May 30, 2010

By James Raia
Special to

GOLD RIVER, Calif. - Western Washington continues to rule NCAA Division II women's rowing.

The Vikings won their sixth straight Division II team title on Sunday-the longest reign in NCAA rowing-on the final day of championship competition at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center.

But it wasn't a perfect finish. After Western Washington varsity fours won, Mercyhurst led from start to finish and pulled off the upset of the three-day regatta on Lake Natoma, beating the Vikings in the four-boat varsity eights final by 2 1/2 seconds.

"They have a dominant program, but I felt bad for them in a sense that everyone was rooting for us," said Mercyhurst coach Adrian Spracklen. "We didn't have a four (boat), so it was like card game for us. We had to go all in. There was no conservative for us. It was either win or that's it."

With Mercyhurst in the lead by six seats, Western Washington made its move with a "power-10." The Vikings gained about two seats on Mercyhurst, but the Lakers responded and were never seriously challenged in the final 750 meters. Mercyhurst was victorious in 6 minutes, 42.53 seconds.

"For us, it was more just put it out there," said Spracklen. "They (Western Washington) always have a plan. They stick to it and they are consistent. So what we wanted to do was not lose time in second 500 (meters) like we've done. So our goal was to be consistent. We have a lot of confidence in our third 500."

The Vikings, who posted the fastest qualifying by nearly five seconds in Friday's automatic finals qualifier, finished second in 6:44.92. Barry was third (6:51.76) and Seattle Pacific was fourth (6:53.04). With its first and second place finishers, Western Washington has now won 22 of 25 NCAA events since its dominance began in 2004.

In the varsity fours grand final, Western Washington dominated the three-boat grand final, winning by more than 100 meters in 7:25.35. Florida Tech (7:43.84) was second and Philadelphia University (7:56.92).

In day's only other Division II race, Philadelphia University rowed an open water victory over Florida Tech in the two-boat varsity eights petite final in 6:55.06. The Panthers finished in 7:02.52

Western Washington claimed the team title with 20 points, followed by Seattle Pacific (11), Philadelphia (10) and Florida Tech (9). Mercyhurst only had a varsity eights boat and was not in the team competition.

Seattle Pacific's runner-up team finish was impressive, since the school had never competed as a team in the NCAA tourney. The Falcons had only 11 rowers, one less than the minimum team requirement, but gained two walk-on rowers in February.