Radcliffe Lightweight Varsity Eight Medals at IRA National Championships
On the same day that the Harvard lightweights captured the Intercollegiate Rowing Association national title with a course record, two Radcliffe lightweight boats rowed in IRA Grand Finals of their own. Unfortunately for the Black and White, the women couldn’t replicate the magic of their male counterparts, as the eight finished third behind champion Stanford and Bucknell while the four finished in fourth.
“There’s always great racing on all the crew teams at Harvard,” junior six-seat Emma Lukasiewicz said. “It’s great to see everyone succeeding and to feel like we’re a part of that too.”
The third place finish for the eight marked the first national medal for a Radcliffe boat since 2006. It also came in the first year at the helm for coach Michiel Bartman. The former Olympic champion came into his new job with the set goal of breaking the drought. The Black and White had finished in an unenviable fourth each of the last three years.
“It was our goal every year, to try and get a medal at IRAs and it always eluded us one way or another,” senior cox Maryana Vrubel said. “Getting on the podium felt like a great accomplishment for ourselves but it was even better to be able to give that medal to an amazing coach. He believed in us all season and it’s great to show something in return for how much he’s given us this year day-in and day-out.”
Coming into the competition the top Radcliffe boat was ranked fourth in the nation. But in an upset, the Black and White narrowly edged out top-ranked Wisconsin for the last spot on the medal stand, crossing the finish line in 6:35.479.
“When [Vrubel] said we were up on Wisco it was really exciting and you could feel a real shift in the boat as we started moving on them,” co-captain Marissa Reichel said. “They’ve been unbeatable for so long, and it was an incredible feeling to pass them and eventually beat them.”
After 500 meters the Grand Final turned into a four-boat race as Georgetown and Princeton had fallen out of contention. The Radcliffe eight had struggled with maintaining consistency throughout the course in the opening heats, but was able to stay close enough to the leaders in first 1000 to snatch the coveted bronze medal in the home stretch.
“We decided to try and race it like two separate thousands, and we just really charged into the second thousand and we started to move on Wisconsin so that by the last 500 we could just give it everything we had and make it onto the podium,” Vrubel said. “It was the kind of race we’ve been looking for all season.”
The IRA Regatta marked the final intercollegiate competition for Vrubel, four-seat Reichel and three-seat Kelly McCarthy. The podium finish provided a fitting end to a successful four years in Cambridge.
“I got off the water and couldn’t believe that I had an IRA medal around my neck,” Vrubel said. “Throughout the day it kind of sunk in. On the ride back to Cambridge Marissa, Kelly and I were able to reflect and realize that everything we had hoped for, for so many years, had finally come true.”
With Bartman’s guidance and the majority of the top boat returning next year, Radcliffe will look to maintain, and improve upon, its new-found standing amongst the nation’s elite.
“This team has grown so much this year,” Reichel said. “With the same work ethic and a great coach like [Bartman] I think for years to come Radcliffe crew is going to become unbreakable.”
The lightweight four finished 20 seconds off the pace of the victorious Badgers and nine seconds behind the third-place finishers, the University of Buffalo. The race proved to be far more spread out than the eight’s Grand Final, with the distance between Wisconsin and the sixth-place finisher Hoyas being greater than 50 seconds. By comparison, all six boats in the eight finished within 20 seconds of each other. The fourth place finish marked the last regatta for outgoing senior Jordan Taylor.
“It was a great day of racing for both boats,” Lukasiewicz said. “These seniors have put so much into this team in their time here, and I know that everyone on both boats made it a real goal to send them off with a performance that reflected all they’ve given to Radcliffe crew.”
- Staff writer Alexander Koenig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org