May 18, 2009
CHERRY HILL, N.J. - For the first time since becoming Division I in 2002 the MIT women's openweight crew fielded two varsity eights at the EAWRC Sprints on Sunday. Racing in a difficult crosswind, both the varsity eight and second varsity eight outperformed expectations and demonstrated the remarkable improvements that have taken place in only the second year of Holly Metcalf's tenure as head coach.
The morning heats presented very challenging conditions, with a strong wind from port and choppy water. The varsity eight lost its composure for the first time this season and was well off its normal pace, placing sixth in its heat and advancing to the third-level final. The second varsity eight handled the weather with more poise, and raced faster than its seed to cross the line ahead of Georgetown, but was still relegated to the third-level final by finishing fifth.
In the afternoon the weather calmed somewhat and the water became flatter, but the wind remained persistent. The second varsity eight had a blazing start in its final, and never settled from a blistering pace of 38 strokes per minute. The crew from Navy worked hard to establish control, but could never quite shake the Engineers, as both moved out over a length ahead of Rutgers, with Georgetown trailing by open water. In the end, both MIT and Rutgers sprinted back up on Navy, but their positions did not change. Final times were: Navy 7:13.3, MIT 7:15.8, Rutgers 7:17.2, and Georgetown 7:34.5. The gold, silver, and bronze went respectively to Brown, Radcliffe, and Yale in the grand final for the second varsity eight.
The varsity eight practiced last week in a different lineup to adjust for some last-minute injuries that cropped up, but still attacked its final with the hope of avenging its close loss to Boston College in the Beanpot two weeks ago. The rhythm never quite clicked just right, though, and most of the field was able to steadily work away. Even so, Tech pushed ahead of George Washington to defeat the Colonials by a greater margin than earlier in the season. Final times from the varsity eight third-level final were: Navy 6:51.5, Rutgers 6:56.2, Georgetown 6:57.4, BC 7:00.7, MIT 7:09.3, and GW 7:13.0. In the grand final the gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded to Yale, Radcliffe, and Princeton, respectively.
"Unfortunately, MIT has long had the dubious distinction of being the very last in the Eastern Sprints," said Metcalf. "While we have a lot of work to do in the coming years to be a more formidable Division I program, this year's squad has made the remarkable first step of becoming competitive with some of our league rivals. The second varsity eight was particularly impressive, surpassing even my own expectations with a truly amazing performance. I could not be happier for our seniors who have worked so long, and finally get to see the fruits of their labors. And for the freshmen, who represent the bulk of our program, the future looks very promising."
The first varsity eight will resume training after finals to compete abroad for the first time at the Women's Henley Regatta in England this coming June. Complete results from the Sprints can be found at www.row2k.com.