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The Radcliffe heavyweight crew enters this weekend’s Eastern Association of Women’s Rowing Colleges (EAWRC) Sprints riding the momentum of its best dual season since 1990, posting a remarkable 10-1 head-to-head record.
“We’re really not thinking about past seasons, either in terms of past years or the past season so far,” junior Caryn Davies said.
But the one blemish on the Black and White’s schedule—a 2.7-second loss to Brown on April 27—is one that will have to be rectified if the women’s heavies are to end their season in golden style.
Radcliffe enters Sprints tied for fourth in the nation with Princeton and ranked second in the EAWRC, but still plays the underdog, chasing the Bears, who are tied for second nationally and hold the top seed in the EAWRC.
“We’re excited,” Davies said. “We think we’re fast and we want to prove it.”
And that leaves the Black and White with the opportunity to make a statement.
“It is a great incentive,” sophomore Heather Schofield said. “[The previous race] was a close enough race that we think we can win.”
But that’s certainly not the only motivation.
“Winning sprints is winning sprints,” Davies said.
However, besting the Bears may not translate to winning, as an elite field will be vying for NCAA championship berths and an opportunity to travel to England this summer to compete in the Henley Royal Regatta.
Radcliffe hasn’t been to Henley since 1989.
In addition to Brown, Princeton and No. 9 Yale—each of whom the Black and White bested by fewer than three seconds this year—will be gunning for first place. There are no undefeated crews in the varsity eight event and a lot of uncertainty at the top as the Tigers beat the Bears in March, Radcliffe defeated Princeton in early April and Brown then bested the Black and White just weeks ago.
“There aren’t a whole lot of teams that we haven’t seen that we’re going to race,” Davies said. “The thing about racing is you really have no control over the other boats. You just go as fast as you can go.”
In fact, the competition will be so difficult that No. 12 University of Virginia, fifth in the EAWRC, has withdrawn from the field to compete in Central/South Region Sprints in order to improve its chances of qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
“It just says that they think there are enough really difficult teams,” Schofield said.
In preparation for the grueling competition, Radcliffe has tapered its workout schedule and attempted to hone its technique, hoping to shave those vital final seconds off its times.
“Obviously we’ve been working to get faster,” Davies said. “We’ve been working a lot on swings in the middle of the stroke and finishing the stroke.”
The ability to maintain form will be crucial if the Black and White hopes to return to Cambridge victorious.
With a heat in the morning and hopefully a Grand Final in the afternoon, the rowers will be tired and stamina will carry the day.
“It’s two races in one day,” Schofield said. “So that’s a slightly different approach.”
Fortunately, Radcliffe will not need to face off against any of its top-ten Ivy rivals prior to the afternoon, possibly allowing for conservation of the squad’s strength.
“Hopefully if our heat isn’t too tough, we’ll save a little bit for the finals,” Schofield said. “If you have enough of a lead…you don’t go all out.”
But the crews will need to be consistent across the board. Even if the first varsity eights captures its title, second varsity eights and first varsity fours will both need to perform at their peaks, as the cumulative results determine the final outcome.
Radcliffe takes to the waters of the Cooper River in Camden, N.J., on Sunday morning.
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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