With just two races to go in the final day of racing at the NCAA Championships in West Windsor, N.J., the Michigan women’s rowing team was all but out of contention for a national title.

The first and second varsity eight boats had yet to compete on Sunday, and the team was in striking distance of first place.

But Michigan finished second as a team, clinching its second runner-up spot in program history, and its best finish since 2001. The Wolverines finished just five points behind Virginia in the team standings with 82 points.

The first and second varsity eight boats were the last two to compete in the three-day NCAA Championship regatta, and Michigan needed good finishes by both boats to compete for a team title.

After an hour rain delay, the second varsity eight took an early lead from the start — a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. They beat second-place Ohio State by nearly two seconds and finished with a time of 6:37.04, capping its undefeated season with a national championship.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Michigan coach Mark Rothstein. “We’re just really happy for that boat and the seniors.”

The victory pulled Michigan within five points of the championship with just one race left. With a Wolverine win in the first varsity eight race, and a third-place-or-lower finish by California, Michigan could walk away national champions.

But that’s not what the rowers and coaches were worried about.

“When they left shore for warmups, we didn’t know what the situation was,” Rothstein said.

The Wolverines pulled out to an early lead, but Virginia — who had posted the fastest times all weekend — took the lead, and the eventual victory. The Cavaliers won by an impressive boat-length. Virginia’s boat finished with a time of 6:18.72 while Michigan crossed the finish in 6:22.09.

“Going in (to the first varsity eight race) we thought we had a chance,” Rothstein said. “We knew we had to have our best race in order to have a chance. I think we did that, but Virginia was just a better boat … they deserve to be national champions.”

Michigan had another boat racing on Sunday, with the first varsity four finished sixth in the petite final with a time of 7:33.75.

“It’s a great team,” Rothstein said. “Great senior leadership, great commitment, (and) a lot of fun to coach. Probably the most fun I’ve had coaching — just a great group.”

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