By Will Angell-James, news staff

In a very dramatic few days at Lake Natoma, Calif., the Northeastern University (NU) women’s varsity crew finished fifth in the C final, defeating Duke University and the United States Naval Academy. The second varsity eight finished fifth and third varsity four finished sixth.

This is the highest finish for the women’s varsity rowing team since 2000.

“The first and second varsity boats both had amazing races,” said head coach Joe Wilhelm. “They did a great job, and I’m very proud of them.”

A minor stipulation put the start time of the race back 30 minutes. One of the foot stretchers broke on the start line, forcing boatman Rick Schroeder to head out and fix it.

“The crew stayed calm in that situation, remained focused and did what they’ve got to do to go when it’s time. They were a very strong and resilient crew,” Wilhelm said.

When the race started, the crews sped off at a similar pace. The winning crew, Washington State University, finished with a time of 6:22.990. Behind them were Gonzaga University, finishing second and Yale University, finishing third.

In a race with much overlap, the Huskies found speed in the last 750 meters, pushing from sixth to fifth. Just two and a half seconds separated the sixth and fourth place crews. NU flew over the line with a time of 6:30.827, narrowly ahead of Duke’s 6:31.650.

In the second varsity boat, the Huskies were in a similar competition. With the top four varsity crews speeding out of the gates, NU pushed hard and challenged Gonzaga for third place. Ultimately, the team fell behind Gonzaga, but beat out the University of Southern California for fifth place and came through the finish line with a time of 6:44.067.

Recognizing his continual contribution to women’s rowing and for having outstanding success this season, Wilhelm was named the recipient of the Coach of the Year Award in Region 2 of the U.S.

With the end of the season also comes the end of the careers of the senior rowers. Graduating seniors from the women’s crew include Victoria Babchak, Kristen Brozowski, Averyl Freimarck, Birgitta Husebye, Erin McElroy, Katie O’Connell, Elena Shikaloff and Alaina Williams.

Out of the seniors, O’Connell, Williams and Brozowski were named to the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association All-Region Team in recognition of their commitment to the sport and scholarship.

Coach Wilhelm said the seniors progressed the team and were driving forces to the success of the program .

“We didn’t qualify for this race when they were freshmen […] We’ve been able to see them get faster and stronger through their sophomore, junior and senior years,” he said. “But it’s not just their athletic ability. They’ve really changed the culture of this program, and they’ve set it up to continue to get faster in years to come.”

Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics