Women's Lightweight Crew Races to First-Place Finishes

After a long offseason, the Radcliffe lightweight crew was ready to get back on the water. One-hundred and sixty days after the Black and White varsity eight swept past defending champion Wisconsin to win its first ever Head of the Charles, Radcliffe reigned victorious once again on its home river.

On Saturday morning, the Radcliffe Lightweight boats took on Boston University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the inaugural Beanpot regatta for lightweight rowers. The Black and White tasted victory against local foes in each of its three races to start its spring season undefeated.

“It’s always a little tough, the first race of the season with everyone getting into their groove, and especially with how cold the winter’s been, we haven’t been on the water as much as we’d like to,” said senior Emma Lukasiewicz, who rowed in the sixth seat of the first varsity eight. “We just wanted to go out and have the best race we could to get started and I think we definitely followed our race plan and had a solid race from start to finish. We’re just going to have to keep building on that for the rest of the season.”

The spring season brought with it shorter races for the Radcliffe rowers, who stroked a three-mile race at the Head of the Charles compared to the 2000-meter Beanpot race. The novice rowers, who for the first time as collegiate rowers experienced side-by-side racing where the crews can compare their progress to other boats racing next to them rather than the staggered races of the fall season, found the adjustments challenging, but ultimately pulled out the win.

“For the past month or so, we’ve been doing a lot more sprint work, but it’s definitely a different race,” said freshman Nicole Golden, who stroked the novice four. “Racing the 2K is really exciting because you’re sprinting the whole time. In the fall race, you have a lot more time to think and get around, but [in the spring], it’s eight minutes, you give it all you got. It was definitely an adjustment, but it was a really fun one.”

The novice four rowed last and also had the closest race of the day, eclipsing its only opponent, the Engineers, by 18 seconds. The rookies, who also had to adapt to racing in a four-person boat instead of an eight-person boat, remained ahead of MIT over the length of the race to take home their first spring win, completing the course in 8:54.8.

“With the novice boat, you never really know what’s going to happen,” Golden said. “We had a really good start and then we just kind of pulled away and tried to hold on. It was also very exciting—it was our first race of the season so we were all really excited that we finished it and didn’t really remember what happened.”

First was the theme of the day for the first varsity eight, which was first on the water for Radcliffe and pulled out a first-place finish. The Black and White shot out to an early lead and never trailed, rowing the Charles in 6:59.6 and outpacing the second-place Terriers by over 19 seconds. MIT rounded out the race, coming in six seconds behind BU, which used the Beanpot to make its lightweight debut.

“[The Terriers] just created a lightweight program this year,” Lukasiewicz said. “They didn’t race in the fall, so we had no idea what to expect from them, but it’s really exciting that they’re part of the league now, to see the league growing, and they obviously performed really well, so that’s really cool to see. We’ve raced MIT a bunch in the past…but we’re definitely happy with the margins, so it’s a good start for the rest of the year.”

Up after the first varsity eight, the second varsity eight also found success, racing past the Engineers to win by a convincing 39-second margin. The Radcliffe crew finished in 7:26.0, setting the stage for the novice rowers.

After making history at the Head of the Charles, Lukasiewicz sees the spring season as both an opportunity to push boundaries and to substantiate the Black and White’s success.

“[HOCR victories] showed that we’re really strong and we’re getting better each year,” Lukasiewicz said. “That definitely motivated us for spring season because we felt more capable, but it also made us aware that we have to work really hard because it puts a target on your back and that there’s a lot of really good teams behind us. Wisconsin was not far behind us in the fall, and they’re always really good in the spring. It definitely pushed us to try to keep that competitive spot up top.”

—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at samanthalin@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @linsamnity.

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