Vikings officially invited to NCAA II National Championships
May 16, 2006
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - It's official.
The Western Washington University women's rowing team will defend its title at the fifth annual NCAA II National Championships on May 26-28 at West Windsor, N.J.
The Vikings received a national bid today as the West Region champion for the third straight year and fourth time in five years. Western, which got an at-large berth in 2003, took top honors last season - the school's first and only NCAA title and just the second overall in school history. The Vikings placed third in 2004 after being runner-up the previous two years.
The event takes place on Mercer Lake and is hosted by the Princeton International Regatta and Rutgers University.
"We're looking forward to racing there," said Western coach John Fuchs. "I've heard that it's a great venue."
"We're ready to go. It's been a long season ... so we're ready to compete."
Western will be one of four schools competing for the team championship - each school being required to row a varsity eight and a varsity four. Also receiving a bid was South Region champion Barry FL. Completing the field are two at-large teams, UC San Diego from the West Region and Nova Southeastern FL from the South Region.
In addition, Dowling NY and Florida Tech received at-large berths in the varsity eight competition. Those schools are not eligible for the team title.
"I think everyone is strong," Fuchs said of the field. "It becomes an even playing field in the national championship. A lot of schools will be trying to win a national title for the first time. Everyone is in that position except us, so I don't think they're hunting us, I think they're hunting a title. I have a lot of respect for all of those programs. Just getting there is an accomplishment."
Last year, Western won both the eight and four finals at nationals.
Competition opens on Fri., May 26 with two heats of three boats in the eights beginning at 9:15 a.m. ET and 9:30 a.m. ET, followed by a pair of two-boat heats in the fours at 10:30 a.m. ET and 10:45 a.m. ET. Winners in each heat advance to the grand finals on Sun., May 28 (four 10:15 a.m. ET, eight 10:45 a.m. ET). Losers of the heats compete in repechages on Sat., May 27, (eight 9 a.m. ET, four 9:15 a.m.) with the top two placers in the eight race and the winner in the four run advancing to the grand final.
Pairings for the heats are not determined until the crews arrive in West Windsor.
Seated in Western's eight, which has been ranked No.1 in the USRowing/Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association NCAA II Poll all season long, are coxswain Elisabeth Johnson (Sr., Seattle/Franklin), stroke Staci Reynolds (So., Vancouver/Columbia River), No.7 Julia Gamache (Sr., Seattle/Blanchet), No.6 Jordon Tobler (So., Langley/South Whidbey), No.5 Lindsay Mann-King (Jr., Colville), No.4 Rebecca Willms (Sr., Waterville/Wenatchee Valley CC/Montana), No.3 Metta Gilbert (So., Helena, MT), No.2 Samantha Marikis (So., Republic) and bow Amelia Whitcomb (So., Spokane/Ferris).
The lineup for the Vikings' four will be coxswain Coree Naslund (Sr., University Place/Curtis), stroke Hilary Gastwirth (Fr., Issaquah/Liberty), No.3 Katie Saelens (So., Clinton/South Whidbey/Edmonds CC), No.2 Katrina Anderson (Sr., Anchorage, AK/West Anchorage) and bow Kirsten Mathers (Fr., Camano Island/Stanwood). Western's alternates are Lila Scaife (So., Zillah/Big Bend CC) and Meghan Woodman (Fr., Redmond).
This is the fourth national appearance for Gamache and Anderson, and the third for Mann-King. Making their second trips are Gilbert, Johnson, Marikis, Tobler, Reynolds and Whitcomb. Last year, Gamache, Gilbert, Mann-King, Reynolds and Whitcomb were in the eight; and Johnson, Marikis and Tobler were in the four.
Anderson was an alternate last year after being in the four in 2004 and the eight in 2003.
"We have a little more experience than in the past," said Fuchs. "Every year it seems like we gain a little in that area."
Participating schools receive 12 points for the first-place eight, nine for second, six for third and three for fourth. The victorious four gets eight points, with six points awarded for second, four for third and two for fourth.
This is actually the sixth consecutive trip to nationals for Western. The Vikings competed in the NCAA championship for all divisions in 2001, the varsity eight finishing sixth in its qualifying, repechage and third final races. In 2002, each school raced two eights at nationals.
In the NCAA II West Regional last Saturday, Western won the eight and four races, with UC San Diego a close second in both. The Vikings' eight was victorious for the third straight year, and for the fourth time in five years. Western's four won for the second consecutive year.
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