Does anybody hear the opening ominous chords of Deep Purple rising in the background?
This Sunday, smoke will surely be on the water as the Radcliffe heavyweight and lightweight crews journey to the Cooper River in Camden, N.J., to battle the East Coast’s top schools at the Eastern Sprints Championships.
The Sprints are the second-biggest meet of the year for the varsity crews, right behind the NCAA and IRA Championships for the heavyweights and lightweights, respectively.
“This is the one that everybody’s trained for, and we’re going to leave everything we have out on that course,” senior Catherine Sheehan said.
The No. 9 heavies will arrive in the Garden State as the defending Eastern Sprint and NCAA champions.
Thus far, the first varsity heavyweight eight has had a trying year, falling by small margins to No. 4 Brown (0.54 seconds) and No. 2 Princeton (2.8 seconds) before succumbing to No. 6 Yale by 4.9 seconds two weeks ago.
Last week, though, a reshuffling of the lineup seemed the Black and White, as they torched No. 18 Boston University by almost 11 seconds.
“This has been a strange season,” co-captain Lis Lambert said. “An extremely close race with Brown after a series of delays and changes of plans, staggered starts against Yale and Princeton, and so on. None of which is meant to be an excuse for the season, but…it feels like though we’re near the end of the season, we haven’t yet had a truly conclusive test of our speed.”
Like all the crews, the 1V spent its week of practice leading up to the Sprints tapering and working on technique, as well as doing some short high-pressure work practicing specific sections of the race such as the start and sprint.
“It’s really going to be a 4-boat race, between us, Yale, Princeton and Brown,” Lambert said. “After these four teams, there is a steep drop off. It’s going to be a dog fight, and we’ll all have to race our absolute best in the Grand Final.”
The Sprints will provide the 1V an opportunity to compete against the nation’s best on an even playing field.
“This will be our chance to conclusively prove to ourselves that we are a fast, strong, deep and competitive team,” Lambert said.
The second varsity eight has also had an odd year of racing, which has included a near tie with the Bears in the dark on choppy water and a victory over Yale due to a Bulldog disqualification.
“I think our boat and team feels really confident heading into Sprints,” senior Megan Smith said. “It’s always exciting to race with the best schools. This is what we train for all year, to line up 6 boats across and see who can cross the finish line first.”