By Jeremy Rubin
Behind second place finishes in all three grand finals, Stanford women’s rowing placed second overall at the 2021 NCAA Championships, held in Sarasota, Fla. from May 28–30.
The Cardinal finished in a tie with Texas and Washington with 126 points at the end of the weekend, but the Longhorns’ first place varsity eight finish gave them the edge in the tiebreaker, earning the team its first national title in program history.
The Cardinal’s varsity four — comprised of sophomore coxswain Rachel Miller, sophomore Lucy Black, senior Sophia Lynn, freshman Kylie Oakes and senior Abby Tarquinio — began the competition and finished just 1.1 seconds behind Washington following a furious late comeback. Their time of 7:03.20 earned Stanford a second place finish in the event.
Earlier this year, Stanford won its first varsity four Pac-12 title since 2014, beating out Washington by more than 10 seconds.
The second varsity ended similarly as their varsity four counterparts — the Cardinal came in second, 1.2 seconds behind the first-place Huskies — but instead it was a late Washington comeback that pushed its team ahead. The members of Stanford’s second varsity were senior coxswain Tassica Lim, freshman Belle Battistoni, freshman Julia Braz, senior Sarah Commesso, junior Sophie Dixon, freshman Taylor English, freshman Mathilda Kitzmann, freshman Beckie Leigh and senior Sarah Ondak.
After a two hour lightning delay, the Cardinal’s varsity eight of junior coxswain Nicole Pofcher, sophomore Annabelle Bachmann, junior Azja Czajkowski, sophomore Katelin Gildersleeve, senior Kaitlyn Kynast, senior Grace McGinley, junior Kelsey McGinley, fifth-year Meg Saunders and junior Esther Briz Zamorano hit the water. Prior to the championship, Grace McGinley was named the Pac-12 Women’s Rowing Scholar-Athlete of the Year, becoming just the fifth Cardinal women’s rower to receive the honor.
Stanford’s varsity eight led for parts of the race, but a last-second push from the Longhorns edged the Cardinal by 1.5 seconds, 6:17.30 to 6:18.80. The Cardinal varsity eight still finished nearly three seconds ahead of Washington and, in the process, secured a second place finish overall at the national championships.
Stanford’s performance this year was the team’s highest finish at the NCAA Championships to date with Derek Byrnes at the helm of the program, although the team has never finished worse than sixth in Byrnes’ five years as head coach.