Bates College women’s rowing earns second national title

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The Bates College women’s rowing team celebrates winning the Division III National Championship Saturday in New Jersey.

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. — Depth was key for Bates College on Saturday, as the women’s rowing program earned its second national title in three years with a one-point win over Williams on Mercer Lake.

The Bobcats’ second varsity eight won its fourth consecutive gold medal, earning Bates 12 points, which helped offset a rare second-place finish by the school’s first varsity eight in its grand final. For second, the first varsity eight earned 27 points for a total of 39. More importantly, while Williams’ top boat won the grand final, its second varsity eight fell to third position, for a total of 38, one back of Bates.

Senior captain first varsity eight stroke Molly Pritz wrapped up a remarkable career at Bates Saturday that saw her win a gold medal in the second varsity eight boat as a freshman, another gold medal and a national championship as a sophomore, a third gold medal as a junior and a second national championship as a senior.

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“This is so much more than a victory for those of us who got to be on the water today,” Pritz said. “This is for everyone. I was happiest to see my first coxswain at Bates (Molly Huffaker, Class of 2014) who was here. This is the second (team) national championship for the school and we own both of them. So that’s awesome.”

The second varsity eight grand final got underway at 11:12 a.m., with the Bobcats taking on Wellesley, Williams and Ithaca.

Bates led wire to wire, although the Blue kept things very close for the first 1,000 meters. The Bobcats led by less than a second halfway through the race before opening up a two-second lead at the 1,500-meter mark.

They raced to the finish in a gold medal-winning time of 6:48.332. Wellesley came in second with a time of 6:51.502 and Williams came in third, well behind the top two crews with a time of 6:57.632.

The first varsity eight grand final marked the last race of the day and it proved to be a nail-biter the whole way. Bates held off Wellesley for second place by just over a second, giving the Bobcats the points they needed for a second national championship.

The Ephs took home the first varsity eight gold medal with a time of 6:35.379 and the Bobcats rowed to the finish in 6:37.652. Wellesley came in third with a time of 6:38.842. Ithaca, RIT and Wesleyan finished fourth through sixth respectively.

“We’re watching, we’re watching, Wellesley puts up this fight in the last 500 that almost gets them, they (Bates) put up an even bigger fight,” senior captain and second varsity eight coxswain Abigail Bierman said. “My bow seat Alex Salazar turns around and is like ‘I can’t watch any more!’ They finish and we whip our heads around to the coaching staff, and ask ‘did we?’ and they nodded — we did!”

Bierman won her third consecutive gold medal as the coxswain for the second varsity eight while senior Katherine Traquina (Wayland, Mass.) won her second silver medal as the coxswain for the first varsity eight. Both coxswains were also members of the 2015 national championship team.

This marks the 11th consecutive year Bates women’s rowing has participated in the NCAA Championships. They have finished first twice (2015 and 2017), second six times, third twice and fifth once.

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