BY LUKE REYNOLDS
PHOTOS BY LISA WORTHY
There were few surprises on the first day of competition at the 2021 NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida.
No surprises doesn’t change the fact that crews are racing for a national championship title and anything can happen with such a vast field of competitors and multiple days of racing.
“The NCAA Championship can be a real grind, with some tough racing three days in a row. It feels good to have accomplished what we needed to do on day one,” said Texas head coach Dave O’Neill. “This was the first NCAA Championship race for much of our team, and I’m really impressed with how everyone handled everything.”
“All of our boards raced exactly to plan,” O’Neill said. “It’s now all about preparing for the next step.”
In the DI women’s first eight event, Texas and Washington won their heats with times of 6:15.586 and 6:14.372, respectively.
The same was true of the DI second eight events with Texas and Washington also winning their heats.
In the four DI four events, Texas, Washington, Stanford, and Ohio State were the winners of their heats with Washington posting the fastest time of the four winners.
The DII races of the day led with the Edmond, Oklahoma-based University of Central Oklahoma, and defending champs putting on a commanding performance winning their heats in both the four and the eight with the fastest times for both in the DII competition.
“We were so internal the entire race, which is something we’ve focused on all season. It felt relaxed and strong, which was exactly how we wanted to race today,” Central Oklahoma senior Shelby Wackerly said. “After today’s race, I am even more excited to go out on Sunday and throw down an even faster time. Having not raced any of the crews that are here this season, it was nice to get a feel for what we’re up against.”
Bates College had the fastest results of the DIII first eight and second eight events. In tomorrow’s first eight grand final the Bobcats will race Wesleyan, Ithaca, and Hamilton. The same crews with face off in the second eight grand final.
Saturday’s racing will include semifinals, reps, and the DIII finals — but not every crew will race as some crews have advanced directly to Sunday’s final.
“We are grateful for the rest day, and we plan to use it to gain even more speed,” Wackerly said. “It’s reassuring that all of us feel like we still have that extra nitrous we haven’t tapped into yet. We’re ready and we’re excited.”