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Saturday morning was gloomy on Lake Carnegic. There was a light wind blowing and a misty rain falling--but at least the water was calm. The stage was set for a heavyweight showdown between Radcliffe and Princeton (with Cornell thrown in for additional wake production).
With the breeze blowing in their faces. Carrie Graves's oarswomen waited uneasily, trying to harness the adrenalin that was inspiring visions of Radcliffe revenge. All the elements were right for a return of the women in black--and April 14 was not a day that brought disappointment.
In a spectacular display of closing power, the varsity boat held off a strong Princeton crew, gliding through the final 500 meters to cop a six-second, open-water win over the Tigers. The dramatic victory crased the harsh memories of last year's eight-second loss to the New Jersey eight, and it announced to the women's crew world that Radcliffe has returned--for real.
"I was a little bit worried at 700 meters," seven oar Anne Benton said yesterday. She had good reason for anxiety.
The race began much like the 1978 version. Radcliffe managing a good start and settling into a four-seat lead. Radcliffe cox Lizellen LaFollette kept her crew in command of the slim margin for the first third of the 1500-meter battle. The Tigers, sporting a gutsy group of racers. fought hard through the middle 500 and threatened to pull out the final leg, as they did last year.
But defeat was not in the picture for this year's much-improved Radcliffe varsity boat. Displaying the strength and stamina they have built up through hard, preseason training, the women sprinted to the finish, opening up the lead and leaving Princeton coach Kris Korzeniowski perplexingly "satisfied" but defeated. Cornell's women finished third, sometime later that afternoon.
"We tried our best to give it to em through the first 1000," two oar Kelly Ronan said. "We caught a little water, but we came motoring in. It was really strong--it felt good."
The women used new carbon-fiber oars for the first time Saturday, and Ronan said the lighter oars may have caused some of the difficulties in the early part of the race since the women were not used to them. But strong power 20s after the first 500 and first 1000 kept the women on track, en route to the win.
"Everyone was dead at the end of the race." Benton said. But exhaustion carried with it some jubilation. "We're really excited after the win. The boat feels very strong, even at higher cadences." Benton added.
In the J. V. race, Radcliffe connected for the double victory, as the women took a four-second win over Princeton. J. V. cox Meg Ziegler credited the Tigers for hanging on, saying. "They were tough, but we didn't die. We rowed through them on the settle."
Stretching to a six-seat lead after the start, the J. V. boat held the margin and opened into the finish for the win.
Though Korzeniowski speculated that the Radcliffe varsity had peaked for the Princeton race, the Cambridge oarswomen felt differently. Graves commented that her women could row even faster. And with the crew riding a newly-developed wave of self-confidence, the remainder of the season shapes up interestingly, as the tough Yale race looms two weeks away.
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