History comes in many different forms, and it was made Sunday when the Ohio State rowing team became the first all-female Buckeye squad in any sport to capture an NCAA championship.
The Buckeyes won two of three races at the NCAA finals today in Indianapolis, enough to earn 126 points to beat California by two.
“The main thought that I have is just how excited I am for our athletes because of the tremendous job that they did this year and most especially the tremendous job they did over the course of the weekend,” Teitelbaum said.
Previously, Ohio State’s synchronized swimming team has won 28 U.S. collegiate championships and its women’s pistol team has outmarked all comers five times, but neither of those sports is sanctioned by the NCAA.
One coed team, fencing, has won three national championships in the past decade, but rowing becomes the first women-only squad to win an NCAA crown.
Of course, that wasn’t so much on Teitelbaum’s mind as the fact that the 18th-year coach was able to bring his first title to Columbus.
“I do very much feel like once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye, so that everybody who has been part of our program just won the national championship today because it's sort of like you're constantly taking steps toward that throughout the development of your program,” he said.
“I think one of the main emotions that I have right now is just relief because you don’t find yourself in this position very often, and you don’t know the next time when you’re going to be,” Teitelbaum added. “There’s relief that we not only got ourselves in that position to win but that we took advantage of it because these athletes did a tremendous amount to get us where we were, and it’s really gratifying to watch them have all of their work come to such a good conclusion.”
It wasn’t a surprise that Ohio State – which previously finished a program-best third in 2007 – was in the running for the title, as the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 going into the event.
The Buckeyes then went about proving it in the first two races, as both squads finished first to win the gold medal in their events. The First Varsity Four repeated as national champions, as the crew of Taylore Urban, Sara Handa, Chloe Meyer, Aina Cid-Centelles and coxswain Dara Schnoll crossed the line in 7:08.26 ahead of USC (7:11.02) and Washington (7:12.03).
Next up, the Second Varsity Eight completed an unbeaten season by capturing OSU’s first-ever gold for an eight-person boat. Daphne Socha, Katie Beletskaya, Silvia DeMatteis, Stephanie Johnson, Nicole Becks, Lauren Eckles, Samantha Fowle, Catherine Shields and coxswain Amanda Poll closed their 12-0 campaign with a time of 6:27.86. The Buckeyes finished ahead of California (6:29.89) and Brown (6:30.14).
But just about everything at major rowing events comes down the First Varsity Eight boat, which contributes the most to the team point total. The Buckeyes – Katie King, Cori Meinert, Eelkje Miedema, Ashley Bauer, Meghan Birkbeck, Allison Elber, Holly Norton, Claire-Louise Bode and coxswain Victoria Lazur – battled for third with Virginia for most of the race, finally edging the Cavaliers for that spot with a time of 6:23.19.
California (6:21.42) and Princeton (6:22.59) finished first and second, respectively, in the final race, but the Buckeyes had amassed enough points in the opening two to hold off the Golden Bears.
“We were fortunate enough to just stare at the screen, willing them to hold on, and when the boat came across the finish line, first of all I was like, ‘Holy moly, they’re across the line,’ ” Teitelbaum said. “I just turned to my staff and we all looked at each other and we were like, “We did it!’ It’s a little bit of shock and you go numb because you think about it and you dream about it and you imagine what it’s going to be like, but when it actually happens, it’s a little bit surreal.”
OSU finished fifth in the nation a season ago after 10th- and 14th-place finishes the two years prior. However, from 2000-09, the Buckeyes were in the top nine every year, and Teitelbaum had a reason why he thinks this year’s team was able to be the one to finally take first place.
“They did an unbelievable amount of work to prepare themselves for the entire spring but especially for the conference and the national championships, and that is impressive,” Teitelbaum said. “But the most impressive part about them is how much this team loves each other and how much they supported each other.
“We sensed pretty early on that we had the potential for something special in just sort of watching the way the kids treated each other on the team. I think that really enabled them to take the championship home.’
The only way Ohio State fell short is that the Buckeyes did not become the first team to win with all three boats at the NCAA meet, but Teitelbaum laughed and said that will be on the docket for next year.
“I guess that’s left something on the table for us to talk about for next year,” he said, “and knowing the athletes on this team, that’ll be one of the things that they do point to.”