Stanford Women's Varsity Eight Captures Gold, Men's Eight Takes Silver At Pac-10 Championships
May 17, 2009
LAKE NATOMA, Calif. - Stanford's women's first varsity eight, ranked No. 1 in the nation, highlighted the Cardinal's rowing efforts Sunday as it captured the gold medal at the Pac-10 Championships on Lake Natoma. The Stanford men's varsity eight just missed a gold medal of its own, settling for the silver after coming in just three-tenths of a second behind California in the Grand Final. In the team standings, the women finished second for the second straight year, and the men took third for the third year in a row.
Under sweltering conditions with little wind on Lake Natoma, the Cardinal crews battled over the 2,000-meter course against some of the nation's top crews and came away with a clutch of medals as reward for its gutsy efforts.
The women's first varsity eight claimed its first gold medal since 2003 and an automatic berth into the NCAA Championships in Cherry Hills, N.J. from May 29-31 while setting a course record Sunday with a winning time of 6:18.6. It will be the boat's fourth consecutive appearance at the NCAA Championships.
The second varsity eight earned a silver medal in its Grand Final, the highest Pac-10 Championship finish for the boat in school history, coming in just 1.3 seconds behind California. The varsity four and novice eight each finished fifth.
'I am really proud of the performance the varsity eight put out there today,' said Stanford women's head coach Yasmin Farooq. 'They are learning with each race and becoming a better and stronger team. For our 2V, varsity four and novice eights, this was a huge step forward today. We are a young team and small in numbers, but we are getting deeper. I'm grateful for the awesome competition we have in the Pac-10. Cal, Oregon State, Washington and USC threw down some pretty tough racing in the key events. So, having all four of our boats in the finals and increasingly more competitive is a super sign for Stanford's future.'
Stanford's No. 4 men's first varsity eight was part of the lead pack alongside No. 1 Washington and California in its Grand Final, running third for much of the course before a strong finishing kick overtook the Huskies and fell just three-tenths of a second short of nipping the Golden Bears for the gold.
The men's second varsity eight and the frosh eight each brought home the bronze in its grand finals.
That set the stage for the first varsity eight to get its chance for revenge after finishing second to the Golden Bears at the Lake Natoma Invitational two weeks ago. The race got off to a tight start as the Cardinal and Golden Bears ran nearly neck-and-neck over the first half of the course. Although California led over the first 500 meters, the Cardinal chipped away and led by just over two-tenths of a second at the halfway point.
At that point, the Cardinal put things into another gear, stretching its advantage out to a six-seat lead by the 1,500-meter mark then keeping the pressure on as it pushed into open water over the final 500 meters to cross the line in a course-record 6:18.6, almost three and a half seconds ahead of second-place California.
'Today we rowed with purpose,' said Adrienne Fritsch, the bow seat of the first varsity eight. 'We were tested and it was certainly a tough fight, but in the end we knew what we had to go out and do, and we did it.'
The second varsity eight, after having defeated California two weeks ago at the Lake Natoma Invitational, got off the line just behind the Golden Bears Sunday and trailed by less than a second 500 meters into the race. While chasing California, Stanford managed to also extend its advantage to a six-seat lead over Wahshington, which ran third. Over the final 500-meter sprint, the Cardinal closed in on the Golden Bears but fell just short, crossing the line with a time of 6:36.4, just 1.3 seconds back of California.
The afternoon session had gotten underway for the Cardinal women with the novice eight Grand Final. Although the Cardinal opened the race sixth, it fought its way past USC and into fifth over rest of the course, and finished there with a time of 7:01.77.
The varsity four Grand Final was up next, where the Cardinal got off the line fourth, but would be overtaken by Oregon State just before the 1,500-meter mark and end up fifth.
In the morning, which featured the preliminary heats for the women's crews, all four boats (novice eight, varsity four, second varsity eight, first varsity eight) qualified for the afternoon's grand finals, as the first varsity eight turned in the top time in its class with a 6:22.9.
On the men's side, Stanford Director of Rowing and men's head coach Craig Amerkhanian's first varsity eight charged off the line alongside California and Washington, quickly establishing a lead pack that broke away from the other three boats in the field.
The Cardinal ran third just less than a second and a half behind California at the halfway point, and after stalking its prey over that first 1,000-meters, began to swoop in for the prize. Stanford closed the gap to 1.05 seconds heading into the final sprint, and picked off the Huskies over the final 500 meters while inching its way closer to the Golden Bear boat. Stanford would come so close to drawing even with California before the finish line came up, crossing the line just three-tenths of a second out of the lead with a time of 5:42.20.
The frosh eight got off the line third in the men's frosh/novice eight Grand Final, just over three seconds off the pace set by the leader, Washington, over the first 500 meters. While the Cardinal would be unable to overcome Washington and California over the rest of the course, it did do a fine job of holding off a charging Washington State crew over the final stretch to cross the line in third place with a time of 6:01.96.
The second varsity eight Grand Final would play out in the same fashion in regards to the top three spots, as the Cardinal again took third behind Washington and California. The top three stayed consistent from the start, as the Huskies, Golden Bears and Cardinal were separated by just 1.49 seconds at the 500-meter mark. The three boats would break away from the field, leaving Oregon State and Washington State to battle for fourth place, while Stanford tried valiantly to close the gap on California and Washington. The Cardinal would end up crossing the line in third with a time of 5:52.67, 8.95 seconds back of the victorious crew from Washington.
With the Pac-10 Championships now behind them, the Stanford women will await Tuesday's announcement for teams set to participate in the NCAA Championships. While the first varsity eight has already secured its place at the event, the Cardinal will wait to hear its name called for the overall team competition, which would include the varsity four and second varsity eight competing at the NCAA Championships.
The men, meanwhile, will prepare to row for the men's national title at the IRA Championships, set to take place from June 4-6 at Lake Natoma. The Stanford first and second varsity eights have already qualified for competition, while the frosh eight will hope to have its name called Tuesday as the national selection committee announces the final five qualifying boats.