With 350 meters remaining, men’s varsity crew began to sprint toward the finish line, trailing by seven seats to the College of the Holy Cross. Victory seemed out of reach. In the last couple hundred meters, though, the Ephs surprised all spectators as they closed a five or six second gap and challenged the Div. I Holy Cross crew at the finish line.
Though the Ephmen did all they could, victory was not meant to be, as the team crossed the line with a time of 6:00.55 – 0.94 seconds behind the Crusaders’ 5:59.61 – to claim the silver medal at the always challenging New England Rowing Championships in Worcester, Mass.
The impressive comeback capped a day of triumphs and disappointments for the Williams rowers on Lake Quinsigamond on Saturday.
The varsity men had earned their berth in the finals by defeating Bates College with a time of 6:08.38 in their earlier qualifying heat. Finishing third in the finals was UMass-Amherst, which trailed Holy Cross by 1.96 seconds.
Perhaps an equally exciting race was the finals of the women’s varsity eight. The Williams boat – which had not lost in over two years – fell short of the Div. I crew from Boston College (BC).
The Ephwomen triumphantly silenced their critics as they soundly defeated the Colby White Mules in their qualifying heat. The White Mules had come to Quinsigamond seeded over Williams, the only Div. III crew to do so; however, their five-second defeat secured Williams’s top national ranking going into the selections for the NCAA championships in late May.
Williams came into the finals facing tough competition from the BC Eagles and trailed most of the race, crossing the finish line 2.98 seconds behind with a time of 6:46.69. Notably, the Williams women still have not lost to a Div. III program since 1999. Williams’ second varsity boat also arrived in Worcester not having lost a race this year. Their streak ended, however, in the finals at the hands of the Eagles by only 0.69 seconds. The boat easily defeated Smith in its qualifying heat.
Both varsity boats’ performances garnered the silver medals and qualified for the Avaya Collegiate Championships next weekend in Princeton, N.J. Those two boats will be joined by the Williams’ men and the novice women’s eight after a gutsy performance on Saturday.
The novice women’s boat came into the race having struggled the previous weekend against Bates. Challenged by the Coast Guard Academy in one of the most exciting qualifying heats of the day, the Williams women defeated the Bears by less than two seconds, as both boats qualified for the finals.
The Williams boat trailed early before coming back and finishing in the bronze medal position with a time of 7:03.26, 5.33 seconds behind an impressive Bates crew. Tufts finished second.
Williams’ men’s novice eight struggled throughout the day. After two crabs hampered the start of their qualifying heat, the crew fought back from several boat lengths back in an attempt to qualify for the finals.
The unbelievable comeback left spectators and even the announcer speechless as the novice boat just missed their shot to medal, coming in 3.13 seconds behind the second place Holy Cross boat and more than seven seconds behind the winning Trinity boat.
Their performance did yield a berth in the petit finals, where the Ephs struggled against an extremely strong UMass-Amherst boat, finishing in second place by 4.01 seconds. The races marked the end of the novice men’s season, as the novice four finished their season a week prior.
The women’s novice four also finished their season on Quinsigamond. Their wild card selection last week allowed them to compete against varsity boats Saturday. They finished sixth in their qualifying heat and failed to qualify for the petit finals or the grand finals with a time of 8:17.38. UVM won that race and went on to finish second and win the silver medal.
The men’s varsity eight, the women’s varsity eight, second varsity eight and novice eight will all compete next weekend at the Avaya Collegiate Championships. Most likely, the women’s varsity eight and second varsity eight will qualify to compete at the NCAA Championships May 31 – June 2, 2002 in Indianapolis. The men’s varsity eight will finish their season in early July at the Henley Royal Regatta in Oxfordshire, England.