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Originally published Monday, June 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Washington Huskies crews fizzle at NCAA women's championships

But Western Washington wins its fifth straight D-II title, and Seattle Pacific comes in with its best finish ever — third.

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CHERRY HILL, N.J. — As members of the national-champion Stanford women's rowing team embraced in tears of joy on the banks of Cooper River, just a few hundred yards away Washington senior Kim Kennedy sat with her mother on a tree stump weeping tears of frustration.

"It's hard for her right now," said Kennedy's mother, Terry, who flew more than 2,000 miles from her home in Calgary, Alberta, to watch the Huskies' varsity eight finish a disappointing fifth in Sunday's petite final of the NCAA Women's Rowing Championships.

While Stanford celebrated its thrilling come-from-behind victory over Virginia in the grand final — a race won with a blazing time of 6 minutes, 11.95 seconds — UW's varsity eight contemplated a weekend in which its best time of (6:25.99) was a full 14 seconds slower than Stanford's.

"For Washington rowers, this is a painful experience," said Bob Ernst, who two years ago left the men's program to take over the women's team. "I have to say I never experienced anything like this before. I didn't take over the women's team to coach an eighth- or ninth-best team. I'm not happy with this, and I don't think there's a person here that's content with where we are right now."

Washington qualified three boats for the national championships, but only the second varsity eight reached Sunday's grand final, and that boat placed fifth. The varsity four placed third in its petite final.

Joining Stanford stop the medal stand Sunday was the varsity eight from Western Washington.

The second-ranked Vikings defeated No. 1 Mercyhurst by more than four seconds to win their fifth straight Division II national title with a time of 6:52.60.

The Vikings also finished with 18 points to lead the D-II team standings, thanks to a second-place finish in the varsity fours.

Seattle Pacific finished third in the Division II grand final, earning its best finish in school history. SPU's only previous NCAA regatta appearance resulted in a fifth-place finish in 2007.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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