BY CHIP DAVIS
PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS ATHLETICS
The University of Texas won their second-straight NCAA national championship in May on a tie-breaker, for the second year in a row. As it should, the national title came down to the varsity-eight grand final, and the crew head coach Dave O’Neill recruited, trained, and sent out on the waters of Nathan Benderson Park won it for the Longhorns.
“The main thing is that the main thing is always the main thing,” O’Neill told Rowing News in his first year at Texas, after leaving Cal, where he had also won two NCAA Division I championships.
When Texas travels to a regatta, it’s a serious endeavor that leaves an impression of professionalism. “We talked about that this year,” said O’Neill, of being like a Formula 1 team, with everyone clear about their role and duty, looking and functioning like one big team.
“We have a terrific team that goes beyond the three boats that raced [at the NCAAs]. We had to leave some very fast women off this travel squad, but it was great to see so many of them here today. It made a difference.”
Two Longhorn athletes, Rachel Rane and Laine Nitsch, were part of the U.S. eight that won the U23 worlds this summer, and the U.S. four of Kate Knifton, Fran Raggi, Anna Jensen, and Caitlin Esee that also won the U23 worlds—by more than five seconds—was an entirely Texas crew, coached and brought to Italy by O’Neill.
O’Neill coached the fastest college boat and program in the U.S. and then went to Europe with four American college rowers and won on the pre-elite level by open water. He’s the best coach this year, and we’ll see where it goes from here.