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Women's crew ties for first at NCAAs

Women's crew has only participated for four years at the varsity level at Virginia. But for the competition, that must seem like forever.

At the NCAA Women's Rowing Championship May 30, the Cavaliers (8-1) tied with Brown for the national title with 56 team points. The Brown Bears claimed the crown through a tiebreaker--they won the varsity eight race. The Cavs boat, comprised of fourth-years Ang McCallum, Ellen Perry and Andrea Saathoff, third-years Michelle Giller and Christina Hillson, second-year Cinda Ewton and first-years Carrie Huttenlocher and Barbra Sheehan, and fourth year coxswain Kara McPhillips, finished second.

"They won the team championship because of the varsity eight; that's as close as you can get," said Virginia coach Kevin Sauer, whose career record now stands at 23-6. "In some ways that's a little disappointing, knowing you were that close and didn't win it, but it was an awesome performance."

In fact, Virginia's performance led the field. The Cavs finished second in the varsity eight and the varsity four in addition to taking the win in the second varsity eight. However, due to the points system, they finished in the tie.

The scoring separates varsity four finishing positions by a one-point differential, the second varsity eight by a two-point margin and the varsity eight by three points. Brown tied the Cavaliers by winning the varsity eight race, despite finishing second in the second varsity eight and third in the varsity four.

"We did better than any crew as far as finishes," Sauer said. "It was a great, great effort by the kids."

The team's performance at the meet actually was a pleasant surprise for Sauer. He said the tie for first at the regatta exceeded his expectations entering the meet.

"By Saturday night we had a team meeting and I told them 'I think we have a shot,'" he said. "Going in I didn't think we could win the National Championship. ... I thought if everything went perfectly, then maybe we could win it.

"To get second in the final--it was just amazing," he added. "I told them I was very proud of what they did. ... Even though the varsity eight didn't win, they gave it everything they had."

The Virginia varsity-eight boat's route to the tie was far from easy. The Cavs needed every ounce of effort they could produce to even make the Saturday final in the varsity eight.

The meet featured three qualifying heats Friday morning and the Cavaliers had the toughest draw. They raced against Brown and California in their qualifier, finishing second to the Brown Bears.

The runner up slot sent the Cavs to a second-chance qualifier, where they narrowly overtook Michigan to advance to the final.

"We had to go through a second-chance" qualifier, Sauer said. "We get into the final by a foot over Michigan."

The Cavs' second varsity-eight boat, composed of fourth-years Charlotte Quesada, Charlotte Kraenzle and Erin Lieb, third-years Emily Egge, Sara Garrett, Lauren Brown, Jennifer Herberger and Lynette Sobehart, and fourth-year coxswain Sarah Harrick, propelled Virginia into the lead by three points entering the final race, which Brown eventually won. It was the second-consecutive year that the Cavaliers won that event.

"It's a sign of our depth," Sauer said. "We have a lot of very talented people."

Virginia's deep talent pool continues to bolster a program on the rise. In 1997, the Cavs finished fourth at the National Championships. Last year, they came home third. This season, Virginia tied for first.

"Rowing is becoming increasingly more competitive and more schools are adding [varsity teams] each year," Sauer said. "We're climbing higher on that ladder every year"