June 1, 2008
GOLD RIVER, Calif. - For the second straight year, Yale has the fastest crew in the nation. The Bulldogs' varsity eight successfully defended its NCAA championship in a thrilling grand final on Lake Natoma, edging second-place Stanford by less than one second. The top three boats were separated by just 1.20 seconds. Yale finished with a time of 6:34.05, while the Cardinal came in at 6:34.95. Brown was third at 6:35.25.
"We knew it was going to be a close race. Nobody was going to give it to us. We had to go take it," said Yale head coach Will Porter. "About two weeks ago, we found another gear. It's a credit to our kids. They never stopped working, and they never stopped learning. I couldn't be more proud of them."
With the victory, Yale avenged its only two losses of the season, which both came to Brown - in a dual race on May 3 and in the grand final at the Eastern Sprints two weeks ago by a little more than a second.
"[Coxswain] Mia [Kanak] made the call with 800 meters left that `this was the Eastern Sprints all over again. Are we going to let them [Brown] take it again?'" said Jamie Redman, who sits in the No. 5 seat. "We just put our heads down and tried to finish strong."
The Bulldogs were third at the 1,500-meter mark, but rowed an outstanding final 500, overtaking Brown and then Stanford just before the finish line.
"It came down to heart and guts," said Kanak, who was in her first year as the varsity eight coxswain. "There was a lot of give and take the whole race. Coach Porter said that we would have to take a few punches during the race but to make sure we punched back."
"The race was everything you could ask for," said Ritzel, Yale's stroke. "There are no guarantees at the NCAAs, and I was really impressed with all the other schools and what they all had to offer. I didn't know what the result was in the end because it was so tight so I was just sitting there wondering."
In the final team point standings, Yale finished fourth with 51 points. Brown won for the second straight year with 67 points, followed by Washington (59) and California (53).
"It was a great finish for us in such a tight field," Porter said. "Every year, the depth of the field is getting better."
Yale's varsity four of coxswain Sarah Brownlee, Suzanne Salgado, Karrin Weisenthal, Allix Wilde and Alexandra Thompson started the day by finishing sixth in the grand final with a time of 7:41.82. Washington won the race in 7:24.75.
The second varsity eight then earned Yale eight points by placing third in the petite final with a time of 6:54.14. The Bulldogs were second for the first 1,500 meters but were overtaken by Washington State in the final 500 meters. Wisconsin won in a time of 6:50.34.
"We don't finish as high as we did without the contributions of the second varsity and varsity four," Porter said. "Both boats fought really hard for their place."
The future appears bright for the Bulldogs, who had only one senior in each boat. Redman was the only senior in the varsity eight.
"It was good to go out with a bang. It was definitely a fun race," she said. "This year has been the most fun I have ever had rowing."
NCAA Team Championship Results
Brown 67 points
Michigan State 38
Ohio State 34
Washington State 30
Michigan State 6:40.26
Washington State 6:42.40
Southern California 6:43.32
Ohio State 6:45.83
Second Varsity Eight
Ohio State 6:44.87
Washington State 6:51.42
Michigan State 6:56.48
Michigan State 7:33.99
Ohio State 7:34.33
Washington State 7:38.47
Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity