This year, Radcliffe heavyweight crew found more speed each week to surge ahead to its 11th NCAA tournament bid in the event’s 12 year history, beating several ranked opponents to head into the tournament seeded seventh.
“There have been a lot of interesting results. No crew has distinguished themselves above and beyond every other crew,” assistant coach Cory Bosworth said after Eastern Sprints. “Any crew that goes to the tournament has a real shot at the Grand Finals. It makes it a little nerve-wracking, though I am really proud of our racing this year.”
Opening the spring with a bang by racing defending NCAA champion Brown, the Black and White kicked off an exciting racing season, suffering just a four-seat loss in the varsity eight and a mere three second loss in the second varsity. Impressively, the novices held their own as well, lagging behind the Ivy powerhouse by less than a second.
The next week, then-No. 13 Radcliffe welcomed Princeton and Cornell to the Charles for some all-Ivy fun. The first varsity beat Cornell by six seconds and came up short of the Tigers by the same margin, while the second varsity pulled off a five second come-from-behind win over the Tigers in a thrilling fashion that would come to be the boat’s signature.
The Black and White also prevailed over the Big Red by a dominanting 22-second margin.
“It’s mentally a challenge to come from behind,” Bosworth said after the race. “But they were so composed and always fighting. When they moved, they really committed to it. It was tremendous to watch and a huge race to get under their belt.”
The Charles River Challenge the next weekend was a showcase for Radcliffe’s talent. In the morning races, the Black and White swept Dartmouth, Syracuse, and Texas in the first varsity, second varsity, third varsity four A, and the novice eight.
The first varsity pulled away from Dartmouth in the last 1,000 meters to win the race by an entire boat length. The second varsity rallied, and after making a strong move, came from behind to win once again.
In the afternoon, Radcliffe added Notre Dame to the list of first varsity victims with an eight-second win over Dartmouth and a 19-second margin of victory over the Fighting Irish.
The second varsity followed suit with the victory but bested the Midwestern visitor by only one second. The novice eight was dominant for a second time, enjoying an 11-second lead over second place.
The next weekend, the heavyweights travelled to the Housatonic River to face Ivy rival Yale and southern powerhouse Virginia. In tough conditions, The Black and White proved its mettle by beating then-No. 3 Virginia in both the first and second varsity eights and beating both Yale and Virginia in the novice eight.
The comeback in the first varsity over the Cavaliers was epic and paved the road to the NCAAs for Radcliffe.
Back in town for the Beanpot, the Black and White joined other Boston area schools on the Charles for a display of Radcliffe’s uncontested supremacy on the river.
The crew did not lose a single race to Northeastern, Boston University, Boston College, or MIT.
During this contest, the Black and White reminded the public of its longstanding commitment to the community and proud tradition of strong women.
The team wore pink jerseys and raised funds for the Susan G. Komen foundation to fight breast cancer.
The following weekend held the team’s biggest challenge. The EAWRC Sprints in Camden, N.J. hosted many of the biggest crews in women’s rowing. Brown walked away with the team championship while Yale took second and Radcliffe claimed third, just six points behind the Bulldogs.
Every Black and White boat advanced to its respective grand final, a testament to the team’s depth.
“It was a race that I knew going into that we had the potential of doing really well,” coxswain Sarah Devine said after the first varsity’s Sprints race.
“After some great practices, this boat has come into its own. They trusted that they could do very well. We were down in fourth for about three-fourths of the race, but they were able to relax and focus and know they could do it and went for it in the end.”
The second novice eight managed to bring home a gold medal with a four-second win over Navy, a testament to the depth of the Radcliffe program. Bronze medals were earned by the first varsity and by both of the third varsity fours. The second varsity took fourth as did the novice eight.
The momentum from this showing could not push the Black and White first varsity to the Grand Final at NCAAs, however, as Radcliffe finished fourth in its semifinal heat and was relegated to the Petite Final, where the Black and White finished first to take seventh place overall.
—Staff writer Elizabeth A. Joyce can be reached at email@example.com.