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Jacks Varsity Eight Races to National Championships Grand Finals

INDIANAPOLIS – On ideal Eagle Creek Park racing conditions, Humboldt State rowing’s Varsity Eight boat won its heat and produced the top time in the NCAA Division II National Championships opening day. The Lumberjacks’ Varsity Four entry fell short in its heat for second to move onto the Repechage stage.

After a close start, the Jacks Varsity Eight boat started to take a quarter boat lead over West Region rival Western Washington at the 750-meter mark. The HSU racing shell – coxswain Katrina Rehrer, Jamie Larrabee, Ripley McChesney, Maggie Wilhelm, Kayley Weber, Maddy Guillaume, Samatha Morford, Kate Dedrick and Mariah Smither – extended the lead to a boat length by 1,500 meters, before the sprint to the top heat finish over Western Washington by over two seconds (6:53.594 to 6:55.705) and 33 seconds better than Central Oklahoma (7:26.649).

“Conditions couldn’t have been more ideal today. The kids had some good prerace talks as it is easy to get overwhelmed lining up for the National Championships. We wanted to have a better start and we did than what we had in the past,” said HSU Head Coach Robin Meiggs. “We knew it was going to be a race that went wire-to-wire and they stuck to the race plan. It was a nice race down the course. We headed to the sprint (at the end) where Western Washington was starting to come on and the Coxswain (Rehrer) asked the boat to dig down a little deeper and they did.”

The Jacks Varsity Eight time was almost three seconds faster than top-seed Nova Southeastern (6:56.424), which won Heat 1 over Barry University (7:00.517) and Mercyhurst (7:26.978). With the heat wins, HSU and Nova Southeastern will move directly to the Varsity Eight Grand Finals on Sunday morning starting at 6:50 a.m. The four non-winning Varsity Eight boats will race on Saturday for the final two spots in the Grand Finals.

In the Varsity Four ranks, the HSU boat – coxswain Krista Smith, Katie Lamke, Christina Bruner, Sarah Johnson and Marina Hagen – could not equal the Varsity Eight success. Having to adjust its new lineup due to an injury to Cat Trimingham, the Jacks saw the Sharks of Nova Southeastern get out to an early lead and never give up the advantage.

“With the departure of Cat breaking her elbow, the new boat lineup was sent out with high expectations,” said Meiggs. “The group just did not have a very good race and had a poor showing. We didn’t follow the race plan, but I will chalk it up to a case of the nerves.”

Nova Southeastern built a one boat lead by midway and was able to extend the difference to a couple lengths over HSU in the last 250 meters. The Sharks crossed the line at 8:01.650, an almost 12-second faster time than the Jacks (8:13.155).

“Nova distanced themselves in the first 10 strokes of the race. We had a stroke rate lower the whole race. It was the first time our coxswain had been in a race with only two boats,” said the HSU coach. “It is hard not to be overwhelmed, but we have the opportunity to put together a race plan for tomorrow to qualify for the Grand Finals.”

The HSU Varsity Four crew will move onto Saturday’s Repechage against Mercyhurst University starting at 7:30 a.m. PST. The winner will join Nova Southeastern and Western Washington, which won Heat 1, in the Varsity Four Grand Finals on Sunday.