The GW women’s varsity eight boat accomplished its goal for the 1998 season by making it to the NCAA Championships.
Once the team got there, though, accomplishing more proved to be difficult as the boat finished 15th of the 16 teams invited to the championship regatta May 29-31 at Lake Lanier, Ga.
“We were very happy just to be invited,” senior Erin Moore said. “But I think we all expected to do a little better than we did.”
The team saw its first action May 29, in the second of three morning heats for the varsity eight boats. The top three finishers in each heat advanced to the semifinals. Teams also could qualify for the semis by placing in the top three in the repechage, an afternoon race of the boats that did not place in the morning heats.
Women’s crew coach Steve Peterson said the team decided to go all out in the morning and attempt to qualify that way rather than saving its energy for the afternoon. The gamble very nearly paid off, as the team finished 1.5 seconds behind third-place Michigan State University, a boat GW lost to earlier in the season. Massachusetts, which went on to earn the silver medal for varsity eights, won the heat, while the University of Michigan finished second and placed fifth overall.
“We knew UMass and Michigan would be fast, but we picked out Michigan State as a boat we could go after to get into the semis,” Peterson said. “From racing them earlier, we thought we could beat them.”
The Colonial women got off to a bad start in the race with the worst split time at 500 meters, but by the middle of the race, GW was less than a second behind the Spartans. The Colonial women pulled even with Michigan State with about a minute to go in the race, Peterson said, but couldn’t push ahead to earn a third place finish.
“I am still glad we made that commitment to go after it in the morning,” Moore said. “It was gutsy on our part.”
GW still had a chance to advance to the semifinals in the afternoon’s repechage if they could finish in the top three, but the Colonial women placed sixth of seven boats in the race.
“They felt like they had a good race in the water, but they had gone at it so hard in the morning that they didn’t have much left in the afternoon,” Peterson said. “Two races in one day wasn’t something they were accustomed to.”
GW got off to a decent start in the repechage. The team registered a split time of 1:49.81 at the 500-meter mark, about four seconds behind Harvard University.
The Colonial women started fading by the middle of the race, though, falling from fourth place to sixth at the 1000-meter mark. The boat finished the repechage in a time of 6:59.30, more than 14 seconds behind winner Harvard, and nine seconds out of third place.
The University of Washington won the gold medal for varsity eights by defeating UMass by more than three seconds in the grand final.
Despite the team’s failure to advance past the first day of NCAAs, Peterson said he felt like the NCAA Championship – the first-ever for GW – was great for the program.
“It was great just to get there and be on the line with some great crews,” he said. “Next year, hopefully we can set our goals a little higher and try to get into the top 12.”
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