GNAC Ready To Host First Women's Rowing Championships
Shown here at the Falcon Regatta in March, Central Oklahoma is the two-time defending NCAA Division II national champions (2018 & 2019). Photo by Dan Lepse.
Shown here at the Falcon Regatta in March, Central Oklahoma is the two-time defending NCAA Division II national champions (2018 & 2019). Photo by Dan Lepse.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

VANCOUVER, Wash. – After a nearly two-year wait, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference is ready to crown its first women’s rowing champion.

The inaugural GNAC Women’s Rowing Championships take place this Saturday on Vancouver Lake in Vancouver, Washington. The regatta comes two years after the sport was added to the GNAC championship slate in 2019 and a year after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the scheduled first championship last spring.

What hasn’t changed is that the regatta stands to be a preview of the NCAA Division II Championships, which take place May 28 -30 in Sarasota, Florida. Of the conference’s four teams, three have consistently held positions in the top five of the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association (CRCA) Division II Poll and the NCAA’s West Region Rankings.

The championship field is led by affiliate-member and two-time defending national champion Central Oklahoma. In 2019, the Bronchos posted a perfect score to win the Division II championship, winning both the varsity 8+ and varsity 4+ grand finals to post a score of 30 points.

Many of the same athletes that rowed to the national title in 2019 are back in 2021 and performed well in the Bronchos’ three regular-season regattas. Ranked No. 1 in the CRCA poll all season, Central Oklahoma ended the season with a victory in the varsity 8+ B final against Division I competition at the Longhorn Invite on April 24.

In UCO’s only head-to-head competition against GNAC crews, the Bronchos won four of seven races at March’s Falcon Regatta in Seattle, including both varsity 8+ races.

Seattle Pacific had a resurgence in its program in 2019 and appears to have not lost any momentum despite the pandemic. The Falcons qualified for its first NCAA Championships in seven years in 2019, placing fourth overall with fourth-place finishes in both the varsity 8+ and varsity 4+.

This year, under first-year head coach Caitlin McClain, the Falcons have rowed well in four regular-season regattas, all in the state of Washington. Seattle Pacific opened the season by winning six of eight races entered at the PLU Invitational and then won three of eight races against GNAC competition at the Falcon Regatta, including one of the two varsity 4+ flights. Seattle Pacific ended the season by winning the varsity 8+ open at the Windermere Cup on May 1.

Western Washington is the perennial power among the GNAC’s rowing programs. The Vikings have won eight national titles, including a string of seven straight from 2005 to 2011, and finished runner-up on four occasions. Western Washington placed third at the 2019 NCAA Championships, one point behind second-place Florida Tech.

With the challenges of the pandemic, Western Washington has found itself limited in competition opportunities. Thanks to a small roster and travel restrictions, the Vikings have competed in just two regattas this season. Both were against fellow GNAC teams at March’s Falcon Regatta and April’s Viking Regatta.

Much like Western Washington, Humboldt State has felt the challenges of COVID this season. With travel restrictions and a limited roster, the GNAC Championships will be the Lumberjacks’ only regatta of the year in Matt Weise’s first full year as head coach.

Humboldt State would love a chance to build some momentum going into the 2021-22 season with a good showing in Vancouver. The Lumberjacks just missed the NCAA Championships field in 2019 despite advancing six boats to the grand finals at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association (WIRA) Championships and claiming the regatta’s points trophy for the third consecutive year.

They turned lemons into lemonade, however, traveling to the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia and placed third in both the varsity 8+ and varsity 4+ grand finals.

The GNAC Women’s Rowing Championships will consist of three races. The varsity 8+ and varsity 4+ will count towards the team championship while the third race will be an exhibition 4+ race.

This year’s championships are being staged in conjunction with the West Coast Conference, which will conduct its championships races prior to the GNAC on Saturday, and the Portland Vancouver Rowing Association.

To protect the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and support staff, spectators are not allowed at the GNAC Women’s Rowing Championships. A live results link will be made available at