No. 13-ranked UCLA Rowing Finishes First Day at NCAA Championships
May 25, 2007
Oak Ridge, Tenn. - The No. 13-ranked UCLA varsity eight boat made its debut at the 2007 NCAA Rowing Championships with a fourth place finish in the first qualifying heat at Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The Bruins moved on to a semifinal elimination heat, where they registered a fifth place finish. The Bruins advance to the championships' Third Final on Sunday, May 27, at 11:30 a.m. (EST).
The Bruin varsity eight, invited as an at-large bid for the championships, joined the nation's best boats this weekend in what is believed to be the deepest and tightest championships in years.
The Bruins began their charge in the championships' first heat in a five boat qualifying race. The Bruins held their rank by finishing ahead of lower ranked CFU but behind the higher ranked varsity eight squads. Third-ranked Virginia and fourth-ranked Brown got off to slight early leads on the pack with UCLA, No. 12-ranked Harvard and No. 14-ranked Central Florida close behind. At the mid-race point, the UVA and Brown crews had extended their slight lead while UCLA solidified its third-place positioning against Harvard.
In the third frame of the race, the battle for first place remained tight with UVA maintaining the slightest of margins over Brown. UCLA continued to row at a consistent pace in third place but a spirited Harvard burst pushed the Crimson crew past the Bruins. All four squads had found open water ahead of Central Florida. The last leg of the race rewarded the Brown boat's persistence as it used its consistent pressure to finally overtake the Cavalier crew at the finish line for first place. UVA came across one-tenth of a second later for the second place finish.
Both the UCLA and Harvard boats, aware that the third and final automatic qualifying spot was still up for grabs, let loose in the last 500 meters of the race. With the Harvard crew trying to pull away, the Bruins broke from their consistent cadence and aggressively attacked the Harvard boat. With the quickly approaching finish line in sight, the Harvard varsity eight managed to dig down just enough to hold off the upset bid by the Bruins' varsity rowers. The fourth place finish for the Bruins moves them into the repechage race, along with fifth-place Central Florida and other non-top three finishers, a semifinal elimination round.
At 1 p.m. (EST), UCLA met the six other non-qualifiers in the elimination heat. Again, the Bruins were not only able to protect their ranking but also upset the two-time defending champions. The race pitted the No. 13-ranked Bruins against seventh-ranked Stanford, eighth-ranked California, ninth-ranked Princeton, No.10-ranked Tennessee, No.14-ranked Central Florida and No. 19-ranked Washington. The Bruins needed their best effort to again try to qualify in the top three and earn a semifinal bid.
The racing was aggressive from the starting gates as all seven squads tried to push through the pack. The racing remained tight through the midway point, with Princeton, Stanford and Tennessee holding on to the top three spots respectively. Close behind were UCLA, California, and Washington. Central Florida was running in seventh place.
In the last 500 meters, the top three spots became even more hotly contested as all the boats burned through their reserve tanks in hopes of making the final, decisive push. Princeton's push for first place never came, as the leading Tigers saw their top spot taken away by the stronger rowing of the Stanford squad. With Tennessee not far behind, the Cardinal never relaxed as they battled through the finish line for the winning spot. The Volunteers quickly followed to take second place.
Princeton still remained in third, with UCLA and California quickly closing in. However, it was Washington's final charge that left many surprisingly behind the Huskies boat at the finish. With UCLA trying to push past California and ahead of the faltering Princeton boat, the Huskies unleashed an aggressive spurt and sailed ahead of the Bruins and Bears. UCLA used a strong effort to keep up with the surging Huskies, but could neither catch them in the end nor comfortably pull away from the California crew. Even so, it was too little, too late for the Bruins and the Huskies heroics as Princeton held them off to finish in third place for the last semifinal spot. The spirited Huskies earned themselves a fourth place finish with UCLA closing in behind them for the fifth spot. The Bruins held off the two-time defending champion California Bears all race, relegating them to a sixth place finish. Central Florida subsequently filed in to complete the seven finishers.
The Bruin rowers will conclude their NCAA Championship racing and season in the Third Final race on Sunday, May 27, at 11:30 a.m. (EST).
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