Bainbridge rower helps Virginia win NCAA title

Keziah Beall left college with something few students ever achieve, let alone dream about. An NCAA championship.

Virginia head coach Kevin Sauer wishes Keziah Beall good luck before the final NCAA championship race at Mercer Lake in West Windsor

Virginia head coach Kevin Sauer wishes Keziah Beall good luck before the final NCAA championship race at Mercer Lake in West Windsor

Keziah Beall left college with something few students ever achieve, let alone dream about.

An NCAA championship.

Beall was a member of the University of Virginia’s rowing team, and on the First Varsity Eight that won its grand final to clinch the Cavaliers second NCAA Championship in late May on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J.

Beall, who grew up on Bainbridge Island and is a 2008 graduate of Bainbridge High School, recalled how her team

was second to Michigan after

250 meters in the final race.

The Cavaliers had been seeded first in the First Varsity Eight coming into the regatta.

But by the 750-meter mark, Virginia had taken the lead. Halfway through the race, Beall and the Cavaliers had a five-seat lead over the Wolverines and by the finish, were almost leading by open water.

Beall sits in the stroke seat on the First Varsity Eight crew, and set the rhythm for the rowers.

“Every stroke we took I just sort of believed it more and more,” she said.

“We just kind of kept at it,” she said. “I felt really confident the whole way.”

Then came the finish line, but another extremely difficult spot in the competition.

“It was so unreal,” Beall said.

Rowing is not like other sports, she explained, where you can’t see the others in the race once you get ahead.

In rowing, the other teams are always in view. And when the race is finished, the celebration always has to wait.

Behind her, after the team’s fantastic finish, she recalled, her teammates were yelling and screaming.

“And you can’t hug them; you are stuck in your seat,” she said. “It’s almost tortuous.”

The row back to shore proved to be too much for her, she admitted.

“I just started sobbing,” she said. “That was really unexpected.”

In a way, maybe not. In a previous run at the NCAA championship, Beall had mono had to sit out the last two weeks as her Virginia team won the title in 2010.

Still, it gave her motivation to return.

“Having been in that boat up until that moment, that made me really hungry,” she said.

With the win by the First Varsity Eight, the Cavaliers won the 2012 NCAA Rowing Championship. Virginia finished with 87 points, while Michigan placed second with 82 points. California was third with 78, just ahead of Princeton, who had 77.

Beall’s honors at the end of her college career include the title of NCAA Champion, with both the team and the First Varsity Eight boat; Pocock First-Team All-American (selected by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association); CRCA First-Team All-South Region; member of the All-Atlantic Coast Conference squad; and member of the ACC Crew of the Year.

Beall, 22, is the daughter of Bruce Beall and Barb Trafton, both coaches for Bainbridge Island Rowing. Her parents were both at her championship race.

“I can’t say enough good things about them,” Beall said of her parents. “They truly are my best friends.”

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