National Champions! - Women's Rowing's Varsity Eight Strikes Gold at NCAA Championships

NCAA DIII V8 Champions - WPI Women's Rowing 2022

Sarasota, FL --- It took just under seven minutes and occurred a little later in the day because of a pair of weather delays, but in the end WPI women's rowing's varsity eight of Melissa Bazakas-Chamberlain (Arlington, MA), Alexandra Heline (Hebron, CT), Megan Tupaj (Amherst, NH), Caitlin Kean (Shrewsbury, MA), Lilly Earley (Candia, NH), Maren Cork (Seattle, WA), Emily Adams (East Greenwich, RI), Ashley Schuliger (Lewis Center, OH) and coxswain Logan Rinaldi (Rumford, RI) etched their names in WPI history by capturing the NCAA Championship on Saturday afternoon.  

The Engineers, under the direction of WPI Hall of Fame coach Jason Steele,assistant coaches Pat Guida '83, Martha Strom, Paul Berube and Elizabeth Crowley and Director of Rowing Larry Noble, dominated the 2000 meter race, winning from start to finish, and in the process became WPI's first women's NCAA champion and joined Eric Meerbach '87 (1986 NCAA Division III Men's Golf) as the only NCAA champions in school history. 

"It's a Cinderella story," remarked Steele.  "There's been a lot that's going into that race, first and foremost, the foundation was laid years ago – there's a lot of seniors in that boat that worked very, very hard over a long period of time. They had enough faith that they could put themselves in that position and that was enough to get us through the end of the regular championship season up to the bid." 

WPI and Ithaca battled for the early lead, with the Crimson and Gray holding just a 0.186 second edge at 500 meters, but the Engineers hit another gear and left the Bombers behind.  The middle 1000 meters was the difference as WPI bested the rest of the field by over two seconds from the 500 meter mark to the 1,500 meter buoys and sprinted home to the finish line in a time of 6:55.265.

"The trajectory the last two weeks has been getting better and better along making changes in the boat, getting more rest and healthier contributing to their energy levels becoming more in line," continued Steele.  "The most important thing was that in the pursuit of them believing they could it, they actually started to really believe it, and did it."

NEWMAC rival Wellesley (6:58.715) registered a second-place finish to propel the Blue to its second NCAA team title and first since 2016.  Four-time defending national champion Bates was third in the varsity eight (7:01.075) and second in the team standings, just ahead of WPI.  Ithaca, whom WPI had bested Friday in Heat A of the prelims, placed fourth in the varsity eight (7:03.545) while Williams was fifth (7:06.097) and Tufts (7:10.877) sixth.  Pacific Lutheran (WA) took the petite final by knocking off St. Mary's (MD) in a head-to-head match-up (7:15.620 to 7:20.664).

WPI's second varsity totaled valuable team points by placing fifth (7:16.954) in its grand finale, finishing ahead of Tufts (7:21.330), a boat that defeated the Engineers in Friday afternoon's repechage.  Bates won the race in a time of 7:04.156, followed by Wellesley (7:05.070), Ithaca (7:09.224) and Williams (7:10.460).  

The team title standings were tightly bunched with Wellesley (51) edging Bates (50) by a point with WPI (48) just three behind the leader.  Ithaca (43) was eight points adrift in fourth with Williams (38) in fifth, Tufts (31) sixth, Pacific Lutheran seventh (26) and St. Mary's (21) eighth.

The two-day Division III regatta was held in conjunction with the Division I and II Championships at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, FL, a site now that will be fondly remembered as WPI's first NCAA championship in 36 years. 

Varsity Eight
Logan Rinaldi (Rumford, RI) - coxswain
Melissa Bazakas-Chamberlain (Arlington, MA)
Alexandra Heline (Hebron, CT)
Megan Tupaj (Amherst, NH)
Caitlin Kean (Shrewsbury, MA)
Lilly Earley (Candia, NH)
Maren Cork (Seattle, WA)
Emily Adams (East Greenwich, RI)
Ashley Schuliger (Lewis Center, OH) 

Second Varsity Eight
Emily Howard (Riverside, RI) - coxswain
Eliza Smith (Beacon Falls, CT)
Lexi Baker (Needham, MA)
Alexa Freglette (Staten Island, NY)
Maggie Kirwan (Wolfeboro, NH)
Liz McGinn (Lincoln, RI)
Alana Guilbault (Bernardston, MA)
Jules Prisco (Pelham, NY)
Madison Gass (Barrington, NH) 

Spares
Ilyssa Delizo (New City, NY)
Caroline Jaeger (Fort Montgomery, NY)
Nicole Miller (Hanover, MA)