RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. -- The Gonzaga University women's rowing team wrapped up the NCAA Rowing Championships Sunday, finishing the three-day regatta in 17th place, matching their seed entering the regatta held on Lake Natoma.
"The team performance is a great step forward," said Gonzaga head coach Glenn Putyrae. "We had an idea of how things were going to happen, but at the end of the day, the regatta unfolds the way it unfolds. When you get to this final day, the best you can hope for is for all the crews perform to the best of their abilities. Across the board, we felt good about the consistency of all the crews' performance. They rose to the occasion when possible today."
Gonzaga amassed 37 points in the team standings, finishing just four points behind Notre Dame and eight behind Southern California. The Bulldogs earned 24 points from the Varsity 8 crew for a third-place finish during their C Final. The Second Varsity 8's win in the D Final gave Gonzaga eight points, and the Varsity 4s added five points from their C Final as well.
The Varsity 8 boat ran in a loaded C Final, matching up against Wisconsin, Yale, USC, Notre Dame, and UCF. Gonzaga took third in the race, finishing one spot ahead of USC for the third time in the regatta. Unlike the last two instances, however, the Bulldogs pulled ahead of the Trojans in the course's second 500 meters. After trailing by a couple of seats, the Zags evened the race for third just past the 500m mark and pulled ahead shortly after. The Zags were safely in third by two seconds at the halfway mark and held on to that spot at the finish line with a time of 6:41.158.
Gonzaga picked up its one win of the day and second of the regatta from the Second Varsity 8 crew. The Zags got the fastest start in the four-boat race, leading after 100 meters. UCF pulled ahead in the next few hundred meters, however, taking a two-seat advantage at one point. That advantage didn't last long as the Zags pulled nearly even by the 500m mark. GU continued to surge in the second 500, took the lead by the 750m mark and never looked back. They had a half-length lead at the race's halfway point, and they held open water over UCF with 500 meters to go. During the final quarter of the race, GU cruised to the nine-second victory, crossing the line in 7:02.993.
"We knew that UCF would be quick off the start, and they were," said 2V8 coxswain Heather Handy. "We had a good start ourselves, but they were able to get a couple of seats. From there, it was just going seat by seat trying to gain on them. Within the first 750 we got even, at the 1000 we were ready to take on, and got open water from there."
The 2015 National Championship was the Bulldogs' second NCAA race. They finished 19th in 2013, the program's first appearance in the final regatta. Two years ago, the Varsity 4 crew finished fourth in the C Final and both the Varsity and Second Varsity 8s won their D Final races.
"Two years ago, we didn't really know what to expect. This time we still learned a lot. Everyone's leaving the regatta with a sense of purpose and they want to do better next time. Knowing where they are now is influenced by what they do, and they'll want to do better next time."
Gonzaga's Varsity 4 boat also took part in a C Final, taking sixth in their race to begin Gonzaga's morning. Rowing in lane six, the Zags battled the course's choppiest conditions. They fell behind early in the race, crossing the 500m mark five seconds behind USC. While the Bulldogs did row faster on every quarter of the course, the deficit was too much and they were unable to catch another boat.
With the conclusion of the NCAA Championship regatta, the 2014-15 GU rowing season comes to a close. Four seniors rowed their final race with Gonzaga Sunday, including Casey Burt (2nd seat, V8), Naomi Medley (6th seat, 2V8), Laura Brasch (coxswain, V4), and Natalie Potts (stroke seat, V4).
"With the number of rowers we should have coming back, hopefully that provides some offseason incentive to come back fitter and see how more competitive we can be next year," said Putyrae.