NCAA champions again! Women's rowing takes home second national title in three years

Bates senior rowers Julia Mason, Molly Pritz, Katherine Traquina, Abigail Bierman and Jessica Vocaturo celebrate their second national championship! (Aaron Morse/Bates College)

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. -- The Bates women's rowing team defeated Williams by one point to win the 2017 NCAA Championship in dramatic fashion Saturday morning on Mercer Lake. 

The Bobcat second varsity eight won its fourth consecutive gold medal, earning Bates 12 points. Meanwhile, the first varsity eight came in second to Williams, earning the Bobcats 27 points and giving them 39 overall. The Ephs earned 30 points for their first place finish in the first varsity eight race but only tallied eight points for their third place finish in the second varsity eight race, giving them 38 overall. 

The second varsity eight grand final got underway at 11:12 a.m. with the Bobcats taking on Wellesley, Williams and Ithaca. 

Bates led wire-to-wire, although the Blue kept things very close for the first 1,000 meters. The Bobcats led by less than a second halfway through the race before opening up a two-second lead at the 1,500-meter mark. 

They raced to the finish in a gold medal winning time of 6:48.332. Wellesley came in second with a time of 6:51.502 and Williams came in third, well behind the top two crews with a time of 6:57.632. 

The first varsity eight grand final marked the last race of the day and it proved to be a nail-biter the whole way. Bates held off Wellesley for second place by just over a second, giving the Bobcats the points they needed for a second national championship. 

The Ephs took home the first varsity eight gold medal with a time of 6:35.379 and the Bobcats rowed to the finish in 6:37.652. Wellesley came in third with a time of 6:38.842. Ithaca, RIT and Wesleyan finished fourth through sixth respectively. 

"We're watching, we're watching, Wellesley puts up this fight in the last 500 that almost gets them, they (Bates) put up an even bigger fight," senior captain and second varsity eight coxswain Abigail Bierman said. "My bow seat Alex Salazar turns around and is like 'I can't watch any more!' They finish and we whip our heads around to the coaching staff, and ask 'did we?' and they nodded - we did!" 

Bierman (Bethlehem, N.Y.) won her third consecutive gold medal as the coxswain for the second varsity eight while senior Katherine Traquina (Wayland, Mass.) won her second silver medal as the coxswain for the first varsity eight. Both coxswains were also members of the 2015 national championship team.  

Senior captain first varsity eight stroke Molly Pritz (Ithaca, N.Y.) wraps up a remarkable career at Bates that saw her win a gold medal in the second varsity eight boat as a first-year, another gold medal and a national championship as a sophomore, a third gold medal as a junior and a second national championship as a senior.

"This is so much more than a victory for those of us who got to be on the water today," Pritz said. "This is for everyone. I was happiest to see my first coxswain at Bates (Molly Huffaker '14) who was here. This is the second (team) national championship for the school and we own both of them. So that's awesome."

Seniors Julia Mason (Niskayuna, N.Y.) and Jessica Vocaturo (Columbus, N.J.) wrapped up their careers in style on Saturday as well. Mason takes home a third gold medal and a second national title. 

This marks the 11th consecutive year Bates women's rowing has participated in the NCAA Championships. They have finished first twice (2015 and 2017), second six times, third twice and fifth once.   

Bates Boatings for the 2017 NCAA Championships:

WV8: Laura Rand (bow), Emma WheelerGrace MurnaghanOlivia StocklyHannah FittsLena RintellRosemary KyneMolly Pritz (stroke); Katherine Traquina (cox).

W2V8: Alex Salazar (bow), Claudia GlickmanSophia MerelasCara StarnbachPhoebe LongJessica VocaturoJulia MasonGrace Jurkovich (stroke); Abigail Bierman (cox).

Alternate #1: Sophie Claus
Alternate #2: Amelia Wilhelm 
Alternate Cox: Hanna De Bruyn