WWU crew ready to defend national title
May 26, 2006
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
JOE SUNNEN, THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
Sometime shortly after the sun rises in Bellingham today, the agony will end for Western Washington senior Julia Gamache.
That's when the WWU women's rowing team will finally begin its quest for a second consecutive NCAA Division II title. That's when the waiting stops and the rowing begins.
"I just want to do it now, get it started," Gamache said in a phone interview last week. "This is the worst part. Just the waiting. I'm ready to get it started. I'm ready to be on the water now."
Gamache and the rest of the Vikings will get their wish at 6:15 a.m. this morning at the NCAA Div. II rowing national championships on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J.
Western's varsity eight opens with Nova Southeastern University from Florida and U.C. San Diego in the first round heats, while the varsity four faces Nova Southeastern.
The winners from each heat advance to the grand finals on Sunday while the losers drop to the repechage.
"I'm nervous, I think we're all a little nervous," Gamache said. "It's not like we're just going to walk past these teams. They are all fast. We have to be faster."
The varsity eight has been ranked No. 1 in the nation throughout the season in the USRowing/Collegiate Rowing Association Coaches poll and Gamache and teammate Lindsay Mann-King were recently named first team All-Americans. It's the second time for Mann-King and the third for Gamache.
Both rowed on last year's team that won Western's first NCAA national title in any sport and just the school's second title overall.
"It's different this time because last year we were chasing that first one," Coach John Fuchs said in a phone interview. "It's a different feeling. I wouldn't say we are any more or less hungry for it this time, it's just different."
Along with what should be some tough competition on the water, WWU will also have to deal with the possibility of jet lag after flying across the country.
"There are a lot of things to account for and the time change and jet lag are two of them," Fuchs said.
For the seniors on the team like Gamache, Elizabeth Johnson and Rebecca Willms, there is also graduation to think about and the wistfulness that goes along with it.
"I'm trying not to think about being a senior at all," Gamache said. "I'm just trying to focus on one thing at a time. My Mom keeps calling me and asking about where we are going to eat after graduation. I'm thinking about winning a national championship."
A second title would likely cement WWU as a national power in the sport.
"I wouldn't say we're working on a dynasty," Fuchs said. "But I think we're setting the bar at a high level for this program. Maybe after this more people will start to realize that we're doing some pretty good things up here."
As much as Gamache is looking forward to racing for a national title, it's going to be hard for her to enjoy the experience until Western crosses that finish line on Sunday.
"I think we'll all enjoy it after it's over," Gamache said. "Right now there is sort of a fog over our eyes. We're all just trying to stay focused."
It's the sixth straight trip to nationals for Western. The Vikings finished third in 2004 and were runners up two years previously.
WWU will be one of four schools competing for a national championship. To be eligible a school must qualify in both the varsity eight and the varsity four races.
"This team is as good as they've ever been," Fuchs said.
Western Washington Vikings Sidebar Links
|Email this article||Printer-friendly format|