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A nice consolation prize or cruel irony?

The Penn women's rowing team was last weekend's official host of the 2000 NCAA Women's Rowing Championships.

Instead of competing, the Quakers -- who barely missed the cut to make it into the 19-team field -- had to watch from the sidelines as the Brown Bears won the national championship for a second straight year.

"Brown was awesome," Quakers sophomore Ellen Tarquinio said. "They have such an incredible program."

The Bears won both their first and second varsity eight races last Sunday, and, with a second-place finish in the varsity four, cemented their 59-55 win over the Washington Huskies -- national champs in 1997 and 1998 -- to claim the national title.

The finals were not without excitement, though, as the Bears, holding on to a tenuous 29-28 lead in team standings entering the varsity eight's final, got off to a solid start and led wire-to-wire, winning with a time of 6:37.20.

Meanwhile, the Huskies, in fourth place due to a lackluster start, clawed their way back to finish second with a time of 6:41.10.

The second varsity eight race was virtually a carbon copy of the first, as Brown led the entire way and left Washington to come back and finish second from a fourth place start. This time, the Bears also set an NCAA-championship record with their time of 6:49.10, besting last year's record set by the Virginia Cavaliers by 1 1/2 second margin.

So, were the Quakers -- who finished, along with a host of others, behind the Bears at Eastern Sprints -- pulling for their rivals?

"I don't think anyone really had a favorite team or anything," Tarquinio said. "It's just nice to see that our league is competitive."

Competitive, indeed.

Even in the race they didn't win -- the varsity four -- the Bears finished a close second behind the Huskies.

Tarquinio, who had never attended the Rowing Championships before, was impressed with the ample crowds despite the threat of inclement weather throughout the Memorial Day weekend.

"I was impressed with how many people were there," Tarquinio said. "Luckily the storms held off, and it was perfect racing weather."

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