the races is available here.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity

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