On the heels of Stanford women’s rowing’s first Pac-12 conference championship, The Daily’s Ashley Westhem talked with sophomore varsity eight rower Katie Toothman in advance of the 2014 NCAA Championship this weekend.
Ashley Westhem (AW):What does winning the Pac-12 title for the first time in program history mean to you and the team?
Katie Toothman (KT):Our team morale is really high right now and it hasn’t been for a while. Last year we got fifth at Pac-12s and that was a disappointment, so this year has been really exciting. I don’t think anyone realized how good we could be and so winning Pac-12s just showed us how much our new training plan and the hard work that we put in together works. And since we’ve won the Big Row and Pac-12s we’re more excited to row and to erg and just making it all worth it. So these past few weeks have been really rewarding.
AW:How does having the No. 2 overall seed affect the team’s mindset heading into Friday?
KT:For me, I’m just saying that rankings don’t matter because anything can happen. So they seed each of these boats in the finals so that if you finish faster you get the middle lane, and then they seed out from there. So last year at the NCAAs, Cal was in sixth, which means they were slated to lose, and they won by seconds in the last 500 [meters]. They just shot through and above everyone else. I think USC was ranked first and they got really cocky. I think our team has been really good about realizing that we have a lot of work to do and have a lot of potential, which everyone is excited about.
AW:Yale did not qualify this year for NCAAs, which hardly ever happens. What is the new qualifying system for NCAAs that kept them out of it?
KT:They changed the system to qualify for NCAAs recently so that each conference has an automatic bid, so if you win the team trophy or for the Ivy League if your varsity eight wins, you get an automatic bid. Besides that, there are at-large bids. The Pac-12 is the most competitive conference along with the Ivy League. And I don’t know if it’s unfair that Yale didn’t get invited, but there was one race at the Ivies in particular where their 2V and four did fine, but their V8 got last and lost to Dartmouth by six seconds. So it was probably that race [that kept them out]. But they don’t deserve to be left out. It is an embarrassment for them, and what’s awful is that because there are these automatic bids for conferences, for instance [teams] like Jacksonville [qualified]. But in the long run, this new automatic bid system will make it so that all of the conferences are more equal, because they all get to go to NCAAs. They’ll get more recruits and more money and it will attract more people who are faster.
AW:You are going to be in Indianapolis for a week before competition starts. What will the week look like?
KT:We train at the University of Miami in Ohio in this state park called Houston Woods; we’re kind of hidden on purpose. So we’ll train there for a week and then we’re two hours from Indianapolis so we’ll have practices on the course, but we’ll be tapering so it’s going to be really short practices. We’ll iron things out and see the other teams.
AW:What’s been the highlight of the season?
KT:I honestly think beating Cal. Last year I was in the 2V for the race, and we were seeded pretty badly and we weren’t supposed to win. When we passed under the bridge, we were winning by open water, and then coming out of the bridge we were losing by open water. So this year, we were hungry to win and had something to prove. Cal was undefeated, ranked No. 2 and I know a lot of girls in their boat. They would just write Stanford off and I think now we’ve shown them twice that they can’t do that, and I think they’re having a pretty bad hell week training wise. I’d say winning the Big Row in all three boats just proved that we are fast enough and I couldn’t have imagined anything better.
Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.