May 26, 2010

By James Raia
Special to

GOLD RIVER, Calif. - Stanford University, which surprisingly rowed to its first national varsity eight and team title last year in New Jersey, will seek more upset victories when the three-day NCAA Division I, II and III Women's Rowing Championships begin Friday at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center.

Washington State, which has hosted 17 previous national championships in numerous sports, will expand its legacy with its debut as host of the regatta at the renowned home rowing venue for Sacramento State University.

Located a few miles east from the state's capital city, the Sacramento State Aquatic center hosted the inaugural NCAA Women's Rowing Championships in 1997 and was also the championship site in 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2008.

In Division I, California, third in varsity eights last year and second in the team competition, is top-seeded this year after claiming the varsity eights and team titles, both over fifth-seeded Stanford, at the Pac-10 Championships two weeks ago, also at Lake Natoma. The Golden Bears will be favored in the first of three first-round heats Friday morning.

Yale, which claimed the previous two national varsity eight titles, is the second seed and has the highest ranked boat in the second heat. Virginia is seeded third and will be favored in the third heat.

"It was great to be in a position where we assumed we'd be selected today," said California coach Dave O'Neill, whose squad won NCAA team titles in 2005 and 2006. "That said, we never take being invited for granted, so the season results are extremely important.

"I was glad to see six teams from the Pac-10 selected, and it was warranted. The selection committee has a tough job when there are so many deserving teams. We're very much looking forward to the racing, and it should be a terrific regatta."

The full roster of varsity eight boats, according their seeding: California (1), Yale (2), Virginia (3), Princeton (4), Stanford (5), USC (6), Michigan State (7), Brown (8), UCLA (9), Clemson (10), Michigan (11), Washington (12), Washington State (13), Wisconsin (14), Tennessee (15), Ohio State (16).

Since the championships debuted 1997, Brown has dominated Division I team competition with six titles, followed by Washington (3), California (2), Radcliffe (1) and Stanford (1).

In Division II, Western Washington has won five straight national titles, unprecedented in any NCAA rowing division, and the Vikings will be favored again as the No 1. seed.

Philadelphia, Florida Institute of Technology and Seattle Pacific will also compete for the Division II team title with varsity eight and varsity four boats. Barry and Mercyhurst received at-large berths in the varsity eight competition.

"I am very proud of the team earning the opportunity to represent the West Region again," said Western Washington coach John Fuchs. "The work ethic has been unreal, to say the least."

"It's been a fun year with this group. They are all good friends and the chemistry between them has certainly been a key component. The coxswains, especially, created the best vibe we've had in years."

Williams, which has won four straight Division III team titles, is favored again. The field will also include: Bates, Ithaca, Puget Sound, St. Lawrence, Trinity, (Connecticut), Wellesley and Mary Washington.

Trinity assumed an early lead in last year's varsity eight final, with Williams' boats placing second and third.

The NCAA Women's Rowing Championships will begin at 8 a.m. Friday with Division III heats and conclude Sunday at 11:45 a.m. with the Division I grand final.