Last weekend, all three Stanford rowing teams came home with hardware to show for their hard work. The No. 1 lightweight varsity eight remains undefeated in spring competitions with its narrow victory in the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships. At the Pac-12 championships, No. 6 women’s rowing brought home the silver medal in the varsity eight, while the No. 13 men’s rowing varsity eight earned a third-place finish.
Despite shooting off the starting line and opening up a near-boat length over Washington in the final 500 meters, the Cardinal lightweight team was caught off guard near the finish line, pulling out a 0.30-second victory over the Huskies. For a team that sends an A boat and B boat to the varsity eight competition and is accustomed to essentially racing against each other in the finals, the race got the hearts of the Stanford A boat pumping.
“PCRCs are always close,” said junior Brittany Presten. “But the lightweight crews are getting more and more competitive.”
At this point last season, the varsity eight had already weathered a few losses and didn’t have the pressure of dealing with this year’s undefeated status. However, the team’s mentality and confidence is not affected in the least.
“PCRCs are a trial run for IRAs. Each race is practice for the next race. You see what you can do and then build off of that,” Presten said.
Two weeks after falling to Cal in the Big Row, the Cardinal women again met their foes from across the Bay at the Pac-12 championships, solidifying their position at one of the top teams in the conference with their strong finish in the varsity eight race but failing again to top their rival.
“Cal has historically been a fierce competitor of ours, and we wouldn’t want it any other way,” said junior Katie Toothman. “Racing them requires the highest level of performance, and although it would have been ideal to come out with the win, our recent results show us how much more work we have to do before NCAAs.”
The Cardinal will find out later next week if they will get the chance to compete at the NCAAs on an at-large berth. The greatest challenge for the Cardinal moving forward will be consistency and putting together all the positive parts of this season into a complete performance.
After taking home the program’s first Pac-12 title last season, the Card were happy with their third-place team finish after losing six instrumental and influential seniors last year.
“We are leaving this weekend a huge sense of accomplishment, however these next two weeks are crucial for our very best performance at the National Championship in two weeks,” Toothman said.
The Cardinal had an extra spark in their performance on Sunday due to the return of varsity four coxswain junior Liza Gurtin, which allowed the team enough experienced coxswains to race in every Pac-12 lineup.
“Liza is an incredibly skilled and confident coxswain on the water; she can race seven boats across with ease. Her sense of competition is easily heard in her calls and much appreciated by all of the rowers,” Toothman said.
In addition to the second-place varsity eight finish and third-place team finish, senior coxswain Naomi Cornman was presented with the Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year award. She is the fourth Cardinal women’s rower to earn the honor.
“These next two weeks are going to require absolute focus both on the water and in our academics,” Toothman said. “We know that and are headed into NCAAs with a mentality that requires us to integrate all that we have learned throughout our season thus far in order to put our best on the line for all three days of the competition.”
The men’s rowing team finished fourth as a team, but the real story of the day for the Cardinal was their third-place finish in the varsity eight race. They beat the fourth-place finishers, Oregon State, by seven seconds in an incredible comeback effort.
Halfway through the race, Stanford trailed Oregon State by seven seats, with the Beavers leading by open water at one point in the race. The Cardinal would not let up, however, and powered through to finish behind two of the nations top teams in Cal and Washington State.
“In 15 years, I don’t think I have seen one of our boats come from down over a boat length in the final 1,000 meters to finish ahead of somebody,” said head coach Craig Amerkhanian. “It was a courageous effort and I am proud of our guys.”
As former teammate and fellow captain Austin Hack did last year, senior Kaess Smit earned the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year award this season, keeping the honor on the Farm.
The Cardinal will have a two-week break from competition as they prepare for IRAs.
Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.