Women’s crew sweeps Radcliffe, men’s crew falls to No. 1 Washington

Huskies stage East Coast takeover, outrace all Brown boats amidst large cheering section

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, April 6, 2015

The defending national champion Washington Huskies commanded a significant lead in the varsity eight race. Though the Bears closed the gap, Washington managed to win by over a full boat length.

With the banks of the Seekonk lined with throngs of spectators and eager fans, the men’s crew team contested 2014 Intercollegiate Rowing Association national champion Washington in a formidable challenge Saturday morning in Providence. The Bears lost all three races to the Huskies despite solid efforts. On Friday, the women’s team saw the opposite results against Radcliffe, winning each race comfortably.

Co-captain Walker Mills ’15, who rowed in the junior varsity boat, said it was really exciting to have the top-ranked Huskies in Bruno’s home territory.

“We’ve been out (to Washington) the last three years, and we consider it a big sign of respect that they came out here to race us,” Mills said. “They’re the best team in the country right now, so it’s a big deal if they want to come all the way out here to race us.”

The freshmen were first up with an 8:20 a.m. start. Washington was swift off the line and had gained a two-second lead 500 meters into the race. The Huskies beat the Bears by over a full boat length, winning 5:46 to 5:52.

The JV competition pitted Brown’s second and third varsity eights against Washington’s junior varsity. Though the Bears had a better start, Washington cruised to victory seven seconds ahead of Bruno’s second varsity and 24 seconds ahead of the third varsity, which finished in 5:48 and 6:04 respectively.

In the highly anticipated varsity eight race, the two boats were practically even for the first quarter mile, but the Huskies took a commanding lead by the 1500-meter mark, gaining almost a full length. The Bears gained ground in the final 500 but still fell four seconds short to Washington’s 5:33.

“Washington was able to pull out a few seats in front off the line, taking some really strong strokes and getting up on us,” said Neil McKenzie ’17, coxswain of the varsity eight boat. “As the race progressed, we were able to settle into our race rhythm, which we had worked on a lot this week and get those seats back. … Unfortunately for us, Washington was very strong in the middle of the race and was able to pull out a margin that was too much for us to respond to.”

Despite falling short in each of the three races, Mills said the Bears took away important lessons that will help prepare them for the rest of the season.

“The biggest takeaway is seeing what national championship speed looks like,” he said. “If we don’t seek out opportunities to race UW or other top-tier crews, we run the risk of showing up to the national championships in June unprepared for the competition there. This way we can race them in April and then go back to training knowing the kind of speed we need to have to win a national championship.”

“Unfortunately, we were on the wrong end of a sweep, and that’s always going to have a bitter taste. But we’ll see those guys again in June and we’ll be better prepared than if we hadn’t raced them in April.”

Mills was excited by the spectator support at the race. “Our coach said he thought it was the best turnout for a crew race since the 1950s.”

The men will compete in the annual Stein Cup battle at Harvard on April 11.

The women’s crew swept Radcliffe Friday evening, outpacing the Black and White by solid margins in each race. The Radcliffe season opener was originally scheduled to take place on the Charles River in Cambridge, but icy conditions brought the races to Providence, where the Bears raced on the Seekonk River.

With the men’s team and friends looking on, the women beat Radcliffe for the seventh straight year.

“All of the races went really well,” said women’s co-captain  Rachel Gottlieb ’15. “It is exciting to have every boat win its event, especially against other teams in our league. Everyone handled the uncertainty of this race well. We didn’t know when or where the race would be as we got close to it.”

The top varsity eight finished in 6:35, over seven seconds ahead of Radcliffe’s 6:42. Co-captain Katie McKeen ’15 said the boat ran closely alongside Radcliffe until about the 1000-meter mark, “then began to break away and gain open water,” she said. “It was great to execute a solid second half of the race.”

The second varsity eight had an even greater margin of victory, 6:48 to 7:06. “As their (18)-second margin shows, the JV 8 charged away from the starting line and dominated their race,” she said of the notable lead the boat managed to gain.

Brown’s A varsity four finished with a comfortable five-second lead in 7:53, and the B varsity four dominated in 7:46 to Radcliffe’s 8:09 B varsity four and 8:36 C varsity four.

“This weekend reminded us that every team is fit and determined to win,” McKeen said. “The teams we are racing early in the season will definitely get faster as they get more water time, and knowing that motivates us to work harder,” she added.

With the race at home, Gottlieb said the women benefited from fair weather conditions — flat water and low winds — as well as the men’s team’s support. “The men’s team was able to cheer us on from Narragansett Boat Club, and we could hear them from the starting line,” she said.

The women will race some stiff competition next weekend, including Stanford University and several other West Coast teams, at the Lake Natoma Invitational in Gold River, California. “The race results across the country have been really interesting over the past two weeks, so it will be fun to race these West Coast crews to see where we are,” Gottlieb said.


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