WOMEN'S CREW: Radcliffe Crews Command Waters to Earn NCAA Berths

Rollin’ on the River
Kevin H. Lin

Radcliffe heavyweight crew improved upon its performance last year, earning a trip to the NCAA Championships for the first time in two years. The team finished the season with an 11-4 dual meet record.

After a frustrating 2009-2010 season, the 2010-2011 campaign looked to be a rebuilding year for the Radcliffe heavyweight crew team. But after ending the dual season with an 11-4 record, a fifth-place finish at the EAWRC Sprints, and a berth to the NCAA Championships, it was clear that the Black and White heavyweights not only exceeded expectations, but also returned to their former prestige.

“I think this season has gone pretty well for us overall,” co-captain Olivia Coffey said. “Based on last year’s results, I don’t think that many people expected us to do very well, but we’ve beaten two top-ten teams, and leading up to Sprints we were 12th in the nation.”

The lightweights looked to continue along the same trajectory this season after a relatively successful season last year.

Both the heavyweights and lightweights medaled to start their respective fall seasons—heavyweights with silver and lightweights with gold—at the Head of the Housatonic Regatta. At the two other fall regattas, the Head of the Charles and Foot of the Charles, both squads delivered strong performances again. The heavyweights and lightweights came in fourth and third at the Head of the Charles and second and first at the Foot of the Charles, respectively.

Radcliffe heavyweight crew opened the spring dual-meet season with 1V and 2V wins against visiting Tulsa before hosting Ivy foes Brown, Cornell and Princeton in the following weeks.


In the Black and White’s first test against Brown, poor racing weather on the Charles River forced the Ancient Eight duel to be moved to the Seekonk River in Rhode Island. The fifth-ranked Bears, buoyed with the home water advantage, edged out the Radcliffe heavyweights by 2.6 seconds in the 1V, while also sweeping the Black and White 2V, 3V and 4V by considerable margins.

In the subsequent weekend, Radcliffe hosted Princeton and Dartmouth in the Class of 1975 Cup Regatta. In the 1V, the Tigers surged away to capture the varsity trophy, while Cornell edged out the Black and White by two seconds for second place.

Faced with two weekends of close losses to higher-ranked teams, Radcliffe still remained optimistic of its strength and speed on the water.

This determination to find more speed fueled the Black and White as it entered the halfway mark of its dual-meet season with the Charles River Challenge. In the hotly contested 1V race, the heavyweights handily defeated three formidable opponents—Ohio State, Dartmouth and Northeastern—to pick up their biggest victory of the season.

Radcliffe carried this momentum into the next two meets against Yale in the Case Cup and Boston-based schools in the Beanpot. Against Yale, the heavyweight 1V knocked off the defending national champion Bulldogs by three seconds, marking the Black and White’s first victory in eight years against its oldest rivals. In the Beanpot, Radcliffe blew out the local competition to capture a fourth Beanpot title.

Like their heavyweight counterparts, the lightweights were also able to establish dominance over both Ivy and local competitors throughout the season with strong showings at dual meets.

After season-opening victories against Tulsa and MIT, the lightweights traveled to the Potomac to face Georgetown in the Class of 1974 Cup. In a closely fought battle on the water, the Black and White lightweights edged out the Hoyas by 1.2 seconds to retain the cup.

Inspired by a 3-0 start, Radcliffe looked to carry its momentum into its biggest test of the season—the matchup against second-ranked Stanford. But the Black and White fell to the Cardinal by six seconds for its first loss of the season.

The following week, Radcliffe matched up against Princeton and Bucknell. The Black and White split the two races on the day, recording a victory over the Bison but losing to the Tigers.

In the last meet of the regular season, the Radcliffe lightweights downed Cambridge rival MIT by more than 25 seconds to keep the Muri Cup and local bragging rights.