May 29, 2010

By James Raia
Special to


GOLD RIVER, Calif. - Stanford may not be favored, but the defending national titlists aren't to be taken lightly. The Cardinal's fifth-ranked varsity eight boat posted the fastest time Friday in the opening session of the NCAA Division I Women's Rowing Championships.

Rowing in Lane 2 in the second of three heats, Stanford completed the 2,000 meters in 6 minutes and 16.81 seconds, the fastest time of the day at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center at Lake Natoma.

California, whose varsity eight boat is top seeded, won the first heat in 6:19:00. Virginia, whose Cavaliers are the top-ranked Division I team, won the third heat in 6:17.51.

Two weeks ago, California defeated Stanford for the Division I varsity eight and team title at the Pac-10 Championships also at Lake Natoma.

"It's out of the way," said Cal Coach Dave O'Neill said of team's first row. "It was good to have a good race in the heats. That was the goal of the day. Things from here just get faster and faster and the team is aware of that. Hopefully, we'll take the necessary steps again tomorrow."

The three-day regatta began under blue skies and a slight breeze, a welcome change from Thursday's practice day when rain fell throughout the morning and nearby lightning forced boats off the water in the closing minutes of the afternoon training session.

But with improved weather, University of Southern California, Michigan State, Brown, Princeton and UCLA also advanced into Saturday's varsity eight semifinals.

While rowing with increasing winds several hours later in the afternoon session, Michigan, Washington and Wisconsin advanced into varsity eight semifinals in the repechage.

"It was a successful day from the standpoint that we moved three boats into the semifinals," said Michigan coach Mark Rothstein. "We certainly have our work cut out for us tomorrow. Every crew is going to have a great race to make it into the finals."

In addition to Michigan, California, Wisconsin, Stanford, Michigan State, Virginia, Washington, Yale and Brown all advanced both varsity boats and varsity fours.

Virginia dominated the varsity fours, winning the open of three heats in 7:09.69, exactly six seconds faster than surprising Wisconsin (7:15:69), which took the third heat. Washington claimed the second heat in 7:14.71.

California, Michigan State, Yale, UCLA, Brown and Princeton also advanced in the morning session. Stanford, Clemson and Michigan advanced into the varsity four semifinals in the afternoon repechage.

The regatta will continue with Division I semifinals at 9 a.m. Saturday and conclude with the Division III grand final at 11:30 a.m. Sunday's final day begins at 9 a.m. with Division II finals. The championships will conclude with the Division I grand finals at 11:45 a.m.