Lake Lanier, GA - Coming into the American Collegiate Rowing Association's National Championship, the most important weekend for crew clubs across the nation, the Tarheels were not ranked to compete with the top crews. The Junior Varsity 8 and the Varsity 8 were seed 7th and 8th in their respective events, which would have them rounding out an 8-boat Grand Final. Once the final came around however, both crews defied these expectations and solidified 4th place finishes to cap off their seasons. This result in the Varsity 8 matches last year's as the best ever for UNC at ACRAs. The Junior Varsity 8 placed one place higher this year than they did in 2015, marking their best placement at ACRAs as well.
Despite a slow start in the Grand Final race, the Junior Varsity 8, stroked by senior Fred Porter, showed incredible base speed to roll past the field. Entering the final 500m, they had walked down four other crews from UMass, Minnesota, Boston College, and Bucknell. They finished with a time of 6:13.975, well ahead of the next crew in Minnesota at 6:17.655. Unfortunately they were unable to catch three very quick crews in Michigan, Virginia, and UCSB, who finished first, second, and third in the event respectably.
The Varsity 8 also had a slow start to their race, but were able to quickly recover. Entering the 1000m half-way mark, the Tarheels had fought back to draw even with crews from Orange Coast, Grand Valley, and Purdue, while maintaining contact on Virginia in third place. The fight continued through the next 500m until the Heels executed an incredible final sprint, leaving Purdue and Orange Coast far behind and surging ahead of a fast Grand Valley crew that had beaten them at last years ACRAs. The Heels finished the race half a boat up on Grand Valley (6:02.242), and seats of open water on Orange Coast (6:04.519) and Purdue (6:04.663) with a time of 6:01.087. Although they were closing distance, the Heels ran out of room and finished with overlap on on Virginia (5:58.346).
The Novice 8 drew a hard heat on Saturday, and fought to the bitter end to just barely miss out on a Top 2 finish, which would have been enough to send them directly to the Grand Final. The race came down to the wire, but Virginia (6:12.027) was able to beet the Heels (6:12.318) out by under three-tenths of a second. Exhausted from the first race, the Heels were unable to perform in Reps, and moved on to the Petite finals on Sunday. The crew bounced back however and stormed ahead of the field, placing first in their final race.
Finally, the Heels had two small sculling boats that were racing in their first regattas ever in their respective categories. The 2x (Parker Ballner, Daniel Valder) were performing exceptionally well until they hit cross-wake, which ended up flipping them and another crew as they were going down the course. Unfortunately, this sealed their fate and sent them to the Petite Finals on Sunday. The boys responded incredibly strong however, and marched in front of the field to win their petite. The 1x (John Coletta) fought hard through heats and Reps, and went to the Petite Finals for his event. In an eight-boat race, he crossed the line in fourth place to cap off his season.