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Under 3 coaches in 8 years, Williams won more consecutive rowing titles than any NCAA school

The Ephs captured their first of eight consecutive national championships in 2006. NCAA Photos archive

The Williams women’s rowing program enjoyed a robust start, winning the inaugural NCAA Division III championships in 2002.

But the Ephs failed to make the tournament in 2003 before finishing third and fifth in 2004 and 2005, respectively. That fifth place in 2005 struck a nerve with the team.

“The captains had a team meeting right then and there,” then-Williams coach Justin Moore recalls. “It was an athletes-only meeting, without the coaches, and they decided that they were going to do whatever it took to be successful the next season. They held themselves accountable to each other the entire year, starting that summer. Ultimately, they learned that … if you enjoy something and enjoy being around those people, it is a lot easier to work hard.”

Williams didn’t only rebound in 2006 by winning the second NCAA title in school history. The team started a run of what would become eight straight titles, the longest streak of any team in any division in NCAA women’s rowing history.

“Winning eight in a row is really hard. That is two full cycles of student-athletes,” Moore says. “There was no secret to success. We had some really, really good athletes. ... They were driven to succeed and willing to do whatever it took.”

Except for Western Washington, which won seven Division II titles in a row from 2005 to 2011, no other team has won more than three in a row in any division.

So what were the pieces that separated Williams from the rest of the competition from 2006 to 2013?

“Each year was different from the year before,” says Meg Conan, a member of the 2006-09 Williams title teams and current assistant coach for the Ephs. “While it is tempting to compare year to year, we were always working to improve and so focused on the process. We figured that every time we looked back or rested on what happened previously, we were missing a moment to get better. The focus was on each individual and are you better than you were the year before?”

The eight-year run started in 2006 with Williams dominating the competition as its two boats placed second and third in the field of 12 boats. Even with Moore on sabbatical with the Canadian national team in 2007, the streak continued as Williams held off Trinity (Connecticut) by 2 points. In 2008, Moore returned to the helm of the program and put together a streak of three more national titles before leaving in 2010 to coach at Syracuse.

When coach Brad Hemmerly took over in 2011, the Ephs didn’t miss a beat, capturing a sixth straight title. Current Williams coach Kate Maloney was at the reins in 2012, and the streak continued for two more seasons. The run came to an end in 2014 as Williams finished in second place behind Trinity (Connecticut). Since then, no school in Division III has captured the title even two consecutive years.

“The challenge of always trying to capture top speed was what really kept us motivated,” Conan says. “Winning titles was great, but when you are on top of one mountain, you can see the next one ahead, so it is exciting to see where it might lead.”

Championship Title Runs

No. Div. Team YearS
8 III Williams 2006-13
7 II Western Wash. 2005-11
3 I Ohio St. 2013-15
2 I Washington 1997-98
2 I Brown 1999-00
2 II UC Davis 2002-03
2 III Ithaca 2004-05
2 I California 2005-06
2 I Brown 2007-08
2 II Barry 2015-16

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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