WORCESTER, MA - Women's crew wrapped up its regular season Friday on Lake Quinsigamond at the National Invitational Rowing Championship. Highlights of the day included second-place finishes for the 1V and 2V, a win for the 3V, and fourth place finish for the 4V which competed side-by-side in the 3V event. Each crew crossed the line in a hard-fought sprint, causing several photo finishes. In sharp contrast to the previous weekend at the New England Rowing Championships, a low tailwind and minimal drizzle were welcome conditions for racing.
Racing in the same heat, the 3V and 4V were first to the line in the morning alongside Wellesley, Wesleyan, and Colby. The top three boats from each heat would advance to the afternoon Grand Final, and each crew was hungry for a race after their finals were cancelled the previous weekend due to extreme weather conditions. The 3V leapt off the start and quickly established a lead on the field while the 4V traded seats with Wellesley and Wesleyan. By the 1500m-mark, the 3V cruised to open water on second-place Wellesley while the 4V continued to battle with third-place Wesleyan. Shortly thereafter, Wesleyan experienced a steering malfunction and was forced to drop out of the race, resulting in a DNF. Unfazed, the 4V extended its lead on Colby and pressured Wellesley, maintaining contact and trading seats in the second thousand. The 3V crossed the line first in 6:58.09 with a boat-length of open water on second place Wellesley. The 4V finished close behind the Blue in 7:08.87, separated by only .3 seconds.
The 2V raced next, lining up with perennial rival Bates, as well as Tufts, St. Lawrence, and Hamilton. Bates and Williams led the race from start to finish and stepped out to a large gap on third-place St. Lawrence by the 1500m-mark. Around the 1000m-mark, Bates took a move and gained half a length on the Ephs. The two boats held their margin in the last 500m with a 2-length lead on the rest of the field, crossing the line in 6:49.25 for the Bobcats and 6:53.30 for the Ephs. Both boats advanced to the afternoon Grand Final.
Closing out the morning heats, the 1V faced off against Trinity, Ithaca, WPI, Hamilton, and Mt. Holyoke. Ithaca and Williams led from the start of the race, with the Ephs about a deck ahead of Ithaca. By the 1500m-mark, both teams were a length up on the rest of the field and continued to break away. In the second thousand, Ithaca surged and moved on Williams, with the Ephs responding in kind. Both boats sprinted hard and crossed the line locked in a photo-finish, with Ithaca edging out Williams by .02 seconds. Ithaca posted a time of 6:39.85 to Williams' 6:39.87. The crews would face each other again in the Grand Final.
After a short break, the 3V and 4V again kicked off the action in the afternoon races. Both boats drew confidence from outnumbering every other team in their race and putting two purple crews on the start line together. Once again, the 3V jumped out to an early lead, closely pursued by Bates, Wellesley, and the Williams 4V. From the 1500m-mark to the 1000m-mark, the Williams 3V led second-place Bates with about 1-2 seats of open water, while the 4V traded seats with third-place Wellesley. With 700m to go, Bates began to move on the 3V, closing the open water lead and inching forward. Though the two boats went stroke for stroke in the last 500m, the Ephs crossed the line first in 6:53.09 with Bates .3 seconds behind. Third-place Wellesley finished in 7:05.37, only 3 seconds ahead of the 4V, who edged out WPI by less than a second.
Seniors Molly Burroughs, Sarah Cooperman, and Becca Dunwoody, junior Emily Saulnier, sophomore Kate Latimore, and first-years Annabelle Feist, Masa Peterson, Tiffany Tien, and Fiona Yonkman successfully defended the 3V Championship title.
"I couldn't imagine a better way to end the season," five-seat Cooperman said. "I felt the energy of all nine athletes coming together right from our first stroke. Our race was a total barn burner, and I was inspired to be sharing a boat with such powerful women the whole way down the course."
In spite of barely missing the podium, the 4V, composed of juniors Ria Hanson, Abi Matthew, Grace McCabe, sophomores Grace Chamberlin, Annie Cuellar-Parajon, and Harper Johnson, and first-years Jojo Ferndandez, Morgan Whaley, and Sarah Yang, had plenty to celebrate after topping several teams' 3V crews.
"We were definitely the underdogs rowing as a 4V in a 3V event, and it was amazing that we didn't use that as an excuse for a second," two-seat Chamberlin said. "Looking across the lane lines and seeing my own teammates was also a great way to start the race. I knew we'd be pulling for each other."
As the tailwind dwindled, the action heated up for the 2V. The Ephs lined up for the second time with Bates, and with Ithaca, Wellesley, WPI, and Wesleyan. Ready for a rematch after the morning heat, the women went straight to the lead with Bates and held that position for the first 1000m. Around the halfway point, Bates took a move and walked to the lead, while Williams and Wellesley began to battle around the 700m-mark. Williams clung to a 2-seat lead on the Blue, and while the women traded inches with Wellesley, they never relinquished that edge. Bates won the race in 6:41.34, with Williams in second at 6:47.98 and Wellesley a close third in 6:48.48.
Seniors Emory Strawn and Katie Swoap, sophomores Mikhayla Armstrong, Caroline Kessler, Josie Maynard, Julia Mini, Ava Palmo, and Annie Rush, and first-year Stephanie Brown were proud to improve on their fifth-place finish the previous weekend.
"I think we had a really brave race," bow seat Kessler said. "We took a big move early on and pushed the pace which allowed us to position ourselves well going tinto the second thousand. We worked together and got it done."
In the last race of the day, the 1V lined up against Wellesley, Ithaca, Bates, Tufts, and Wesleyan. All six crews were fast off the start, with Ithaca and Bates leading the field. However, the Ephs refused to be counted out of the race. The women worked steadily through the first thousand to move through Wellesley, Tufts, and Wesleyan to hold a solid third place by the 1000m-mark. With a powerful sprint starting around 500m to go, the Ephs closed Ithaca's and Bates' three-seat lead and all three boats crossed the line within a second of each other. Bates took first in 6:45.42, Williams second in 6:45.82, and Ithaca third in 6:46.16.
All nine women, including senior Gabby Markel, juniors Louisa Abel, Clara Beery, Bertie Miller, and Rebecca Smith, sophomores Emily Burch, Diana Matthiessen and Eileen Russell, and first-year Maddy Boutet worked together to find another gear.
"Friday's final was one of the most fun races I have ever been in," six-seat Eileen Russell said. "We came off a mediocre start to find all six boats fighting for seats. We didn't let that fluster us and followed our plan to move with patient aggression. With 500 meters to go, we began to sprint against Ithaca and Bates. We found a new gear then, and broke into them. We are incredibly proud of how we finished our regular season racing, and I think this weekend gives us a solid platform to step from in the next few weeks."
The women now wait for the NCAA Selection Show with their eyes on sending two crews to the NCAA Championships May 26-28 on Lake Mercer in New Jersey.
Results courtesy of Quinsigamond Rowing Association.