Heading into the home stretch of their seasons, the Radcliffe lightweight and heavyweight crews look to compete near the top of the national rankings.
The top-ranked lightweight crews defended the Charles against MIT, and as they have all season, the first and second varsity eights emerged victorious. Undefeated for the first time in over five years, the lightweights will head to Eastern Sprints and the IRA National Championships next to vie for its first ever national championship.
“We’re pretty used to being underdogs, so it feels pretty good to be the one that everyone’s chasing, with the targets on our backs,” said senior Emma Lukasiewicz, sixth seat of the lightweight first varsity eight. “Now that our expectations are higher, and we know that we’re capable of winning all of these races, we definitely put more pressure on ourselves, but I think we’re ready to rise to that challenge.”
The heavyweight crews also spent the weekend on their home river, taking on Northeastern and Yale on Saturday, followed by a bevy of Boston teams in the rescheduled Beanpot on Sunday. The first varsity eight lost a heartbreaker to the Bulldogs, who crossed the line just a second earlier, but the crew redeemed itself the next day with a convincing victory in the Beanpot.
The Radcliffe heavyweights ended their weekend on a high note, taking home a win in every race of the Beanpot on Sunday. The second varsity fours and third varsity eights began the racing, claiming six- and 14-second victories, respectively, over Boston College, Northeastern, Holy Cross, and Boston University.
The NCAA-qualifying races were next, in which the first varsity fours crossed the line 13 seconds ahead of BU. The first and second varsity eights displayed near identical results, with both boats besting Beanpot foes by about 14 seconds.
After taking down Yale and Northeastern in each of the earlier races on Saturday, the Radcliffe heavyweights sent their top boat to face the Bulldogs and Huskies. The crews got off to a clean start, but about 800 meters into the race, there was a collision of oars between the Black and White and Yale, which led to a protest of the results by Radcliffe.
“The Harvard-Radcliffe-Yale relationship dates way back to very early on, so it’s always a very exciting race, and Yale actually got quite a bit faster over the past week, so it was a really close race,” said senior Jess Mealia, sixth seat of the first varsity eight. “In rowing, when boats come into each other’s lanes, there’s often oar clashing. Yale was actually I think a little bit in our lane, but for some reason, the two boats converged for a few strokes in the race, which resulted in some oar clashing, and when things like that happen, the coxswain is allowed to protest the race, and we did that.”
The officials upheld the results, and the Bulldogs came away with the win, finishing the race in 6:20.3, ahead of the Black and White by under two seconds.
The second varsity fours started the racing on the day and finished with a commanding 11-second victory over its foes. The first varsity fours, rowing in one of the three NCAA-qualifying races, lined up next and won by three seconds.
The third varsity eights then took to the river and won by the largest margin of the day, 14 seconds. Continuing the winning streak was the second varsity eights, who rowed the 2000-meter course in 6:35.3 to cross the finish line six seconds ahead of Yale.
Displaying the blue and yellow of “Row for Boston” instead of the usual Black and White, the lightweight first varsity eights, unblemished all spring, pulled out a dominating open-water finish, rowing the course over 12 seconds faster than the Engineers.
“[MIT’s] a fast program that’s just getting faster and faster, which is really exciting to see,” Lukasiewicz said. “We had a really intense week of training, so it was nice to finish off that week with a good race before we head off towards Sprints, and a lot of this weekend was about our Row for Boston campaign, supporting the Boston Children’s Hospital, so it was really great to be out there with two really great Boston programs and wearing the same t-shirts to show our solidarity for our city.”
In the second varsity race that followed the contest between the top boats, Radcliffe displayed a similar result, with both the second and third varsity crews edging MIT’s second varsity boat by 20 and 10 seconds, respectively.
The novice fours represented the Black and White’s only loss on the day, as the Engineers bested Radcliffe’s novice ‘A’ boat by nearly 15 seconds, finishing the course in 8:17.5.
—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @linsamnity.