The Huskies finish fifth in the team standings at the NCAA rowing championships as California wins the national title. UW’s varsity four was second to California in the grand final, with UW’s second varsity eight in finishing third.

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GOLD RIVER, Calif. — A year of transition for Washington women’s crew ended simultaneously with disappointment and tempered satisfaction Sunday at the NCAA rowing championships.

The Huskies concluded the three-day regatta without a title for the eighth straight year after Washington’s leading varsity fours were passed by California in the final 500 meters on the idyllic water on Lake Natoma.

With temperatures in the mid-70s and little wind, the Huskies powered to an early lead and maintained it until finishing second in the 2,000-meter finale at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center in 7 minutes, 9.203 seconds. California was victorious in 7:08.410, with Virginia third in 7:12.071 in the first of three Division I grand finals in the 15-race session.

Washington also finished third in the second varsity eights (6:30.551) and second (eighth overall) in the varsity eights petite final while rowing in the outside lane.

The Huskies finished fifth in the team standings in their first season with interim head coach Connor Bullis, one position lower than the squad’s 2015 position with former coach Bob Ernst. Ernst was fired last November after more than 40 years at Washington in numerous coaching capacities.

“We’ve had some wrinkles,” Bullis said. “But I think coming back from losing your head coach and re-organizing and putting everything back together and to come here at this race is extremely difficult.

“A lot of times when I’ve seen that happen at other programs, there’s a huge drop. This year, instead of one boat on the podium, we had two boats. We may have dropped from fourth to fifth, but we were one point from fourth. If we flatten out for a year but we have the opportunity to rise up from this, I think we are in a good place.”

The runner-up finish by Washington’s varsity fours was the best result as the squad completed its 20th consecutive national championship participation. Washington has nine national titles by boat, but none since 2008. The last of the university’s three team titles occurred in 2001.

“It wasn’t what we wanted pretty much in any event,” said Sophia Dalton, a first-year varsity four competitor. “But we did our best all season long and that’s all we can ask.”

The Husky four boat claimed its opening heat and semifinal with ease, and Washington appeared to be rowing toward the title. Rowing in lane 1, the four boat rowed at 41 strokes per minute early and built nearly a full-length lead over California.

“Our goals was to get through 1,500 (meters) and then forget the rest,” Dalton said. “It’s didn’t pan out as we hoped but we definitely walked out proud.”

Washington moved into the lead approaching 1,000 meters in the second eights finale, but the Huskies faded with California surging again and Ohio State also passing the Huskies.

“I think the varsity eight was really disappointed after the semi,” said second-year team captain Danielle Olson. “We knew how important is was; it’s almost more important than the grand final. We really felt a heavy weight on our shoulders when we let the team down.”

In the concluding varsity eights grand final, Ohio State was victorious in 6:19.035. California was second (6:21.111), followed by Virginia (6:21.111) and Stanford (6:22.167). The Golden Bears’ runner-up finish gave California the team title with 129 points, ending Ohio State’s three-year winning reign. The Buckeyes finished second with 126 points, followed by Virginia (112), Stanford (107) and Washington (106).

Washington State finished 11th in the eights petite final, 13th in the eights C final and 15th in fours C final. The Cougars finished 12th among 22 teams with 62 points.

The regatta’s final-day start was delayed by 12 minutes to remove debris from the course. Five races into the schedule, the session was delayed again because of mechanical problems on one of the boats.

Huskies take five
The top five schools at the NCAA women’s rowing championships
Place School Points
1. California 129
2. Ohio State 126
3. Virginia 112
4. Stanford 107
5. Washington 106
Source: UW athletics