SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Bates women's rowing team left no room for doubt on Saturday, winning both grand finals to take home the Bobcats' second straight national championship and their third in the last four years. The first varsity eight won its first gold medal at the NCAA Championships in program history and the second varsity eight edged Wellesley to win its fifth consecutive gold medal on the biggest stage of women's collegiate rowing.
After coming in second to Wellesley in Friday's heat, the second varsity eight, led by senior coxswain Hanna De Bruyn (Old Lyme, Conn.) and junior stroke Phoebe Long (Riverside, Conn.) knew the Blue would be a challenge once again on Saturday. At the halfway point of the grand final, Wellesley held a slim lead over Bates but the Bobcats made up some ground over the next 500 meters to gain a small edge down the stretch. In the end, the Bobcats raced to the finish in 6:52.037, defeating the Blue by a little more than a second and cutting three seconds off their Friday heat time. Williams came in a distant third with a time of 7:02.157.
"It's a lot more fun to win when its close like that," De Bruyn said. "When you win by open water you don't have any adrenaline and you're just kind of chill. But when it's close, winning feels a lot more meaningful because you have to fight your hardest."
Due to the points system, the only team that could seriously challenge Bates for the national title after the second varsity eight race concluded was Wellesley. Williams' first varsity eight boat failed to make the grand final and Ithaca didn't have a boat in the second varsity eight grand final. Wesleyan and WPI had finished too far back in the second varsity eight race to be realistic contenders for the overall points trophy.
None of that mattered to the Bobcats. The Bates first varsity eight boat made it clear who has the fastest crew in Division III rowing.
Led by first-year coxswain Elizabeth Folsom (San Mateo, Calif.) and senior stroke Laura Rand (Barrington, R.I.), the Bobcats raced to the finish in 6:40.713, cutting about five seconds off their heat time and defeating runner-up Ithaca (6:44.886) by a little more than four seconds.
"Winning the gold medal at NCAAs for the first time has been on all of our minds in the first varsity eight boat for quite awhile now," senior captain Olivia Stockly (Cumberland, Maine) said. "It was just pure joy when we crossed the finish line."
WPI finished in third (6:46.017) and Wellesley came in fourth (6:49.935) in the first varsity eight grand final.
"Ithaca was up on us for a moment early in the race but the minute I told my rowers they were like 'no way!' and surged ahead," Folsom said. "During the last 100 meters I could not wait to cross the finish line. I was just screaming inside and yelling 'go! go! go!'"
Wellesley and WPI finished in second and third place respectively in the final points standings behind Bates.
In 2015 and 2017, Bates won the national title thanks to the second varsity eight winning gold and the first varsity eight coming in second. This time, for the first time ever, both Bates boats finished in first place, securing the Bobcats' third national title in the last four years. This season marks the 12th consecutive appearance at the NCAA Championships for the Bates women's rowing team. They have finished in first or second place nine times during that time frame.
Alternate #1: Elizabeth Fischer
Alternate #2: India Lissak
Alternate Cox: Elise Grossfeld