RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. -- The Gonzaga University women's rowing team continued action at the NCAA Championships Saturday, advancing two boats to the C Finals and one to the D Final in the regatta held on Lake Natoma in Rancho Cordova, Calif.
In the Zags' first race of the morning, the Varsity 8 boat won its C/D Semifinal heat, chasing down USC in the final 1000 meters once again. The Trojans held a four-seat lead over the Bulldog crew at the 500m mark and extended that to nearly a boat length near the halfway point. During the third 500, Gonzaga stormed back, nearly eliminating the deficit with 500 meters to go. The Zags continued to increase speed during the final quarter of the race, taking the lead and crossing the finish line over two seconds ahead of USC at 6:40.532. It was the second straight day that Gonzaga was able to come from behind to beat the Trojans.
In addition to USC, the Varsity 8 boat will face UCF, Wisconsin, Yale, and Notre Dame for the C Final title and 13th in the nation. Only Wisconsin rowed faster than the Zags did on Saturday as the Badgers won the first C/D semifinal in 6:37.559.
"We're working on putting together our best race, and this morning was closer," said Gonzaga head coach Glenn Putyrae of the Varsity 8's day. "It wasn't a perfect race, but we're showing consistency with how fast we are."
The GU Varsity 4 crew also earned a berth in the C final with a third-place finish in their semifinal heat. The Zags rowed in the third position for most of the race, passing Northeastern before the 500-meter mark. After overtaking the Huskies, the Bulldogs padded their lead, putting water between them and their nearest competitor during each 500-meter interval. They ended the race with open water between them and Northeastern, crossing the line nearly 12 seconds earlier. The Zags' time of 7:41.796 is just three-tenths of a second off their fastest of the weekend.
"Northeastern had a really good start, but coming into the first 500 we knew we had to make our move early," said senior Laura Brasch, coxswain of the Varsity 4 boat. "We did that, and 600 meters into the race I couldn't even see them in lane three. We had accomplished what we needed to do already."
Also advancing to the Varsity 4 C Final were crews from Harvard, USC, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Navy. Harvard and USC finished first and second in the Bulldogs' semifinal heat.
The Second Varsity 8 advanced to the D final after finishing fourth in its semifinal. Gonzaga remained in contact with third-place Northeastern for the entire race but could not reel in Huskies at the end. After the first 500 meters, GU trailed Northeastern by nearly five seconds. That deficit held until the final 500 when the Zags upped their pace, turning in their fastest split of the race at 1:43.410. The speed increase wasn't enough, however, as the Zags finished four seconds behind the crew from Northeastern.
Navy, UCF, and Jacksonville join the Zags in the D Final. Of the four boats, Gonzaga had the fastest time of those boats in the semifinals at 7:05.433.
While Putyrae is pleased with making two C Finals, he would most like to see each crew race up to their capabilities during their last races of the regatta.
"The key is tomorrow," he said. "The results tomorrow are the ones that are going to matter the most. Each place has a value to the team, and all the boats understand that. We want to see all the boats go as fast as they've gone all year. If everything was to unfold perfectly, they'd all race their very fastest tomorrow. The coaching staff and the athletes are going out with the expectation that they're going to make this last race their best race. If it is their best race, their results will take care of themselves."
The final heats of the NCAA Championship will take place on Sunday, May 31. The Varsity 4 crew will begin the day at 9:55 a.m. Second Varsity 8 will follow the Fours at 10:05 a.m., and the Varsity 8 boat will cap off the weekend with their C Final at 10:35 a.m.