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The Penn varsity four with coxswain left its hope of an NCAA title unfulfilled, as it could not qualify for the Grand Final. For weeks, it had been the one race on which they concentrated. Despite finishing with 3-6 record in its cup season, the Penn women's crew team was still hopeful. A national championship in the varsity four with coxswain seemed within their grasp. "This is huge for our program. The freshman and junior varsity did very well this year, and now the varsity has a chance to row for a national championship," Penn coach Barb Kirch said before the race. All hopes of that title, however, were dashed last weekend at the NCAA Championships on Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Ga., when the Quakers did not even qualify for the Grand Final. A pre-race favorite, Penn entered the event, along with Southern California and North Carolina, as one of the three seeded boats. Unlike the champion Trojans or the third-place Tar Heels, however, the Quakers were not one of the six crews rowing in the Grand Final at 1:20 p.m. Sunday. Penn, who did not qualify to NCAAs as a team but earned an at-large bid in the four, rowed its race 20 minutes earlier, taking third place in the Petite Final in 8:06.0. The Quakers placed behind Michigan and Iowa in the Petite Final, though ahead of league rivals Princeton and Harvard. Despite not qualifying to the Grand Final, the Red and Blue got off to a good start at the meet. As the only seeded team in its first round heat on Friday, the Quakers performed as expected, winning the heat by 3.2 seconds over Iowa. Although Iowa got off to a fast start, Penn caught up and held the lead by the 1,000 meter mark. After this point, Penn never relinquished the lead and easily advanced to the semifinals. In the semifinals, however, Penn -- as the preliminary heat winner with the slowest time -- was placed in a heat with Southern Cal, the fastest qualifier. USC cruised to a second-place finish in the semifinals, advancing to the Grand Final with Washington and Virginia. Since only three crews from each heat advance, Penn -- the fourth place finisher in the heat -- was forced to row in Saturday's Petite Final. In the Petite Final, the six crews rowed in the same positions for most of the race, with Michigan and Iowa at the lead for the entire 2,000 meter race. The Penn boat of Rachel Jolley, Diane Lincoln, Maggie Klarberg, Kealy O'Connor and coxswain Catherine Eikel was a few seconds behind the leaders for most of the race, but fell behind in the final stretch, crossing the line eight seconds and approximately one boat length behind Michigan. Although the Quakers did not win an NCAA title, qualifying in the four was an accomplishment for a team who just completed a rebuilding year under first-year coach Kirch. As the team continues to build in the upcoming years, perhaps an NCAA title will become a reality.

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