Two years removed from an incredible NCAA Championship, one year after a heartbreaking tenth-place finish at NCAAs, the Radcliffe heavyweight crew was seemingly pulled in two directions all season. Inconsistency plagued the crew, as a couple good races would be followed by a couple not-so-good races.
“I don’t think that this season was really one of building momentum,” captain Heather Schofield said. “We had some great races early in the year. But our performance wasn’t as consistent as we wanted it to be until after Sprints.”
By season’s end, though, the Black and White would take the necessary steps and make the necessary strokes to solidify its position among the nation’s elite crews. It managed to forge its own identity and script a meaningful chapter for itself in the annals of Radcliffe history.
Opening the season ranked No. 8, the Black and White squared off against neighborhood foes Northeastern and Boston College. Radcliffe dominated, winning every race and taking the two varsity eight races by over ten seconds.
The Black and White wasted little time getting to the meat of its schedule, meeting perennial power then-No. 4 Brown the following weekend.
The first varsity bested the defending national champion Bears by one boat length in a powerful display.
“Beating Brown early in the season gave us a lot of confidence in our boat—that had been one of our goals from the beginning of the year, and it was tremendous to accomplish that goal,” junior Laura Martin said.
With the victory, Radcliffe shot up to No. 3 nationally and set up a showdown with another top-three team, No. 1 Princeton, also a fierce rival.
The Tigers topped the Black and White in both varsity eight events, taking the 1V by 2.3 seconds and the 2V by 7.3 ticks, while both four races went to Radcliffe.
A bit of a breather was granted to the Black and White the following week in the form of Syracuse and Dartmouth. Radcliffe raced to first in every varsity competition by sizeable open-water margins at Onondaga Lake in upstate New York.
Next came then-No. 8 Yale and Notre Dame. In what would be the closest race many participants had ever seen, the Black and White and the Bulldog first varsity eights turned in identical times—6:24.0. Even an analysis of the photo finish proved inconclusive.
But since Yale had the momentum going into the line, it was given the Case Cup that was granted the winner. The Bulldogs won the 2V and varsity four race outright.
The final dual meet of the year, with then-No. 16 Boston University and MIT, served as a bit of a tune-up for Eastern Sprints, as Radcliffe again swept every varsity race.
With two weeks to prepare for Sprints, the Black and White spent plenty of time working on both the technical as well as mental aspects of their race.
Yet despite their preparations and a reshuffling of the top boats’ lineups, hopes were let down. The 1V, 2V and varsity four all came in fourth, while the team finished in third place for the Willing Points Trophy.
But Radcliffe’s best racing was still ahead. It was offered one of 12 team bids to the NCAA Championship in Sacramento, Calif., and made the most of its invitation. The 1V raced to third place, and in capturing the bronze turned in the second-best Black and White finish ever in the race. The 2V finished third in the petite final, or ninth overall, while the varsity four came in sixth in the petite final, taking 12th overall. Radcliffe amassed enough team points to place sixth in the country, also the second-best showing in program history.
“I think the way our boat was able to rebound after a disappointing performance at Sprints really shows the persistence and spirit of our team,” senior stroke Gretchen Weingarth said. “The highs and lows of the season made the whole season very rewarding.”
—Staff writer J. Patrick Coyne can be reached at email@example.com.