Radcliffe lightweight crew battled to live up to the high expectations that haunt a top-five nationally ranked crew stacked with young talent. The Black and White held its own in the East and heads to Camden, N.J. this weekend to cap the season at the IRA National Championships.
“The team was adjusting to a new coach, and a few injuries kept some of our very strong rowers out of action this year, which is unfortunate since last year’s freshman boat was so strong,” senior Naomi Ford said. “Injuries definitely plagued our team this year. It was a challenging season, but it will help the program grow.”
The first weekend of the spring certainly buoyed the rowers’ spirits, as the Black and White defeated Georgetown’s second varsity eight and novice eight boats and then turned around the next day to sweep Holy Cross’ heavyweights.
“We had a really good race for all of our boats in our second race against Holy Cross and Smith,” captain Katharine Woodman-Maynard said. “That was a highlight.”
This early success catapulted the crew to a No. 4 national ranking, as Radcliffe made its first trip south to Camden to face perennial contenders Stanford and Wisconsin for the Knecht Cup. The varsity eight boat smoked all three Wisconsin boats that earned a berth in the Grand Final, pulling up just four seconds behind first-place Stanford. Remarkably, the second varsity eight boat qualified for the Grand Final as well.
“Even though Princeton wasn’t there, it was a great race,” Ford said. “Our two boats finished within ten seconds of each other ending up only behind Stanford. The second varsity eight beat the 2V eight of Wisconsin, and the first varsity got Wisconsin’s first varsity. It was definitely a great race and a lot of fun.”
Proving itself against No. 1 Princeton by finishing the course just three seconds behind the Tigers and beating their varsity four, Radcliffe finished April in style.
Not missing a beat, the crew returned to Cambridge and reminded the league that the Black and White stands for more than just excellence in rowing. The rowers competing in the Beanpot donned pink jerseys and to raise funds for the Susan G. Komen Foundation to fight breast cancer.
Amidst all this, the Black and White dominated MIT, beating every boat the Engineers sent up the river and missed the pace set by UCF’s varsity eight by just one second.
Primed for Eastern Sprints, Radcliffe returned to the Cooper River in Camden and managed to put together a team second-place finish in points behind Wisconsin, which upset heavily favored Princeton for the Sprints title.
Radcliffe placed fourth overall behind Georgetown, Princeton—boats that had beaten the Black and White earlier in the season—and Wisconsin, whom Radcliffe had defeated earlier in the varsity eight race. The Black and White finished three seconds out of third place and nine seconds behind the Badgers. Radcliffe took a distant third in the second varsity eight, second in the third varsity four, and last in the novice eight.
An intersession training trip to Florida set Radcliffe on track for a stellar spring that helped the crew adjust to the waves of change that swept through the program in the fall in which the team saw new coaches for both the freshman program and the Head of the Charles.
“Our Florida training week was kind of a turning point in the season,” Woodman-Maynard said. “We got a lot of really great workouts in and in mixed lineups. That is, there was no first boat or second boat; we were racing side by side and rowing with different people each day. It was a great time that brought the team together.”
The season is not over for the Radcliffe women, however. The team will travel back to the Cooper River next weekend to look for redemption not just against the familiar eastern contenders, but also the finest crews the entire nation has to offer.
Next year the team will return all but two members of the first boat and will see its three freshmen recruits who rowed in the varsity eight return as sophomores.
—Staff writer Elizabeth A. Joyce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.