Entering the 2003 season, the Black and White certainly had high expectations, but no one mentioned the NCAA championship as one of them.
When discussing the year’s goals, the crew focused mainly on the larger events at the end of the season.
Goading the team on was head coach Liz O’Leary, who set high, but attainable goals for the team.
“Early in the fall we all talk about our goals for the season,” said O’Leary. “And although each athlete has her own personal goals, the one goal that the whole team was very committed to was winning the overall points trophy at the Eastern Sprints. That goal meant that we needed to be strong and deep as a whole squad and that really is what creates a fast team.”
And the team understood quite well how high the bar measuring expectations had been set.
“Our goals were: All boats in the top 3 at Eastern Sprints, the team trophy at sprints, and all 3 boats in the grand finals at NCAA’s,” said senior Anna McLoon. “Winning NCAA’s had not been a goal on our radar, but happened because we were able to meet and exceed the goals we did set.”
The team trained with incredible passion over the winter, striving to emerge as prime contenders after the spring thaw.
“There were practices last year that were real energizer bunnies of a practice,” said McLoon. “We kept rowing, and rowing, and rowing...but in the end, it all paid off. It paid off because of the work of every rower, in every seat of every boat, and because of [coaches] Holly [Fling] and Liz [O’Leary] and Cory [Bosworth].”
Once the Charles River ice melted, the Black and White started to burn up the competition.
The Making of Champions
The first two races of the Black and White’s dual season were postponed due to inclement weather.
Radcliffe opened its season against then-No. 3 Princeton, No. 14 Cornell and Wisconsin at Lake Carnegie on April 13.
Princeton jumped ahead early in the varsity race to grab the lead, but the Black and White, then No. 13, walked back through the field to edge out the Tigers by two seconds.
The victory over rival Princeton was the first since 1989 for the up-and-coming squad. And more importantly, it was the first chance for Radcliffe to reap the fruits of the training and strategy for the Charles River that it had worked to develop.
“We were not sure what to expect nor did we have a polished race plan,” said O’Leary. “We were clear that we wanted to be very strong through the middle of the course. Obviously the plan worked and I think the result was that we found a level of confidence in ourselves that was different and we were excited to sense that all the land training we had been forced to do in March was really working.”