Western's streak ends at 7
Stroke Jean Piette and No. 7 Megan Northey row as coxswain Alix Crilly makes the calls Sunday as Western Washington University fights off Mercyhurst during the Grand Final race at the NCAA Div. II nationals in New Jersey. All three of the Western women pictured are seniors. Photo courtesy of Steve Johnson
A run of seven straight national titles ended for Western Washington University, but not without a courageous fight by the nationally No.1-ranked Vikings who finished second at the 11th annual NCAA Division II Women's Rowing National Championships that ended Sunday at Lake Mercer.
The Vikings, whose run matched the longest in any NCAA rowing division, finished with 13 points. Humboldt State, which won both the four and eight grand finals, took the team title with 20 points. Nova Southeastern FL placed third (12) and Mercyhurst PA was fourth (5).
"We had a shot, definitely, with both boats in the finals," said WWU head coach John Fuchs (14th year). "Humboldt State just had a great season and had awesome races by both boats. They definitely earned that title. But our kids rowed their hearts out. They didn't leave anything out there. I'm really proud of them. Being second in the nation is pretty good."
"I'm really proud of the fact that the West Region was so well represented. Hats off to Humboldt State. They have a great program this year and to bring first place and runner-up back to the West Region says a lot about what we're doing out here."
WWU's eight placed second in the grand final, less than two seconds behind the No.2-ranked Lumberjacks. The Vikings held the lead until the final 50 meters before being overtaken. Humboldt State finished the 2,000-meter distance in 6:48.84, with WWU clocked in 6:50.45. Nova Southeastern was third (6:51.89) and Mercyhurst fourth (6:57.29).
"They (eight) knew that if we were going to win the title, that certain things would have to happen, but they would need to win and they went all in," Fuchs said. "I was kind of surprised that they were out that quick, but they just rowed their hearts out, they gave it everything they had and then Humboldt had that extra little bit and got us right at the end there."
"They were disappointed, but deep down they knew that there was nothing more they could have done. They were right there till the very end."
It was the third head-to-head meeting between the two school's eights in the last five weeks. In all three, the teams finished one-two with less than 3.5 seconds between them. Humboldt State won at the Northwest Collegiate Rowing Conference Championships on Apr. 21 and WWU prevailed at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship Regatta on Apr. 29.
The Vikings' shell included eight seniors, five of whom were making their fourth national appearances. In the boat were coxswain Alix Crilly (Sr., Wenatchee), stroke Jean Piette (Sr., Vancouver/Columbia River), No. 7 Megan Northey (Sr., Brier/King's), No.6 Katie Woolsey (Sr., North Bend/Mount Si), No.5 Kate Berni (Sr., Silverdale/Central Kitsap), No.4 Alyssa Dewey (Sr., Bend/Mountain View), No.3 Stephanie Bluhm (Jr., Auburn/Mountain View), No.2 Kelsey Baker (Sr., Gig Harbor) and bow Carson MacPherson-Krutsky (Sr., Seattle/Garfield).
WWU's four placed third in its grand final with a time of 7:53.93. Humboldt State, which led the entire race, had a clocking of 7:42.96. Nova Southeastern was second in 7:51.37.
Everyone in the Vikings' four was seeing their first national competition. They included coxswain Maeghan Callegeri (Fr., Kirkland/Lake Washington), stroke Christine Henie (So., Chugiak, AK), No.3 Olivia Rowland (So., Seattle/Holy Names), No.2 Regan Wessman (So., Kirkland/Lake Washington) and bow Claire Marine (So., Enumclaw).
"They kept getting better and better," said Fuchs. "They rowed three good races out here this weekend and I'm really proud of them. They had to row their way into the final just to give the team a chance to win and they did that."
In getting to the grand finals, WWU's eight and four both placed second in qualifying heats Friday. In repechage heats Saturday, the Vikings' four finished first and the eight second.
WWU has placed among the top three in all 11 NCAA II championships. Prior to its string of seven titles, the Vikings finished second in 2002 and 2003 and third in 2004.