SARASOTA, Fla. — The University of Central Oklahoma rowing team won the 2018 NCAA Division II national championship Saturday morning, capturing the first title in program history with a dominating performance on the water.
The Bronchos took a silver medal finish in the Varsity 4 race to earn six team points before crushing the competition in the Varsity 8 race to grab 12 points and the national title.
"I'm at a loss for words," UCO head rowing coach Montia Rice said. "We've been so close before and not won. And we've worked so hard. It's just amazing. I'm so happy for this team."
UCO's eights dominated in the water Saturday morning as they have all season. With seven wins during the regular season against top-10 boats, the Bronchos cruised to victory in the prelims on Friday and cruised to victory in the championship race on Saturday.
Central jumped out to an early lead in the 2,000-meter race and never looked back. After the first 500 meters, UCO led by a little more than one second. By the halfway point, it was a few seconds, and as the Bronchos crossed the finish line, the lead was more than one boat.
CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: UCO becomes the eighth school to win the DII rowing title
It's the second year in a row the Broncho eights have won a gold medal in the championship. UCO took second place in the team standings last year, missing the title by one point.
Not the case anymore. Central Oklahoma rowing is a national champion thanks to a strong performance in both boats.
The fours for the Bronchos took second place in the first final of the day Saturday. UCO needed at least a second-place finish to capture enough points for the team title and a consistent effort throughout the race gave the Bronchos just that.
"I want to thank so many people who are involved in this today," Rice said. "This has been a building process for a long time and there are so many people who have contributed. To all who have rowed for Central over the past 10 years, to everyone in the Oklahoma City community who has contributed to what goes on downtown on the Oklahoma River and at the Central Boathouse. To the UCO community and everyone that has supported us, and to all the Broncho rowers and their families. Everyone deserves credit for this championship."
Central Oklahoma rowed its first race in 2008, and after just 10 years, the Bronchos are national champions.
Central Oklahoma, 18 points
Western Washington, 14
Florida Tech, 13