Bronchos dominate prelims, head to the finals

UCO Athletics
Chris Brannick

SARASOTA, Fla. – The University of Central Oklahoma rowing team flexed on the competition Friday with two victories in heat racing at the NCAA Division II National Championships.

UCO won its Varsity 8+ heat race against Embry-Riddle (Fla.), crossing the finish line in 6:34.52, a full 40 seconds ahead of its opponent. The win sends the eights to Sunday’s national championship race. The Broncho V8 boat has won the last three national titles (2017, 2018, 2019).

Central Oklahoma then turned its attention to its Varsity 4+ heat race against Florida Tech and witnessed a similar result. UCO crossed the finish line in 7:36.88, 35 seconds ahead of the competition. The win also sends the fours to Sunday’s national championship, which UCO also won in 2019.

The Bronchos are going for their third consecutive team national championship. Points will be awarded based on Sunday’s finishes in each boat to decide the title.

“We raced really well today,” UCO head rowing coach Brian Ebke said. “But we also know that our goal is to win Sunday. Our focus is on us and us alone. We’re here to do a job and as much as we’re enjoying this moment, we’re focused on racing our best race Sunday morning.”

Central’s eights jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. UCO led by six seconds after the first 500 meters, then by 15 seconds at the halfway point of 1,000 meters. It was a 27 second gap after 1,500 meters before Central continued to increase its lead all the way through the final stretch.

UCO’s fours were close with FIT through the first 500 meters, pulling slightly ahead with a two second lead at that point. Through 1,000 meters, Central led by 10 seconds before ballooning its lead to 21 seconds after 1,500 meters. Like its eights, the fours dominated, increasing its lead all the way through the final stretch.

In the other heat racing, Mercyhurst beat Florida Tech in the eights to clinch a spot in Sunday’s final. Embry-Riddle and FIT will race Saturday in an elimination repechage to determine the final spot. Mercyhurst also beat Embry-Riddle in the fours to clinch a spot in Sunday’s final, so ERU and FIT will also race their respective fours Saturday to determine the final sot.

UCO, Mercyhurst, and whichever third boat qualifies will race for the national championship Sunday morning. The fours will race first at 9:24 a.m. (Eastern) and the eights will follow at 9:36 a.m.