Courtesy Gonzaga athletics
SPOKANE, Wash. – Members of the women's rowing team knew they would see the name Gonzaga appear on screen during the NCAA Rowing National Championship selection show Tuesday, having secured the automatic qualifier Saturday by winning the West Coast Conference, but it was still an extremely exciting moment for the rowers and coaches when it finally did pop on screen.
"This whole experience is surreal," said Gonzaga head coach Glenn Putyrae moments after the selection. "Seeing our name amongst the schools we are racing is humbling and exhilarating at the same time. This is a huge opportunity to represent the conference and university."
The Bulldogs are making the schools and conferences inaugural appearance in the NCAA Championship, set for May 31-June 2 at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Ind. The Bulldogs were one of 11 institutions to gain an automatic bid to the race.
In addition to Gonzaga, Boston University (Colonial), Princeton (Ivy), Marist (MAAC), Navy (Patriot), Notre Dame (Big East), Ohio State (Big Ten), Oklahoma (Conference USA), Rhode Island (Atlantic 10), Virginia (ACC) and USC (Pac-12) all earned automatic qualifiers from their conferences.
The 11 schools that earned at-large selections were Brown, California, Cornell, Harvard, Michigan, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, Washington State, Wisconsin and Yale.
As a team, Gonzaga has raced three teams that are in the field; Navy, UCLA and Washington State. Despite having not seen many of the opponents, Putyrae is still optimistic about the championship.
"Fortunately we have seen Washington State, UCLA and Navy so we definitely have a gage of how fast the boats are but we haven't raced a lot of the other opponents," stated Putyrae. "The reality is though we are all going to go there, all going to lock on to the starting dock; we all are going to take off from the same place. What happens after that start is really going to be how we progress throughout the regatta. It's one step at a time."
Gonzaga, who defeated the University of San Diego in a tight conference championship battle that came down to the Varsity 8+ race that the Zags won by 1.3 seconds, will enter a Varsity 8+, Second Varsity 8+ and Varsity 4+ boat into the National Championship.
The Zag Varsity 8+ boat was seeded into the fourth heat. Gonzaga will race Virginia, Washington, Michigan, Wisconsin and Rhode Island Friday.
Virginia is the reigning national champions and is making its 16th appearance in the championship. The Wolverines, the 2012 runners-up, are appearing in the championship for the 14th time, while this is the fifth-straight year the Badgers earned a bid and the 17-straight for the Huskies. Rhode Island, like Gonzaga, is appearing in their first-ever NCAA Championship.
The Second Varsity 8+ was seeded in the third heat. The Bulldogs will row against USC, Princeton, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Marist.
Joining Gonzaga's Varsity 4+ in the fourth heat, are UCLA, Washington, Notre Dame, Michigan and Navy.
NCAA racing determines the national champion by an accumulation of points in the three aforementioned events: Varsity 8+, Second Varsity 8+ and Varsity 4+.