BY CHIP DAVIS
PHOTO BY LISA WORTHY
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In our sport, we define the best as the first boat to cross the finish line.
First one across the line wins. Rowing is that simple. It’s a racing sport, and the winners cross the line first. The second boat across the line is second. There are neither style points nor judges scoring degree of difficulty or creativity. If the race was fair, the umpire raises a white flag after all the boats have crossed the line, and the results become official.
In men’s collegiate rowing, both lightweight and heavyweight, as well as women’s collegiate lightweight rowing, the national champion is the winner of the first varsity eights race. Columbia, Cal, and Princeton are the respective reigning national champions, following their victories at the 2022 Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship last June on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J.
The University of Texas women captured the NCAA National Championship in May on the waters of Nathan Benderson Park by winning the first varsity eight grand final but only because they were tied on team points with Stanford, with the final places of the first eights serving as the tie-breaker. Mercyhurst University won the Division II title, and Wellesley College was victorious in Division III.
But which college overall— accounting for all four categories (as well as club crews at schools without a varsity)—was the best in the country in 2022?
To determine college rowing’s pecking order, Rowing News took the official results of the separate national championships for each school, sorted and weighed them, and arrived at this list of the top 25. Coaches, leagues, and administrators have developed, debated, and decided ways to determine each national champion and the points system for team trophies, as well as the national champion in NCAA divisions I, II, and III for women’s rowing. Those methods were honored by Rowing News to formulate our rankings.
Using decades of experience, in-person regatta observations, and privileged behind-the-scenes access to the people and information in each category, Rowing News devised a proprietary formula for gauging relative competitiveness. Fastest is best, and order of finish is definitive.
Between now and the end of the year, we’ll be highlighting rowing’s top 25. Stay tuned.