INDIANAPOLIS — He stood on the banks of Eagle Creek Reservoir and simply marveled at what he had just watched.
UW coach Bob Ernst has been around countless high-profile races during his 41 years as head coach of the women’s rowing program. But even he left impressed after watching the NCAA championship semifinals on Saturday.
The Huskies advanced two boats — the varsity eight and varsity four — into Sunday’s finals of the NCAA championships. The second varsity eight finished fifth in its heat.
“This is the highest level of competition of probably any regatta in the whole world,” Ernst said. “If you look at the level of intensity, the quality of rowing and the closeness of the races — this is just amazing. I don’t know where we’re going to turn out tomorrow.”
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UW’s varsity eight finished its semifinal heat third in 6 minutes, 32.29 seconds, claiming the final advancing spot into Sunday’s finals. But doing so was no easy task. Ohio State won the heat in 6:28.58, while California was second almost two seconds behind.
Those three teams spent a majority of the season ranked as the top three teams in that event by cMax, a computer-based rankings system.
“It’s about how you hit it,” Ernst said. “Do you have everyone sharp and tuned up? I really believe our varsity has another great race within them, so I can’t wait until (Sunday’s finals).”
Stanford won the other varsity eight semifinal in 6:30.07.
UW’s varsity four finished second in its semifinal heat in 7:38.06, while California won the heat in 7:35.33. The Huskies led Cal by about a boat length after 1,000 meters.
“I think they got a little too revved up today,” Ernst said. “They were having fun pounding on Cal in the first 1,000 meters, but then Cal came back through them.”
The varsity four is capable of winning the grand final. UW will need a strong race out of the boat to better its sixth-place team finish from last season. Scoring for the NCAA championships combines scores in all three races.
“Before we launched we were told we’re racing for Washington,” said junior Hannah Lukanuski, coxswain for the varsity four boat. “They were asking us to make it to the grand final for Washington.”
UW’s second varsity eight finished fifth in its heat in 6:47. Ohio State won the heat in 6:34.
The Washington State second varsity eight crew placed sixth in its semifinal to advance to the petite final Sunday.