After a season-long wait, it took Ohio State three races and about a half-second margin in its last race of the year to become the country’s best women’s rowing team again.
Racing in the preferred, wind-sheltered Lane 1, the second-seeded Buckeyes assumed the lead after 500 meters and prevailed in the premier varsity eights final in 6 minutes, 18.144 seconds Sunday, the final day of the NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships at Lake Natoma.
Cal was second in 6:18.608, with Virginia third in 6:24.348 on a mild, windy concluding session at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center.
In a revised schedule that determined the team championship after only slightly more than one hour of racing, Ohio State’s varsity eights’ win propelled the Buckeyes to their third straight team title with 126 points. Cal (114) was second, with Brown (112) third among the 22 Division I universities.
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Although it was discussed earlier in the week, crews were notified Saturday that Sunday’s final schedule had been revised. The varsity eights grand final, traditionally the concluding race, was moved to the sixth of 15 races because of a predicted strong late-morning crosswind.
The final day of the three-day regatta began at 8 a.m., and the varsity eights concluded at 9:07 a.m.
The Buckeyes also upended the career-ending race of Lindsay Meltz of El Dorado Hills. Cal entered the regatta top-seeded and undefeated with Meltz as the squad’s senior coxswain.
“I think we did the best we could have done,” Meltz said. “It was just a matter of three seats, up and down, the whole time.”
The Bears held a one-seat advantage for the first 500 meters, but Ohio State then moved into a lead it didn’t lose.
“Second place right now kind of feels like last,” Meltz said. “But there are 20 other teams dying to switch places with us.”
Ohio State and Washington were the only schools to advance three boats into grand finals. The Buckeyes finished second in second varsity eights and fifth in varsity fours.
“The varsity eights in particular had a great race,” said Cal coach Al Acosta. “(We) got (our) nose out front, and then Ohio State came back, and when you are looking at a race of this magnitude, leads don’t exchange very often.
“Sometimes when a team loses a lead they tend to continue to fall off the back. But (we) did an amazing job of being ahead, then falling behind and then really charging hard.”
Acosta, a former Cal rower, disapproved of the time switch that resulted in an anticlimactic final 90 minutes of competition.
“Some people think that when the wind blows from one direction the course is unfair,” said Acosta. “I don’t really subscribe to that.
“The event doesn’t end the right way. That’s more for the spectators. The athletes can only remember a few parts of their race, anyway. It doesn’t really matter to them. But I think it would be better to have it later on.”
Virginia claimed the varsity fours title in 7:12.760, with Yale (7:12.920) second and Brown (7:13.070) third. Brown captured the second varsity eights final in 6:25.990, with Ohio State (6:27.110) second and Washington (6:32.050) third.