Disappointing Finish for Radcliffe Heavyweight Crew at NCAAs

Danielle L Lussi

Each of the three Radcliffe boats, shown here in earlier action, fell short of the NCAA Grand Finals on Sunday.

Two weeks ago, things looked bright for Radcliffe heavyweight crew, as the Black and White took home two victories in the inaugural Ivy League Championships.

But that momentum proved to not be enough against the nation’s toughest competition in this past weekend’s NCAA Championships. In a 16-team field, Radcliffe placed 12th overall while the varsity eight took ninth on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, N.J.

The varsity four also placed 11th, its best mark in nine years.

“There was just fast racing all around,” said junior Scout Moran, two seat of the 1V. “Races were won and lost by hundredths of a second, which just really shows how fast Division I rowing is right now. So to have the opportunity to race [at the NCAA Championships] was really exciting for us.”

“There was some really good competition that we hadn’t really seen before, especially the California schools and some of the Midwest and Southern schools,” added freshman Kristen Faulkner, two seat of the varsity four. “So it was great to get the chance to compete against them.”

None of the three Radcliffe boats—the varsity eight, the second varsity eight, or the varsity four—advanced to their respective Grand Finals on Sunday. Instead, the 1V and varsity four took third and fifth in their respective six-boat petite finals, while the 2V placed last of the four boats in its third-level final.

The conclusion of the NCAA Championships marks the end of a season highlighted by the Radcliffe first varsity eight’s first Ivy title in nearly a decade.

And for the Black and White 1V, along with its varsity four counterpart, the weekend event started off strong. Both took third in their heats on Friday, earning them an automatic entry into the semifinals the following day.

But that was as far as either boat went. Both finished in fourth place in their semifinals on Saturday, one spot away from earning a trip to the grand finals on Sunday.

For much of its semifinals race, the Radcliffe 1V threatened the eventual top-three finishers—Virginia, USC, and California. Halfway through, the Black and White was just one seat away from passing California, in third at the time and at the race’s conclusion. But Radcliffe could not overcome the deficit, ultimately finishing 1.90 seconds behind the Golden Bears.

“We came up short [of qualifying for the Grand Final], but we were very close,” Moran said. “We really made a great effort to push it to Cal. In our sprint, we gained a lot of seats. We still weren’t fast enough to make the top three.”

In the varsity eight petite final, UCLA held the edge over Radcliffe and Stanford coming into the final portion of the race while Yale, Cornell, and Ohio State trailed further back. In a tight finish, Stanford just beat out the Black and White for second place by 0.03 seconds.

“The petite final was another barnburner,” Moran said.

In the varsity four semifinal race, Radcliffe held on to a tenuous third-place position—good enough for a grand-final berth—heading into the final 500 meters of the race. But Washington overcame the Black and White, ultimately finishing in third at 7:11.25, less than a second ahead of fourth-place Radcliffe.

“In the last 250, 200 meters, Washington just sprinted so fast and really caught us off guard and ended up out-touching us by very little…. If the race had been about 15 to 20 meters shorter, we probably would have gotten them,” Faulkner said.

A similar pattern emerged in the following day’s petite final. Though the Black and White were ahead a quarter of the way through the race, the lead proved short-lived, and Radcliffe finished in fifth place.

The Black and White second varsity eight did not enjoy the same success on the weekend and did not qualify for its semifinal. Ultimately placing last of the 16 second varsity eight boats, the Radcliffe 2V placed fifth out of six in its initial heat on Friday. With a sixth-place finish in the repechage later that day, the Black and White failed to qualify for the semifinals and was instead relegated to Sunday’s third-level final.

Staff writer Robert S. Samuels can be reached at robertsamuels@college.harvard.edu.

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