The No. 3 Stanford women’s rowing team brought home the program’s first ever Pac-12 Rowing Championship title this past weekend by winning gold in three of four races at Lake Natoma. Stanford beat out possibly one of the toughest Pac-12 fields in championship history, overtaking six other ranked schools, including three other top-10 teams.
“We went in knowing it would be a tough [1V8] race and we kept it together,” said senior Ali Fauci. “We powered through it at the end and I am just so proud of our team. From top to bottom we really relied on each other and it was an awesome turnout for everyone.”
By winning the 1V8, 2V8 and 1V4 events and earning the bronze in the novice eight, the Cardinal managed to beat No. 7 Washington by nine points to claim the title, while No. 4 California, a favorite from the start of the preseason, finished in third.
The third-place finish by the novice eight was enough to definitively put the Cardinal ahead of the Pac at the end of the day. It was the first time that Stanford had managed to field a novice boat, which had been a sore spot for the team in previous years causing them to miss out on crucial extra points. In 2010, the Cardinal came close to beating Cal for the title, but was a half point short — a difference that could have been made up for with a finish by a novice boat.
This year, the women’s open weight team brought up four rowers from the lightweight varsity eight to compose the novice boat. The eight rowers had only rowed together for a short piece on Saturday before being sent out on the water to compete in the Pac-12 Championships the next day. Due to Stanford’s admissions standards and lack of walk-ons, it is typically very difficult for women’s rowing to field enough women for a novice eight boat. The mix of open weights and lightweights, however, rose to the occasion and managed a third-place finish.
The 1V4 captured its fifth consecutive victory after jumping out to an early lead with the fastest split time in the opening 500 meters. The Cardinal 2V8 earned its third gold medal in the past five years in a close race with UCLA. Stanford held a narrow but strong 0.33-second lead in the first part of the race before it began to walk through and beat the Bruins by 2.9 seconds.
“Starting with the novice eight, they only rowed together for one practice. That was unreal watching them while we were starting our warm-up,” said senior Kristy Wentzel. “Then watching the four crush it and the 2V8 blast off the start. There is nothing like watching your teammates crush it to give you confidence that you are going to have a fantastic day.”
With the two gold medals already secured, the 1V8 just needed to finish in third in order to secure the championship. That race proved to be the most competitive of the day as the top four finishers were only separated by 4.1 seconds. However, none of the opponents’ moves were good enough to overtake the Cardinal, which led from the start. It was the first time that the 1V8 had won gold since 2009.
“From the beginning of the season, this team had their eye on the prize,” said head coach Yasmin Farooq. “This conference championship serves as a confidence booster for how hard they can fight in a race. I am proud of them for that.”
The team now has a two-week break from competition to prepare for NCAAs in Indianapolis starting May 30.
Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.