May 29, 2010

By James Raia
Special for

GOLD RIVER, Calif. - Williams isn't the first school to dominate women's rowing, but the Ephs current reign in Division III is unlike any other NCAA winning streak.

The Ephs claimed their fifth straight title Saturday at the NCAA Women's Rowing Championships on Lake Natoma. Williams (Mass.) also almost accomplished a rare feat when its second boat was in position to finish second in the grand final.

But by the end of the last event on the second day of the three-day regatta at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center, the Ephs' title was complemented by a third-place finish.

Williams' first boat led start to finish, completing the 2,000 meters in 6 minutes, 43.81 seconds. Bates (Maine) College overtook the Ephs' second boat and placed second in 6:48.66. Williams' second boat was third in 6:49.02 in the six-boat race, the first grand final of the championships.

Trinity (6:52.94) was fourth, followed by Ithaca (6:55.87) and Puget Sound (7:04.43).

"So many things have to go right," said Williams coach Justin Moore. "People have to stay healthy and we had to crawl through exams. We finished exams on Monday, flew 14 hours on Tuesday and we had a girl who hadn't rowed in the boat for five days because her lungs were seething every time she tried to breath deeply.

"Somehow, with a lot of rest, the women rebounded and on top of that they not only have to possess the physical and the technical capacity but the poise to perform at that level."

With its first- and third-place finishes, Williams claimed the Division III national team title. The Ephs amassed 26 points, followed by Bates, Trinity (Conn.) College, Ithaca (N.Y.) College, Wellesley (Mass.) College, University of Puget Sound and St. Lawrence (N.Y.) University.

Williams, which earned its sixth national title overall, hasn't been defeated at the NCAAs since 2005. The Ephs won their first national title in 2002.

"To have them as training partners all year long not only made it possible to go as fast as we've been able to go, but it's incredible what they've accomplished," said Becca Licht, the Williams' first boat varsity eights coxswain of her teammates. "I looked back with about 250 meters to go and I said, 'we're bringing our 2V (second varsity) with us.' "