Williams claims sixth-consecutive NCAA women's rowing title

GOLD RIVER, Calif. -- Williams women's crew capped off an undefeated season with the capture of its sixth-consecutive team title in the 2011 NCAA Division III Women's Rowing Championship.

The Ephs' varsity eight rowed to victory in 6 minutes and 54.43 seconds, nearly seven seconds ahead of Bates (7:01.31), with Wellesley(7:02.33) finishing third in the 2,000-meter grand final on Lake Natoma.

"It just all really came together well," said junior stroke Emma Pelegri-O'Day, who was one of five crew members to row their second-straight championship finish.

Williams isn't the only school to dominate competition in the long history collegiate rowing, but few of the 41 Division III schools can approach the success of the Ephs, named for Colonel Ephraim Williams who founded the Williamstown, Mass., school.

Division III rowing began in 2002, and seven of the 10 NCAA rowing championship titles have been claimed by the Ephs. All the more impressive is that this reign has lasted through three different head coaches, including current interim head coach Brad Hemmerly.

"I think it's just the competitive nature of the students there and the coaches who have been there," said Hemmerly of Williams' winning spree. "Whatever the obstacle is, it's finding some way to get around it -- not let it affect where we are going and not let little things bog us down."

Despite a field of six, including Williams' second varsity eight, the final quickly became a faceoff between the Williams and Bates first varsity eights.

"We sort of traded moves at the start," said Pelegri-O'Day. "Once we pushed away and got open water at about the 1,100-meters mark, it was more of a question to see how much open water we could get on the other teams."

The two schools have competed against each other four times in the past five weeks.

"It's always great to race Bates; they're such great competitors," said Pelegri-O'Day. "It's always exciting that we can track our progress from week-to-week. We had more time against them New England and less time on them in the ECACs. We had two weeks to try to figure out how we could get faster."

The fastest time posted Saturday came from Stanford with 6:21.68 in the second heat of the Division I semifinals. They will be joined in the finals by California and USC; all three Pac-10 teams are favorites for the championship. Top-ranked Princeton also advanced as expected. Among the varsity fours, Cal's boat posted the top time, 7:21.52.

The 15th NCAA Division I and 10th NCAA Division II titles will be determined Sunday.

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