Colonial rowers place fifth in GW Crew Classic

It was a beautiful day on the Potomac River Saturday for the 12th Annual GW Invitational Crew Classic, but the only emotion the Colonials could muster was disappointment.

At 4:20 p.m., when the long day of rowing finally ended for GW, the Colonials had accumulated only 19 points, good for fifth place. The winner of the Gilbert H. Hood Jr. Point Trophy, the U.S. Naval Academy, had 117.

GW’s best finish was also its biggest disappointment. In the women’s varsity eight, the Colonial women reached the final, planning to beat Navy (as they had the week before) and Georgetown University. They also hoped to give the University of Virginia, the second-ranked crew in the country, a run for its money. As it turned out, GW finished fourth, 22 seconds behind champion Virginia, and 11 seconds behind the third-place Hoyas.

“Yeah, everybody was disappointed – it was not what we had hoped for,” said Steve Peterson, GW women’s head coach. “But after the fact, I remembered that I knew coming into this year that it would have its ups and downs because of the inexperience on the team. We had forgotten that the last two weeks because of our success. But the season isn’t over.”

Peterson explained that Navy’s game plan was the key to GW’s loss.

“We were focused on Navy and Georgetown. Last week, we took off the line and that frazzled Navy,” he said. “Navy had worked all week on getting ahead of us at the start and that rattled us. We’re just as good, but it was just a matter of being out-raced. I think what was disappointing was not that we were beat, but that we were out-smarted.”

Peterson stressed that this weekend’s results do not put an NCAA bid out of reach.

“It puts us in a little bit of a hole, but it doesn’t knock us out,” he said. “By losing to Georgetown and Navy by a fair amount, it probably dropped us to fifth in our region. But we’ll see Georgetown, Penn, and Syracuse again, and those are teams that are in competition with us now. It’s not a done deal yet. We can still redeem ourselves.”

The varsity men’s eight did not advance to the grand final, finishing third in the petite final (petites are for the top four boats that didn’t make the grand final). There, GW lost by eight seconds to winner Virginia.

“We did two very good races,” said Erich Shuler, men’s varsity coach. “Our goal is to be as fast as we can be for the Championship Regatta (May 9). This was a definite step toward that goal. We’re getting faster every week.”

In GW’s other races, the women’s junior varsity eight made its final and finished fourth. The women’s varsity lightweight four finished behind only Georgetown in its three-boat race, and the men’s and women’s novice crews both advanced to their respective petite finals, where both finished second.

Navy dominated the event, accumulating 117 points, 49 points better than Virginia’s winning total last year and 36 better than this year’s runner-up, Georgetown. GW finished fourth last year with 41 points, but was a distant fifth this year.

Overall, the times were noticeably slower than last year’s. The most noticeable example was five-time women’s varsity eight winner Virginia. The Cavaliers rowed 42 seconds slower than they did last year, when they won the event two seconds ahead of GW, which rowed a full minute longer this year.

The women host the University of North Carolina and Duke University this Saturday on the Potomac, and both crews return to the water April 24 for the Atlantic 10 Championships in Camden, N.J.

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