The fourth-ranked Texas rowing team qualified all three of its boats for Sunday’s grand finals at the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis, the second time in UT history that it has accomplished the feat.
The Longhorns also did so last year at Sarasota, Fla., as they finished a program-best third in the nation.
The first eight, which won its heat Friday, broke away from No. 5 Michigan in the second 1,000 meters of Saturday’s semifinal but couldn’t quite catch No. 3 California. UT finished in 6 minutes, 33.682 seconds to the Golden Bears’ 6:31.252. The Wolverines took third in 6:38.038. Texas crew comprised Ashley Jacobs, Ljiljana Josic, Milica Slijepcevic, Fanny Bon, Aspa Christodoulidis, Alexandra Watson, Francesca Raggi, Maria Valencia and Kaitlin Knifton.
The second eight took third place in a semifinal that produced a photo finish, with three boats within 2 seconds. Top-ranked Washington won in 6:52.663, with second-ranked Ohio State right behind in 6:52.776. Texas finished in 6:53.464, ahead of Cal’s 6:54.402. Lindsey Devore, Katelyn Bouthillette, Margaret Dail, Payten Kooyers, Merilynn Finley, Alexa McAuliffe, Marlowe Eldridge, Susanna Temming and Alice Bowyer were UT’s crew.
“Today was really exciting,” said Dail, a senior rower. “We made history, and I could not be more proud of my boat or this team. We have a lot of heart and have worked so hard all year for this. Now it’s time to focus back in and get ready for tomorrow to make more history.”
The Texas four, which won its Friday heat, crossed the halfway point of the semifinal neck-and-neck with Washington but couldn’t overtake the Huskies, who crossed the line in 7:35.938 to UT’s 7:39.866. Michigan took third in 7:42.590. The Texas crew was Kay Murphy, Lauren Mufarreh, Kendall Chapman, Sophie Pendrill and Claudia Destefani.
“It’s good for us to see that people are starting to recognize that Texas is one of those elite programs,” coach Dave O’Neill said. But, from the inside, we just do our work.
“The seniors on our team are the first group that (the Texas coaching staff) recruited. There are kids in our second eight who are experiencing their fourth NCAA Championship. What they know is being at NCAAs and fighting for the final.
“It is good that having all boats in the final feels normal for us. It’s like, yeah, that’s what we do. We knew that semifinals were going to be tough racing, and we know that we’re going to have to step it up even more for the finals.”
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