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Radcliffe Rowing Opens Fall Season at Head of the Housatonic

By Patrick J. Anderson, Crimson Staff Writer

The Radcliffe crew team kicked off its fall season with a respectable showing at the 22nd annual Head of the Housatonic race held in Shelton, CT. Last year, Radcliffe did not compete in this race; however, this year, all four legs of the men and women’s crew teams traveled down to race. This regatta provided the teams with its first opportunity to match up against some of its toughest opponents before facing them on the home field at the Head of the Charles Regatta.

“[The Head of the Housatonic] was a solid start to our team's year. It’s always great to get out there and race, especially in a field as wide as we faced this weekend,” senior captain Abigail Parker said. “The Housatonic is only the first of many races, so leading up to it we got a chance to get in sequential lineups for the first time.”

With entries in the pair, coxed four and eight events, multiple athletes got the chance to represented the Black and White twice rowing down the 4.2 km course. Parker raced in both the eight and the pair events.

“We created lineups based on current rankings and had very slight taper,” junior Sofia Donnecke, who won the pair event and raced in the eight, said. “Since this race isn't as important, we didn't want to disrupt our training too much so we basically trained right up to it.”

Throughout the day, the conditions were ideal for rowing—overcast, light breezes, and calm waters. In the women’s eight event, Radcliffe fielded seven boats, both lightweights and heavyweights. In this first event, three of Radcliffe’s crews finished in top ten positions with the varsity eight securing a fourth place finish in a time of 14:09 behind Brown and two Yale boats.

“In terms of results, when we look at how our [eight] boats stacked up against Brown and Yale, we can see that we need to gain some speed to beat these competitors when we see them in the future,” Parker said. “Over the next two weeks, we will definitely focus on building some more speed before the Head [of the Charles]. With one head race under our belt, each of us knows what we can work on, individually and with our boats, to improve our performance next time.”

In the women’s coxed four event, the Black and White had three of its six crews finish in the top five. The highest placing four locked up a third place finish with a time of 15:38 falling just short of Yale’s 15:24 and Northeastern’s 15:36.

Finally, in the pair event, a mere ten boat race, the Radcliffe made up seven of the entries. The Black and White pairs managed to gain the top seven places in this race with the winning pair of junior Sofia Donnecke and sophomore Rafaela Stalph finishing in a time of 16:20.

This race gave the team its first opportunity to gauge its training progress relative to its competitors. While the focus of the training is geared toward peaking during the spring racing season, the fall races can be an early indicator of how well the team is likely to perform.

However, as opposed to the mostly straight two-kilometer racing courses in the spring, the fall races feature variably long courses replete with tight turns and narrow segments. So, the results from the Head of the Housatonic need to be viewed in this light since they are heavily contingent on the coxswain’s steering and athletes’ raw endurance.

“I think our coaches have been doing a great job working towards longer term goals,” said Donnecke. “We will do more immediate Race preparation for head of the Charles but the entire year of training is always focused on where we need to be in the spring.”

—Staff writer Patrick J. Anderson can be reached at

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