Washington’s second varsity eight and varsity four boats advanced in semifinals on Lake Natoma at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center, but the Husky varsity eight boat failed to gain a grand final berth.
GOLD RIVER, Calif. — Washington women advanced two boats to grand finals, but the Husky varsity eight boat continued its turbulent season Saturday and failed to gain its hopeful grand final berth on the cool and intermittently breezy second day of the NCAA Rowing Championships.
With a temperature of 68 degrees and early morning headwinds from 10 to 15 mph, Washington’s second varsity eight and varsity four boats advanced in semifinals on Lake Natoma at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center.
The Huskies’ varsity four, which claimed its opening heat Friday, led start to finish in the semifinal over California while completing the 2,000 meters in 7 minutes, 6.693 seconds. It was more than two seconds faster than the runner-up Golden Bears. Washington’s second varsity eight also advanced to the grand finals with a runner-up finish to California in 6:24.020.
But early in the morning session, Washington finished sixth in Lane 5 in its first varsity eight semifinal in the fourth of the condensed 18-race schedule.
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“We were disappointed,” said Connor Bullis, Washington’s first-year interim head coach. “We were pushing hard for a peak performance. They did the best they possibly could, given that they had to go through the repechage yesterday. They had a big hurdle to climb today, and the race was really fast.”
The Huskies, seeded No. 12 in varsity eights, advanced to the semifinals with a third-place finish in Heat 4 on the opening day in its second race of the session. But Washington wasn’t in contention for advancement after the first 500 meters of the second semifinal.
Princeton moved into a slight advantage in the Huskies’ semifinal, but all six boats were bunched within three-quarters of a boat length in the opening 250 meters. But Washington steadily lost contact and finished in 6:26.754, slightly more than a second slower than its second effort Friday.
Stanford (6:18.911) claimed the second varsity eight semifinal, followed by Brown (6:19.515) and third qualifier Princeton (6:19.550).
“They did everything they could to be in the position to qualify, but the regatta is not over,” said Bullis. “But how they row tomorrow makes a huge impact on our overall placement. So the pressure is still on them.”
Top-seeded California led start to finish in the opening varsity eight semifinal and was victorious over Ohio State by nearly a full length in 6:19.800. The Buckeyes finished 6:21.548, with Virginia also advancing to the final in 6:21.968.
Washington’s varsity four was never challenged. The Huskies easily won their qualifier Friday and continued their top effort in the semifinal.
“We wanted to go out guns blazing,” said senior Sophia Dalton, a first-year varsity four competitor. “It was probably the best race we’ve had yet. But honestly when we finished we knew we have a lot more to go. We are looking forward to tomorrow. It will be the hardest race of our lives.”
The Huskies’ second varsity boat, racing in Lane 1, fell behind California by one seat early, and the Golden Bears steadily increased their advantage.
“We went out with a strong pace, just like we planned it to be,” said senior Courtney Thompson, now in her third year in the second varsity boat. “We kind of held with Cal and we are ready to fight tomorrow. We were disappointed we didn’t win, but we know where we need to improve and what we need to do.”
Washington State failed to advance any of its three boats to grand finals.
The regatta concludes beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday, 30 minutes earlier than originally scheduled.
Washington finished fourth last year in the team competition, while Ohio State won its third consecutive national title.