A fortnight after its victory at the Pac-12 regatta, No. 2 Stanford women’s rowing took to the water in Sarasota, Fla. at the NCAA championships. The Cardinal had a strong showing in the qualifying heats and semifinals but just missed out on the title, finishing as the runner-up for the second year in a row.
Stanford earned 124 points in the team category to tie with No. 1 University of Texas. Though the teams scored the same number of points, the Longhorns edged out the Cardinal to take their second consecutive NCAA championship title via a tiebreak by winning the first varsity eights.
The first two days of competition could not have gone better for Stanford. In pursuit of their first NCAA title since 2009, the Cardinal glided through every qualifying heat on Day 1 and each semifinal on Day 2. Going into the grand finals for each event on Sunday, Stanford was the only team remaining in the competition that had won every single race it had entered thus far.
Sunday’s grand finals began bright and early with the varsity fours. No. 5 Princeton took the title in a tight race. With senior coxswain and Pac-12 Women’s Rowing Scholar-Athlete of the Year Nicole Pofcher calling the shots in a boat with sophomore Mathilda Kitzmann, sophomore Kieran Wallace, freshman Fiona Mooney and senior Kelsey McGinley, the Cardinal finished just over three seconds off the lead to take fourth overall. The boat’s time of 7:08.541 was less than one second behind the third place finisher and eventual overall team champion, Texas.
The second varsity eights were up next. In another close race, the Cardinal boat with coxswain Rachel Miller, freshman Paloma Sequeira, sophomore Julia Braz, sophomore Beckie Leigh, freshman Luise Bachmann, senior Sophie Dixon, freshman Lucy Burrell, junior Brie Perry and freshman Julietta Camahort hung on for a second place finish in 6:23.220, two seconds behind event winner No. 4 Yale.
Going into the last grand final, Stanford held a three-point lead with 61 points to Texas’ 58. Just like at the Pac-12 championship two weeks ago, the title would be decided by a single race. And once again, that race would be the first varsity eights.
The pressure could not have been higher as the Cardinal’s first varsity eight of senior coxswain Caroline Ricksen, senior Azja Czajkowski, sophomore Belle Battistoni, freshman Iris Klok, senior Esther Briz Zamorano, fifth year Kaitlyn Kynast, sophomore Taylor English, sophomore Lettie Cabot and junior Katelin Gildersleeve lined up for the championship regatta’s last event. Texas’ varsity eight entered the race not having lost in two years, and Stanford’s only hope of winning the national title was to hand the Longhorns their first varsity eight loss in several seasons.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal, the Longhorns lived up to expectations, finding an early one-second lead. Though Stanford fought to challenge for the championship, Texas was relentless and extended its lead further. The Cardinal ultimately crossed the line as runners-up, just under five seconds behind the Longhorns.
Though the two teams had an even number of points, the Longhorns’ win in the varsity eights gave them the championship in a tiebreak. Princeton rounded out the top three with 118 points.
Despite the tiebreak pushing them to second, the Cardinal took home hardware in the form of a national podium placing. And with solid back-to-back showings at the conference and national championships, Stanford wrapped up an impressive season with its 13th straight NCAA Championship top-10 finish.