After a tough journey to an NCAA berth, the Radcliffe heavyweight team placed eighth out of 10 teams that qualified to race on Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Ga. on May 24-26.
The varsity eight boat placed 12th out of 19 competitors.
“We were faster than we went on the last day,” said senior Holly Fling. “It’s a really exhausting regatta and we’re the only team taking exams. But we handled it better this year than we did last year.”
The boat’s toils began on Thursday when it took fifth place in its morning heat, sending the Black and White to the repechage.
In the repechage Thursday afternoon, California, Ohio, and Virginia took early leads, leaving Radcliffe to battle back for the course of the race. The Black and White closed in on Virginia and pulled through the final sprint to earn third place and a spot in the semifinals.
During day two of the regatta, Radcliffe was faced with a semifinal race against the two highest-ranked teams in the nation: Michigan and Brown. But University of Southern California, then tied for fifth in Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association polls, pulled out to an early lead to steal the show and earn a spot in the Grand Final with a time of 6:43.3 ahead of Michigan’s 6:45.9.
Brown won the last spot in the Grand Final with third-place time of 6:52.2. Radcliffe was sent to the Petite Final with fourth and a time of 6:57.1, just nipping river rival B.U.’s time of 6:57.3.
“In the [semifinal], we raced a really smart race,” said senior coxswain Mary Piscitello. “We hung back a bit at the start so we had a lot in reserve for a really amazing sprint.”
At Eastern Sprints, Radcliffe avenged previous losses to B.U. and Yale, a major factor in its bid to NCAAs. But in the Petite Final, the Terriers and the Elis pulled to third and fifth places respectively while the Black and White settled for sixth with a time of 6:53.29.
“We had three really good races,” Fling said. “Our second-to-last [race] was the best race we’ve ever had.”
Washington, ranked third going into the regatta, won the event.
Piscitello became the first Radcliffe competitor to take part in four straight NCAA Championships while freshman stroke Caryn Davies became Radcliffe’s second freshman to row in the varsity boat at NCAAs.
“It was really disappointing to come out where we did in the Petite Final,” Piscitello said. “We ran out of gas on Saturday.”
The varsity four continued its slide from its perfect 10-0 dual record to fifth at Easterns to 10th overall at NCAAs.
Radcliffe took fifth place in the morning heat on Thursday sending it to the repechage on Friday to try to earn a spot in the Grand Final.
But it was not to be, as Ohio, Virginia, Princeton and California dominated the repechage, leaving the Black and White with a fifth-place time of 8:08.0, just edging B.U.’s 8:08.7 and reserving a place for the Black and White in the Petite Final.
In the Petite Final on day three of the regatta, B.U. led for the first half of the course with Princeton in second followed by Radcliffe. But near the 1000-meter mark, the Tigers took the lead as California also walked through the Black and White boat.
Princeton carried its lead to the win with a time of 7:40.84. B.U. and California followed closely with times of 7:42.08 and 7:43.48 respectively while Radcliffe fell to fourth place in Petite Final and 10th overall with a time of 7:52.38. Washington garnered its second top finish with a win in the Grand Final.
The second varsity boat took the short route to its first Grand Final appearance by winning second place in the morning heat of day one. Though Radcliffe held the lead for the first 1000 meters of the race, Michigan pulled through and earned an automatic spot in the Grand Final with its winning time of 6:39.3 over the Black and White’s time of 6:44.1.
In the Grand Final, Michigan won the event with a time of 6:43.34 over Washington’s 6:48.52. Radcliffe settled for sixth place with a time of 6:55.31.
“The 2V was disappointed with how they performed,” Fling said. “They felt like it wasn’t their best race.”
Washington won the team competition with a total of 58 points while Michigan and Brown took second and third with 53 and 49 points, respectively. Radcliffe’s 20 points earned eighth.
“We were excited to compete in NCAAs and it was exciting to move the boat really well,” Piscitello said.
It was a long road to Lake Lanier for a Radcliffe crew that battled through close losses at the end of the season and technical difficulties before the varsity eight’s surprise fourth-place finish at Easterns, which gave the team an NCAA bid. But the Black and White emerged with its fourth consecutive team appearance at the NCAA Women’s Rowing Championship and a few of its best races of the season.