The Radcliffe lightweight crew ripped through the calm waters of the Schuylkill River Saturday to capture a crucial victory over Penn.
The Black and White stunned the Quakers with a 10-second victory. The wide margin of the Radcliffe triumph came as a surprise to the lights.
Although both of the powerful teams anticipated a tight race, the lights blew Penn out. Last year, the Black and White topped Penn by a single second.
"I was surprised," said Co-Captain Nina Streeter, "I expected it to be a catfight down the whole course."
The anticipated catfight never materialized. Instead, Radcliffe took off like a mouse with a cat on its tail.
Although a staggered start had Penn in front of Radcliffe at the gun, the Black and White tore past the Quakers in the first 100 meters of the 2000-meter course. The lights exploded from the start and maintained their boatlength for the remainder of the course.
"We moved out from the start and after twenty strokes we had half a boat on them," said cosswain Helen Lee. "After that, we just pulled away."
At the halfway mark, the Quakers gained a few seats on the Black and White, but their short-lived surge proved inadequate.
Because of transportation problems, Radcliffe arrived late and did not have a chance to row the entire course before the race. In effect, the cosswain had to call the race "blind." As a result, Lee inadvertantly called the final sprint early.
"We had a 400-meter sprint instead of 200 meters because we didn't know where the finish line was," said Co-Captain and stroke Chris Doyle.
The Black and White's earlier walk-away victories against the western crews at the San Diego Crew Classic, and against Wellesley and Tufts, did not serve as an indication of the lights' potential because of the relative weakness of the opposing crews.
The triumph against a strong eastern contender like Penn, however, shows the Radcliffe lights' great promise.
Radcliffe Coach K.C. Dietz believes her team has the potential to be an extraordinary crew.
"They're fast and will get faster," said Dietz. "I'm not sure there is really anyone in their league."
There is, however, one team in the Black and White's league that poses a serious threat--Smith. At the Eastern Sprints last year, Smith came in a close second behind Radcliffe.
If the Black and White beat Smith next weekend, they will become very heavy favorites to claim both the Sprints and the Collegiate Nationals.
Radcliffe has the home-course advantage next weekend, when it attempts to turn off the lights from Smith.
The Radcliffe lightweight fours captured first and second by defeating Rutgers and Penn in the J.V. race.