If there was ever a make-or-break situation, yesterday was it. Tied at No. 15 going into yesterday’s EAWRC regatta in Camden, New Jersey, the Radcliffe heavyweight women’s crew team knew that it needed solid races in order to qualify for this year’s NCAA Championships.
Rising to the occasion, every boat placed better than its seeding. With two second-place finishes and three third-place finishes, the Black and White now knows that on Tuesday, when the entries for NCAAs are released, it will be that much closer to extending its season.
The day was filled with windy conditions as the first crews took to the water, but for the Radcliffe heavyweights, that was the last thing on their minds. Ranked just out of medaling contention in every race except the third varsity B four, the Black and White was ready to assert itself as a team to beat.
“We wanted to go out there and come in above our seeding,” varsity coxswain Jill Carlson said. “We wanted to medal. We wanted to be better than fourth place.”
The varsity eight event started with Dartmouth, Princeton and Radcliffe neck and neck as Yale took an early lead off of the start. While the Bulldogs continued to gain an edge on the field, Radcliffe took a move at the 750-meter mark, surprising a Big Green crew that began to fall back. The rest of the race was a battle for second place, as both the Tigers and the Black and White tried to get their bows in front.
“There was definitely that sense of urgency, of ‘we need to perform today,’ to really assert ourselves today,” Carlson said.
In the last 25 strokes, Radcliffe kicked it into another gear, mustering enough strength to push into Yale and beat Princeton by 0.7 seconds.
“We knew that it was everyone’s race from the starting line and that we were going up against five extremely fast crews and that it was going to take an extraordinary race even to medal,” senior co-captain Anna Kendrick said. “To be less than a second behind a national champion crew was really exciting for us.”
Brown, Dartmouth and Northeastern rounded out the finishers in the Grand Final. By beating Brown, the No. 4-ranked school in the nation and the No. 1-seeded school going into this event, the Black and White has a strong chance of being in the top 16 to qualify for the NCAA championships taking place later this month.
The rest of the heavyweight team had similar success, as the second varsity eight managed to pull away with a bronze medal despite being seeded fourth. Following Brown and Yale, which pulled 6:34.2 and 6:39.7 respectively, Radcliffe bested the No. 3 seeded Princeton with a time of 6:42.45.
The remaining heavyweight races included a tight third place finish in the varsity A four, with Radcliffe falling to Brown by only 0.3 seconds. The varsity C four also placed third, while in the varsity B four, the crew managed to pull out a second place finish, falling to Yale but beating Brown with a time of 7:35.2.
“All of the boats across the board performed above and beyond,” Kendrick said. “Everyone was at the top of their game today.”
For the lightweight squad, the weekend was more bittersweet. Ranked No. 2 nationally going into the race, the varsity eight could not stop Wisconsin, Princeton and Georgetown from taking control.
“The first varsity race had a pretty disappointing race,” senior captain Rebekkah Kharrazi said. “We came in fourth, which is how we did last year, and it’s always nice to get a medal and come up with hardware, but we were unable to manage it.”
The Black and White knew the competition would be tough, but after beating Georgetown and Princeton earlier in the season, the team hoped to place according to rankings.
“We hadn’t seen Georgetown since the beginning of the season,” Kharrazi said. “They were a big unknown. We’ve been training, they’ve been training, so we really weren’t sure how everything was going to go down. We knew it’d be competitive, but again we hoped to do better than fourth.”
The second varsity eight made the day a little sweeter with a second place finish in its event. Although it trailed Wisconsin from the beginning, Radcliffe pulled out a seven-seat lead coming into the half-way mark. Never looking back, the rowers crossed the line in 7:19, ending the season with silver medals around their necks.
As the rest of the team focuses on exams and the beginning of summer, the varsity lightweight eight will have an opportunity for revenge as they travel with the Harvard men’s heavyweight and lightweight team to IRA National Regatta in Sacremento June 6.
—Staff writer Alex Sopko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.