Women's Varsity 8s have high hopes after performance at WIRA

SACRAMENTO — Willamette’s two women’s Varsity 8 crews are optimistic about a berth in the NCAA Championships following their performances Saturday and Sunday at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association championships (West Coast schools not in the Pac-10).

The Bearcats’ Women’s Varsity 8 placed fifth in the Grand Final and the Women’s Second Varsity 8 won the Petite Final on Sunday. In both cases, WU placed ahead of the University of Puget Sound, which is the Bearcats’ main hurdle to possibly qualify for nationals.

On Tuesday, a West Region committee will determine whether Willamette or Puget Sound will be ranked No. 1 in the West among Division III schools. After that is determined, the NCAA will dole out its at-large berths for the NCAA Championships, which will be held May 30-June 1 in Indianapolis.

“Finishing ahead of Puget Sound in the Grand Finals should hold some weight,” said seven-year Willamette rowing coach Rod Mott. “I think both us and UPS could do well at nationals, but it’s unlikely they’ll take two schools from the (West) region.”

In the WIRA championships, WU’s Women’s Varsity 8 finished the 2,000-meter Grand Final in 7:00.8. The Bearcats placed behind, in order, University of San Diego (6:49.7), Loyola Marymount, Gonzaga and host Sacramento State. The Second Varsity 8 beat Santa Clara in the Petite Final, 7:16.4-7:23.0.

Willamette’s Men’s Second Varsity 8 finished seventh (6:55.4) in the Grand Final behind, in order, UC-Davis (6:17.9), UC-Irvine, Orange Coast, Gonzaga, Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount.

In other WIRA event finals:

• Willamette’s Men’s Varsity 4 won the Petite Final in 7:25.7 ahead of Santa Clara (7:33.0) and Pacific Lutheran (7:38.9). That crew, along with the Men’s Lightweight 4, will compete this weekend at the prestigious Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia.

• The Bearcats’ Men’s Varsity 8 (6:45.5) placed second in the Third Final behind Loyola Marymount (6:36.1).

• WU’s Men’s Novice 4 (7:56.6) also placed second in the Third Final, finishing behind St. Mary’s (7:48.1).

• And the Women’s Novice 8 (8:07.4) placed sixth in the Petite Final.