GOLD RIVER, Calif. -- Bates College claimed the first NCAA team championship in college history on Saturday at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center, edging defending champion Trinity (Conn.) by one point in the final team standings.
Bates scored 20 points for its victory in the women's second varsity eights (W2V8) grand final, and 19 more for placing second to Trinity in the WV8 grand final, for a total of 39. Trinity placed third in the W2V8 behind Bates and Wellesley for a total of 38 points. Wellesley took third place in the team standings, followed by Hamilton and Williams.
The NCAA title arrives in Bates' ninth consecutive national regatta appearance. Bates was the national runner-up to Williams for five consecutive years from 2009 to 2013. This is the second year in a row the Bobcats have reached NCAAs as the top-ranked team in Division III and as NESCAC champions.
Bates first claimed the gold medal in the second varsity eights grand final for the second consecutive year, powering into the lead early on and never relinquishing it, and for the second day holding off a furious push by Wellesley over the final 250 meters. Bates had a three-seat lead over then-second-place Trinity after 500 meters, before Wellesley overtook Trinity seconds later. At the halfway mark, the Bobcats led the Blue by eight seats as both boats began leaving Trinity and Williams behind. Bates led Wellesley by a full boat-length at the 1,500-meter mark, but Wellesley, which lost to Bates by a mere 0.328 seconds in the teams' heat on Friday morning, made a final charge, taking back as much as three seats of Bates' lead over the final 200 meters.
Bates has Wellesley to thank not only for pushing the Bobcats to the W2V8 gold medal but, equally importantly, for beating third-place Trinity for the silver.
Trinity's first varsity eight was not to be defeated in the WV8 grand final, but with any other boat but Wellesley winning the race, Bates only needed to place second to claim the team championship. But that didn't dissuade the Bantams from cranking out an impressive win, at the end of which they rejoiced, perhaps believing for a minute or two that they had repeated as NCAA champs.
Bates and Trinity's WV8s both virtually leapt out of the water to start the race and soon both had boat-length leads over the rest of the field. Just 30 seconds in, Trinity was two seats ahead of Bates, which was four seats up on third-place Hamilton. Wellesley and Hamilton battled for third place for much of the race, with Tufts and Williams close behind. Hamilton wound up placing third in 7:02.529, Wellesley fourth in 7:04.650, Williams fifth in 7:04.827 and Tufts sixth (7:08.632).
At the 500-meter mark, a quarter through the race, Trinity led Bates by four seats. That lead grew to seven seats at 750 meters and by the 4:45 mark, around 1,200 meters, the Bantams led the Bobcats by a boat length, with Hamilton about six seats behind Bates. Bates reclaimed a seat or two of Trinity's lead down the stretch before accepting the silver medal with a time of 6:57.786 to Trinity's 7:54.576.