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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. A year after finishing second in the country, the Colby College women’s crew are the NCAA Division III national champions.

Colby won its first team NCAA championship in any sport when the Colby women’s varsity crew won the Grand Final (places 1-6) and the Colby ‘B’ boat took third place in the Petite Final (places 7-12) at the NCAA Division III Rowing Championships at Eagle Creek Park.

That combination was good enough for the Mules to be called national champs for 2003. Colby’s varsity crew earned one point for finishing in first place in the Grand Final and the ‘B’ team earned nine points for taking ninth overall and third in the Petite Final. The Mules’ 10 points (fewest points wins) was two better than the 12 for second place University of Puget Sound.

Colby took fourth in last year’s Grand Final and won the Petite Final, but finished in second place overall to Williams College. The Mules made it two championships in a row for a New England Small College Athletic Conference school.

This year there was no turning back the Mules.

Colby’s varsity crew, which won a heat yesterday to automatically qualify for the Grand Final, led from start to finish to end up as the best Division III crew in the United States. The Mules led Ithaca College in the six-boat Grand Final by just over a second at 1,000 meters in the 2,000-meter race.

The race took a dramatic turn in the next 500 meters. Ithaca dropped all the way to fifth place and Colby led Puget Sound by about four seconds at 1,500 meters. The Mules had a time of 5 minutes, 3.81 seconds at 1,500 meters, Puget Sound was at 5:07.75 and Wellesley was third at 5:08.03.

Colby stayed strong in the last 500 meters and actually picked up more time on Puget Sound to win the race in 6:42.69. Puget Sound was second in 6:47.68, Coast Guard Academy took third in 6:48.77, Wellesley dropped to fourth in 6:48.91, Ithaca was fifth (6:54.06) and Trinity College was last in 6:58.17.

Colby’s varsity eight crew includes: Vivienne Ho (coxswain) (New Britain, Conn.), Leah Hagamen (Deerfield, Mass.), Emily Allen (Washington, D.C.), Laura Mistretta (New York, N.Y.), Annie Szender (Seattle, Wash.), Leah Robertson (Newton, N.J.), Andrea Piekarski (Ivernerss, Ill.), Megan Loosigian (Exeter, N.H.) and Ellie Boyce (Haines, Alaska).

The Colby ‘B’ boat picked up a key third place finish in the first race of the day. The Mules knew they needed to beat Puget Sound and Coast Guard in the Petite Final since those schools would likely be the biggest competition for the Mules in the Grand Final.

Puget Sound held a half-second lead for third place over the Mules’ ‘B’ squad after 1,000 meters. However, Colby got it together in the next 500 meters and moved back in third place by nearly four seconds after 1,500 meters. The Mules took third behind Ithaca and Trinity with a time of 7:07.03 while Puget Sound finished fourth at 7:09.03.

Colby’s ‘B’ crew included: Becca Reisman (coxswain) (Cambridge, Mass.), Katie O’Neill (Milton, Mass.), Caitlin Chamberlin (Seattle, Wash.), Caroline Andresen (Norwich, Vt.), Cameron Fisher (Santa Rosa, Calif.), Sarah Dunham (Flagstaff, Ariz.), Liz Johnson (Richmond, Va.), Liz Shepherd (Dallas, Texas) and Liz Curran (Clifton Park, N.Y.).

Grand Final (places 1-6)
1. Colby College ‘A’                    6:42.69
2. University of Puget Sound ‘A’        6:47.68
3. Coast Guard Academy ‘A’              6:48.77
4. Wellesley College ‘A’                6:48.91
5. Ithaca College ‘A’                  6:54.06
6. Trinity College ‘A’                  6:58.17

Petite Final (places 7-12)
              1. Ithaca College ‘B’ 6:56.90
          2. Trinity College ‘B’ 7:01.62
            3. Colby College ‘B’ 7:07.03 
            4. University of Puget Sound ‘B’ 7:09.03
    5. Coast Guard Academy ‘B’ 7:18.76 
        6. Wellesley College ‘B’ 7:26.16 

    Final Team Points
1. Colby College 10
2. Puget Sound 12
3. Ithaca 12
4. Coast Guard 14
5. Trinity 14
6. Wellesley 16