GOLD RIVER, Calif. - Despite its status as defending NCAA Division 1 champion, the Yale women's varsity eight boat has been a work in progress this season. But the inconsistent Bulldogs cruised to victory in 6 minutes 35.16 seconds yesterday at the windy NCAA championships to advance to today's grand final on Lake Natoma.
California finished second (6:38.66) in the first semifinal, with Stanford (6:39.93) also advancing. The Bears' runner-up finish was a surprise on the second day of the three-day regatta. Cal had been undefeated this season in eight races.
"Today was a big step for us; we were able to stay composed and row the whole 2,000 meters," said Yale coach Will Porter. "We've had good starts, good finishes, and good middles, but never in the same race."
Brown, the defending Division 1 team titlist, also easily advanced by winning the second semifinal in 6:34.93, the fastest time of the competition. Washington, which hadn't advanced to a grand final since 2003, finished second in 6:36.37. Michigan State completed the grand final field, finishing third in 6:36.64.
Brown, Washington, and Cal were the only schools to advance three boats into grand finals, likely setting up a three-way battle for the Division 1 team title.
Yale's varsity four also advanced to the grand final, finishing second in the repechage (7:38.04), with its second varsity eight relegated to the petite final after finishing fourth (6:56.01) in its repechage.
"Tomorrow will be a bigger challenge than today," said Porter. "The final is going to be very fast. Whoever puts together a whole race will be hard to beat."
Harvard entered the day with strong chances to advance two boats into grand finals, but the Crimson faltered and were relegated to petite finals.
"It's a little disappointing," said Harvard junior stroke Sarah Moore. "We're in the petite final, but that's not really what we came here to do."
Trinity College captured the first grand final of the regatta, rowing to a three-plus-second victory over three-time defending champion Williams in the Division 3 eights.
Williams, which had two boats advance to the final, finished second and third, pushing it to the team title over Trinity.