In Princeton, the No. 1 lightweight squad could not make it three in a row against the No. 2 Tigers this season, losing the momentum it had built up during the team’s previously undefeated season.
On the Charles River the same day, the Black and White heavyweight crew fell to unranked Boston University, stretching the team’s losing streak to four races.
At the lightweight showdown between No. 1 and No. 2, Radcliffe was favored to win, but the team’s advantage hung on a thin thread. That thread broke on Saturday.
“We all agreed that we didn’t have our best race,” lightweight co-captain Sarah Bates said. “But we can’t deny they were faster than us; we just didn’t have an ‘on’ day.”
The varsity eight failed to produce a good start in its race, as the headwind on the river pushed the team off track. As the race progressed, the Black and White could not fully recover, losing to the Tigers by three seconds with a time of 7:25.5.
“It was a messy start right from the get-go, and the rough start brought an overall disconnected race,” lightweight co-captain Ashley Antony said. “[As a result], we didn’t race as we can and should have.”
It was not a total disappointment for the lightweight squad, as the team only lost by that three-second margin while racing poorly. The defeat also gives Radcliffe extra motivation for Eastern Sprints in two weeks—it is a wake-up call to get the team re-focused.
“Princeton raced really well, but that race is not indicative of the speed we can have,” Antony said. “The loss is a great motivating factor to help drive us because we could get complacent with winning. This gives us an opportunity to improve together to push for Sprints.”
For the heavyweights, the Terriers’ victory was a huge upset. It was not a wake-up call, just a continuation of its struggles this season. And the Black and White cites a simple reason for this defeat.
“That race was probably one of our worst races of the season,” heavyweight senior Laura Martin said. “We had problems from the beginning.”
Despite these problems, the team sprinted ahead by a boat length over the first 1000 meters. But Radcliffe never got in rhythm, never raced in unison, and as a result, the team fell back over the third 500 meters. The Black and White, despite a strong final sprint, could not catch BU, as the varsity eight was edged by 1.6 seconds in posting a time of 6:29.0.
“We gained a boat length in the first 1000, but then the boat fell apart,” Martin said. “We tried to pull it back together at the end but could not make it.”
The varsity eight could not come together in part because the combination on Saturday had never raced together. In addition to an injury on the boat, the Black and White had also brought up two new members to the varsity eight. Looking to this race as a warm-up for this new combination, the team hopes that come Eastern Sprints, the squad can find the speed that was lacking on Saturday.
“There is a lot of potential to pull things together,” Martin said. “We know we have the speed, we just have to come together to get it.”
One bright spot on the day for Radcliffe was on the lightweight side, as the varsity four and novice eight gained speed and time from the last time these squads faced No. 2 Princeton at the Knecht Cup.
“The four and the novice eight both had amazing races,” Bates said. “They both gained a lot of distance from the last time they raced.”
For both squads, though, the next two weeks will be a time to improve. The heavyweights have to come together to salvage an otherwise disappointing season. The lightweights know they are not invincible.
By Eastern Sprints, both crews hope for a different result than the one experienced on Saturday.
“We’re going into practice using it as an opportunity to find more speed,” Antony said. “We know what we need to do over the next few weeks—we must bring that to Sprints and race better.”
—Staff writer Walter E. Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.