NCAA DII Rowing Championship: Western Washington earns its eighth national title
WEST WINDSOR, N.J. - The Western Washington University women's rowing team won the program's eighth NCAA Division II national championship edging out Central Oklahoma in the team competition Sunday morning on Lake Mercer.
The Vikings, led by 19th-year head coach John Fuchs, returned to the top of the podium for the first time since a streak of seven consecutive national championships from 2005-2011. The championship was also the 11th team title in WWU Athletics history, and the second during the 2016-17 season joining the women's soccer team.
WWU scored 17 team points in the competition, with 8 coming from the national-champion Fours and 9 from the second-place finishing Eights, earning a one-point victory over Central Oklahoma (16 points).
WWU's one-point victory marked one of the closest in the 15-year history of the current Division II scoring system, with 2014 (Humboldt State 16, Nova Southeastern 15) and 2004 (Mercyhurst 18, Humboldt State 17) also featuring one-point wins.
Western's four-oared boat set the tone in the first race of the DII championship, recording an open-water victory over Mercyhurst finishing the 2,000-meter course in 7:51.610. The Vikings led wire-to-wire, pulling away from Mercyhurst and Central Oklahoma for a 15-second victory. The Fours were led by junior coxswain Madison Moelhman (Vancouver, WA/Columbia River HS), with crew members Nicole Vanderzanden (Sr., Vancouver, WA/Union HS), Mary Harper (Jr., Seattle, WA/Ingraham HS), Kelly Oberbillig (So., Milton, WA/Fife HS) and Madison Kerr (So., Spokane, WA/Lewis & Clark HS).
This marks the eighth time the fours have won the national championship, joining crews in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2014.
The Eights finished second in the four-boat race of the Grand Final to earn 9 team points and seal the team championship. The Vikings had a strong last half of the race, but couldn't overcome Central Oklahoma to finish in 7:00.569, two-seconds back. The Eights were coxed by Giselle Kiraly (So., Vancouver, WA/Columbia River HS), and featured a veteran crew ofChloe Burns (Jr., Kirkland, WA/Lake Washington HS), Karisa Stapp (Jr., Bellingham, WA/Mount Baker HS), Kia Parrish-Haim (Sr., Ashland, OR/Ashland HS), Molly Ware (Sr., Olympia, WA/Olympia HS), Claire Whiting (Jr., Maple Valley, WA/Tahoma HS), Izzy Barnwell (So., Seward, AK/Seward HS), Megan Reid (Jr., Sitka, AK/Sitka HS) and Kasey Mallon-Andrews (Jr., Issaquah, WA/Issaquah HS).
WWU has now won eight of the 16 Division II Rowing National Championships since the first event in 2002. The Vikings have competed in 16 of the 17 NCAA Rowing Championships (2001 was a combined event), placing first or second 11 times. Last year WWU placed 3rd in the competition held on Lake Natoma in Gold River, California.
Sunday's victory put an exclamation point on a dominating season that saw the Vikings win 24 of 32 races and were the season-long No. 1 team in the national rankings.
The team national champion at the Division II level is determined by a point system under the following structure. WWU, Central Oklahoma, Mercyhurst and UC San Diego fielded both Eight and Fours in the competition, while Barry and Florida Tech entered an Eight in the competition, but did not factor into the team standings.