WEST WINDSOR, N.J. -- In a race that was neck and neck from start to finish, Mercyhurst's varsity eight advanced to Sunday morning's Grand Final in the NCAA Division II Championships, holding off Western Washington and Central Oklahoma to win the repechage round and earn a spot in the finals.

The race was close from the opening gun to the finish line, with no school gaining more than a three- or four-seat lead at any point in the race. The Lakers actually found themselves in third place at the 500-meter mark, but kept pushing and pushing to take the lead at about the midway point and then holding off the competition in the slimmest of margins.

The three schools crossed the finish line and the fans in attendance at Lake Mercer had to wait for the official results to find out who had won the race. It was, in fact, the Lakers crossing the line first in a time of 6:49.38, which was two-tenths of a second ahead of Western Washington (6:49.63). The Vikings finished ahead of Central Oklahoma in the battle for second place by a little more than one second.

Barry also competed in the repechage round, but finished in a distant fourth, coming across in 7:07.60.

The Lakers, coxed by Lindsey Crosby, and featuring Michelle Denninger, Arden Gill, Amanda Primett, Jordan Herbert, Jaime Lampard, Amanda Carlyon, Jessica Olson, and Kate Moran, will advance to Sunday's final along with Western Washington, and the two winners in Friday's heats - Humboldt State and Nova Southeastern.

The women's varsity four, however, was not as fortunate.

Needing a win against Western Washington in a two-boat repechage round, the Lakers came up just short in their quest for Sunday's Grand Final. The Vikings crossed the finish line in 7:41.02, while Mercyhurst crossed just three seconds later - 7:44.71.

The Lakers, coxed by Holly Ansaldi, and featuring Pia Frascatore, Leyla Dombrowski, Kristine Wright, and Mariead Manke, tried to play catch-up for the entire race.

Western Washington jumped out to a boat-length lead at the 750-meter mark of the competition. However, Mercyhurst fought to the end, getting to within a seat behind the Vikings with about 500 meters left. But, Mercyhurst ran out of gas in the final 250 meters and lost by three seconds.

Mercyhurst's four ended up on the outside looking in for Sunday's Grand Final, which now comes down to a race between Western Washington and the two winners on Friday - Nova Southeastern and Humboldt State.