May 29, 2005
RANCHO CORDOVA - With a two-second come-from-behind victory in the varsity 8 race, California clinched its first-ever NCAA women's rowing championship Sunday at the CSUS Aquatic Center on Lake Natoma.
Using a point system that includes results from the varsity 4, second varsity 8 and varsity 8 races, Cal scored 67 points, just ahead of runner-up Virginia (63). Defending champion Brown took third (49), followed by Ohio State (42) and Princeton (39).
"We've talked all year long about just doing our thing and let others race against us," head coach Dave O'Neill said. "From the very first race of the season, it's been the same all year long. Everything went perfect, and everyone was tuned into each other.
"Our goal all year was to win the national championship as a team," he added. "We talked all year about what each individual and what the team had to do."
The win gives Cal the second NCAA women's team crown in school history, after the Bear softball squad captured the 2002 NCAA Women's College World Series. For women's crew, it was the team's second national title, with the first coming under the AIAW (precursor to the NCAA) in 1980.
After Virginia won both the varsity 4 and second varsity 8 events, Cal trailed by five points and needed to finish at least two spots ahead of the Cavaliers in the varsity 8 race to claim the overall championship. And the Bears did just that.
Cal and second-ranked Princeton, seeded in lanes 1 and 2, led the tight field from the start. At the halfway point, Princeton was ahead by almost half a boat length and the pair were virtually tied with 500 meters to go in the 2000-meter race. At that point, the Bears put on a final push that moved them ahead for good.
"When I saw that we were 3-4 seats down to Princeton, I thought, `that's fine,'" O'Neill said. "I knew we were well prepared and had confidence in each other. We knew the math, and it was poetic that the varsity 8 won. This varsity 8 has been the most impressive crew I've ever coached."
Cal crossed the finish line in 6:20.74 - the fastest time of the three-day NCAA championships - with Princeton taking second in 6:22.80. Virginia placed fourth behind Harvard.
Although Cal pulled away in the end, there was a bit of anxiety within the team prior to the race. Kaylen Vander Schilden, who rows in the 7 seat, became ill overnight and wasn't sure she would have the power to race. With just a few saltine crackers for nourishment, she decided to give it a go and held strong through the end.
"Literally, two hours before the race, we didn't know what we were going to do," O'Neill said. "But everyone stuck together. We were just going to be Cal and do our thing."
In the day's opening Division I event, Virginia won the varsity 4 in 7:18.42, with Brown finishing second (7:20.08), Washington third (7:20.15) and Cal fourth (7:22.49).
In the second varsity 8 final, Virginia led throughout, posting a 6:34.19 time. The Bears made a big run over the closing meters to grab second (6:36.48), just ahead of Brown (6:38.98).
For complete NCAA championships results, click here.
NCAA Women's Rowing Championships
Varsity 8 Grand Final
Second Varsity 8 Grand Final
Varsity 4 Grand Final
Final Point Standings