Season Opening For Defending Champs

Having won a national title last year, the Radcliffe crew will look to double its efforts this season, which it opens up this weekend.

The No. 5 Black and White heavyweights will take on neighbors Northeastern and Boston College on the Charles River on Saturday, while the lightweights make like Biggie Smalls and head back to Cali to race in the Windermere Cup on Sunday at Redwood Shores, hosted by Stanford.

In 2003, the Radcliffe heavies finished their season 10-1 in dual meets, won the Eastern Sprints Championships and captured the NCAA national championship.

The title was the second garnered by the Black and White and is the first championship in thirty years.  The crown was clinched when the first varsity eight squad, lead by co-captain Courtney Brown, won the final race on the final day of competition.  

While the personnel may have changed, the team has strong direction and leadership from head coach Liz O’Leary, who was the 2003 College Rowing Coaches’ Association Division I Coach of the Year.

“We go in every season trying to be as fast as we can,” said assistant varsity coach Cory Bosworth.  “We’ve put in a lot of preparation. We graduated a lot of seniors, but our senior class is bigger this year.  We know how to work in order to be champions.  We’re racing in a very competitive field and we have high expectations.”

The team looks forward to a successful season, even though the polls have it ranked at a relatively low position.

“I think the polls are all relative,” Bosworth said.  “Rankings are based on the fall racing results. Preseason results are not heavily weighted. Once we start racing, we’ll find out just how fast we are.”

This Saturday, O’Leary will send out two varsity eights, a varsity four and a pair of novice octets.

“We’re really excited, and looking forward to this weekend,” co-captain Lis Lambert said.  “We’ve got the line up figured out and Northeastern is going to be fun.”

The races this week should help the team prepare for more difficult competition in Eastern Sprint League foes Brown, Princeton and Yale.

“We’re very confident,” Lambert said.  “It will be fun to race in a crosstown rivalry.  This will be a good benchmark for our bigger challenges. We have Brown coming up the next Saturday.  It will be great for our team to race.”

The Radcliffe lightweights are likewise coming off of a remarkable season. At last spring’s Eastern Sprints Championship, the Black and White raced to a second place finish. Two weeks later, they placed second at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association’s National Championships.

A single varsity eight boat is making the trip west to take on some of the nation’s top competition, including Princeton and the host, Stanford.

“The lightweights are a really fast program,” Bosworth said.  “I suspect they are going to have a barn-burner of a spring.”