Competing for the first time in three weeks and racing against some of the top crews in the nation, head coach Zach Johnson had four boats going and three performed well enough to advance to Sunday's grand final.
UCSD's top boat was definitely the story, as the varsity eight finished third in its heat to earn a trip to the final of the prestigious Copley Cup. Shawn Kuo, Edwin Clement, Drew Lawyer, Brandon Gonzalez, Joey Frank, Erik Smith, Benton Sparks, Justin Gordon and Drew Madden came together to post a time of 6:01.57 for the Tritons, finishing less than a second behind second place Temple, which came in at 6:01.11. Stanford won the heat with a time of 5:56.0.
By finishing in the top three, UCSD became the first Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association representative to advance to the Copley Cup final. The Tritons, who have earned an invitation to the race three out of the last four years, are also the first boat in San Diego history to accomplish the feat.
Cal won the first heat with a time of 5:49.0, followed by Oregon State at 5:59.86 and Michigan at 6:01.84.
"We had a very impressive day out there," Johnson said. "The guys performed extremely well and now they will be stacked up against the elite crews in the final tomorrow. We're looking forward to seeing how they do."
UCSD's second varsity eight also had a big day, finishing third in the second heat of the Sharp Cabrillo Cup. The Tritons' time of 6:13.73 was just shy of Oregon State's 6:13.71. Cal's "A" boat won the heat with a time of 6:03.80.
Stanford, Cal's "B" boat and Notre Dame were the top three finishers in the first heat. UCSD's "B" boat was also running in the first heat, but that group failed to advance.
The novice eight kept things going for the Tritons, winning their heat in the Derek Guelker Memorial Cup. UCSD clocked in at 6:14.50 to beat out Oregon State (6:16.87) and Orange Coast College (6:29.90) and punch its ticket to the final. The top two teams from each heat will advance, with Cal (5:58.00) and the University of San Diego (6:24.71) joining UCSD and OSU tomorrow.
"All in all, today was really big for our program," Johnson concluded. "To have three boats in the grand final tomorrow really shows the depth of our program. That is something you only see from the elite programs, so we're very pleased with what we accomplished today."
The Copley Cup final is scheduled for 9:15 a.m. on Sunday, with the second varsity and novice finals following at 9:40 and 10:50.