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For the third straight year, the Radcliffe heavyweight crew team will square off against the top competition in the nation at the NCAA Championships.
Beginning today, on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J., the Black-and-White (9-2) will begin its quest to close the gap on favorite and top-ranked Brown, which Radcliffe lost to by six seconds two weeks ago at Eastern Sprints.
At 9:20, No. 4 Radcliffe's first varsity boat rows in its quarterfinal heat. The heat consists of Michigan, Wesleyan, No. 6 Virginia, Michigan State and Boston University, which the Black-and-White defeated in head-to-head competition.
Radcliffe's only dual losses on the season came against Brown and Princeton, boats that are in different heats this weekend. The Black-and-White did surpass the Tigers at Eastern Sprints by 2.6 seconds en route to a second-place finish, its highest finish at the sprints since winning the title in 1989.
If Radcliffe wins or takes second in that race, it moves onto a semifinal race tomorrow morning. If the Black-and-White fail to place in the top two of that heat, they will race in the repechage run tomorrow afternoon.
A win or second-place finish in the semifinals earns a berth in the grand finals on Sunday. A loss in the semis means a trip to the petite finals earlier that day.
The second varsity boat (8-3) races against Michigan State, Michigan, Brown and Washington in its semifinal tomorrow. The team fell to Brown during the year and did not face the other opponents in head-to-head competition.
The varsity four (5-4) will compete against B.U., Virginia, Brown and California. The boat lost to Brown and B.U. in meets, but did not face Virginia or California in duals.
Radcliffe will certainly have a nice day on the River, no matter what the outcome. The forecast today calls for partly cloudy skies and a high of 77 degrees. The wind yesterday was a mild nine miles per hour from the West.
This has been a successful season for the Radcliffe heavyweights so far. The team set a Charles River record over 2000 meters with a blistering 6:17.5 on May 6 in a win over B.U. and MIT. The previous mark was 6:27.2, set by Princeton in 1993.
The Black-and-White's nine wins are the most since 1989, when the team went 11-0 in dual meets. This year's team is riding a hot streak, having won its last four meets after dropping the first two meets to Brown and Princeton, respectively.
Radcliffe has a strong history in national championship competitions. The team won the crown in 1973, and for the past two years the Black-and-White earned seventh-place finishes in the team competition. Last year's first varsity eight placed sixth in its race. The 1973 team represented the United States at the World Championships in Moscow, a remarkable feat accomplished just two years after the rowing program began at Radcliffe College.
The Radcliffe lightweights, five-time national champions, will try to win another title next weekend in Camden, N.J., at the IRA Regatta.
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