It was a busy weekend for Radcliffe crew as both the heavyweights and lightweights faced strong competition on both Saturday and Sunday.
The lightweights competed in two races at home this weekend, the Lightweight Invitational on Saturday and the Muri Cup on Sunday, while the heavyweights traveled to Clemson, S.C. for the Clemson Invitational.
In a clash of women’s lightweight crew titans on the Charles this Saturday, the No. 2 Black and White used a strong second half push to past No. 1 Stanford to win the varsity eight at the Lightweight Invitational.
The race, which also included No. 4 BU, No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 7 MIT, was the first real test for the Radcliffe lightweights this spring, and the Black and White showed it was more than ready for the challenge. Radcliffe’s seven-second win marks the second straight year the Black and White varsity eight has taken the Lightweight Invitational Cup.
“Off the start, Stanford was about half a boat length up on us,” junior Adelaide Backer said. “That can be pretty detrimental if you let it get to you, but I don’t think I have ever felt so together as a boat as we did in this race. Everyone was relaxed and calm, and we made a couple of noticeable moves that I think really psyched [Stanford] out.”
With Radcliffe pulling away from Stanford to win by open water, the real race in the varsity eight was for third as Wisconsin beat out BU by less than two seconds.
In the second varsity eight, the Black and White took a lead off of the start and never looked back, leading wire-to-wire in route to a nine-second margin of victory over Wisconsin. In the third varsity eight, which only featured boats from Radcliffe and BU, the Black and White just edged out its local rival by a second for the victory.
The only Radcliffe lightweight loss on the day came in the novice four, where MIT won by over 12 seconds to take home the only non-last finish for the Engineers on the day.
Nearly a year ago, the Black and White, ranked at No. 2 against Stanford's No. 1, accomplished the same upset during the Invitational before being just edged out by the Cardinal for the national title.
The Black and White continued Saturday’s success on Sunday against neighboring MIT as it earned a sweep in the battle for the Muri Cup.
The Radcliffe lightweight varsity eight led the way on Sunday, finishing with a time of 6:44.7 for a 24-second win over MIT. The second varsity eight for the Black and White clocked in at 6:56.6 for another triumph over the Engineers.
It was in the varsity four race, however, where the biggest gap in competition could be seen as Radcliffe earned a time of 8:00.5, a full 54 seconds ahead of the MIT varsity four.
The closest race of the day was in the novice four, where the Black and White avenged a loss on Saturday to earn an open water victory over the Engineers and complete the sweep.
“We have great depth on this team right now,” Backer said. “Since I have come to Harvard, I don’t think we have had such a competitive seat-racing season. I think [our depth] has really increased our competitiveness across the board this year and is really promising going forward."
The two-day Clemson Invitational featured heat racing on Saturday, with the finals held on Sunday. Both days were characterized by 20+ mph gusting crosswinds that made for very challenging race conditions.
The first varsity eight finished third in its heat behind Indiana and Washington State and posted a time of 7:09.4, good for the fifth-fastest time across all heats. On Sunday, Radcliffe followed up Saturday’s result with a fourth-place finish in the final, with a time of 6:57.8, falling to UCLA, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
The second varsity eight was the highlight of the weekend for the Black and White, winning its heat on Saturday and placing second on Sunday after losing to Indiana by five-tenths of a second.
“Moving from [Saturday’s] race into Sunday, we really wanted to improve on our finish,” senior Eliza Flint said. “Yesterday, we let Indiana back into the race near the finish, so we wanted to have a good sprint today and we did. We really walked through and caught up during the sprint.”
The Radcliffe varsity four also had a strong weekend, placing third in its heat on Saturday before dropping almost thirty seconds for a second place finish on Sunday.
“It was crazy conditions out there all weekend,” Flint said. “It was taking boats twenty to thirty minutes just to lock onto the starting blocks. Racing in those conditions is always challenging, but rowing on the Charles has actually prepared us quite well so the crosswinds this weekend were nothing new for us. I think that showed up in the results.”
—Staff writer Ty Aderhold can be reached at email@example.com.