INDIANAPOLIS -- Third-ranked Brown will send all three boats to Sunday's grand finals as the Bears finished second in the varsity eight, third in the second varsity eight and third in the varsity four during semifinal action at the NCAA Division I Women's Rowing Championships at Eagle Creek on Saturday.
Brown is one of three squads along with Stanford and California to send all its boats to the grand finals. The Bears seek their first national championship since 2011 and their eighth overall.
"That's the goal of Brown women's crew every year: to win NCAAs," senior co-captain and varsity eight stroke seat Louise Breen said after leading her boat to second place in the semifinals. "It's a very exciting opportunity and we look forward to having some very good competition [Sunday]."
The drama ensued from Brown's first race of the day as the top four boats of the varsity eight A/B semifinals crossed within half a second of each other in a photo finish. Top-ranked Stanford held on just long enough to fend off the Bears, posting a time of 6:30.061 to outpace Brown by a mere .047 seconds. Proving to be the most consistent crew of the race, Brown posted 500-meter splits of 1:37.210, 1:37.983 and 1:37.736, moving from fourth place over the first 500 meters to contend for the victory. Princeton leapt ahead from the start with a blistering 1:35.271 split to lead just ahead of Michigan, but the Wolverines overtook the Tigers in the final stretch to place third and join Brown and Stanford in Sunday's grand final.
"It feels like once we're on the line we can count on everyone from any boat to put it all on the line," junior coxswain Molly Sandza said. "That's what Brown women's crew is all about."The second varsity eight took third with a time of 6:40.322, finishing behind a strong Ohio State squad in first (6:34.986) and Princeton in second (6:38.577). The Ivy League foes set the pace early on with the Tigers posting a 1:36.214 split to Brown's 1:36.792 to hold onto first place over the first 500 meters. The Buckeyes overtook the Bears through the 1,000-meter mark, however, and cut Princeton's lead to half a second, forcing the defending Ivy League champs to quicken their pace after a 1:40.964 over the second 500 meters. Ohio State crossed the finish in 6:34.986, leaving Princeton and Brown the fill out the top three with UCLA, Washington, Washington State and Radcliffe in tow.
Despite a strong start that saw Brown's varsity four fractions of a second off the lead in the first 500 meters, the Bears finished third with a time of 7:33.564. Virginia and Brown vied for the lead early on with Stanford close behind until the Cardinal pushed ahead of Brown for second place through 1,000 meters. Stanford then posted the best split of the final 500 meters to claim sole possession of first place. The Bears continued to battle and improved their pace by 4.518 seconds in the home stretch, challenging Stanford and Virginia for the top two spots but finishing 0.894 seconds off the lead.
Heats and lane assignments have been determined for the grand finals. Brown's varsity eight will race in Lane 2 against Washington, Stanford, Ohio State, Cal and Michigan. The second varsity eight is in Lane 1 versus Princeton, Virginia, Ohio State, Stanford and Cal. For the varsity four, Brown will occupy Lane 6 and compete against Southern California, Washington, Cal, Stanford and Virginia.
Brown's three boats will collectively contend for the national title in Sunday's grand finals. The varsity four will launch at 10:10 a.m. ET, the second varsity eight will begin at 10:30 a.m. and the varsity eight will cap three days of national championship action at 10:50 a.m.