It’s the reason any college athlete competes.
It’s why these athletes wake up at five in the morning six days a week and return later at night for the second practice of the day.
It’s a national title with a thrilling finish.
Almost immediately after the seven final junior varsity eight boats from schools across the nation broke the water’s solitude on the Oklahoma River, it became a three-boat race between UC Davis, UCLA and Michigan.
After UCLA started to drop back at the 500-meter mark, only the Aggies and Wolverines were left to face off for the championship. The national title belt depended solely on the final sprint.
As the lead went back and forth, UC Davis came out ahead when it mattered most, winning the gold medal by 0.75 seconds. The UC Davis junior varsity eight broke out from behind the varsity eight’s shadow and busted into the spotlight as the club national champions.
With a time of 6:42.258, the gold medal win at a national regatta is the first for the club since 1991, when the four-man lightweight boat took home first place in Illinois.
“Our coaches work us really hard,” club president Marcus Godfrey said, “Two-a-days from the end of summer all the way through spring. It’s just really nice that it paid off.“
The Aggies are led by head coach Desmond Stahl, who in the 2007 season led the varsity eight to the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association title. After the Aggies won the championship, he was named the WIRA Coach of the Year.
This weekend was the first annual American Collegiate Rowing Association national championship regatta. In years past, both Intercollegiate Athletics and club teams competed together in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association national championships. But as the waters parted this season, club teams from across the nation were sent to the Oklahoma River.
As first impressions go, the Aggies left one to remember.
The varsity eight made a strong showing, finishing in seventh place overall and first in the petite final. In the varsity eight’s heat on Saturday, the boat fell just 0.45 seconds away from Sunday’s grand final.
Disheartened from not qualifying for the main event, the varsity eight was still determined to make Sunday successful. The petite final was dominated by the Aggies, as the boat finished six seconds ahead of any other boat and in seventh place overall.
This regatta concludes the 2008 season, and comprises seniors Tara Knapp, Keith Pullin, Travis Clymer, Stephen Held, Pat Hutchison, Matt Chabrier, Vince Rogers, Erich Uher, Faraz Ghoddosi and Godfrey.
At an awards presentation on Saturday, Held and Seth Weil were named to the West Region All-ACRA team.
SAMMY BRASCH can be reached at email@example.com.