The Heavyweight Season

The Heavyweight Season

Under the guidance of a dedicated coaching staff with a strong commitment from the Harvard Department of Athletics, Radcliffe crew has begun its fourth decade in the same place the program started: at the top.

Radcliffe’s heavyweight varsity — a full complement of up to 25-30 athletes — competes as a varsity eight, second varsity eight and varsity four. The varsity eight captured the 1987 and 1989 Eastern Sprints crown and has been a constant presence on the medal dock for the past decade. In fact, all of Radcliffe’s crews have found a regular place among the medal-winners at the Eastern Sprints.

At the 2009 Eastern Sprints, Radcliffe raced five varsity boats, and all five came away with medals. The varsity rowed to the silver, matching its best showing since winning the title in 2003. Radcliffe’s first eight also earned a silver medal in 2000 and took bronze in 2002.

Radcliffe enjoyed a storybook year in 2003, with success at every turn. A long winter that pushed well into spring made the season seem more compact than before, but that only intensified the success the team enjoyed. The squad posted a 10-1 mark in dual competition before beginning a run to the team titles at the Eastern Sprints and the NCAA Championships, capping the most memorable season ever for the Black and White.

Nationally, Radcliffe is among a handful of programs selected to compete in nearly all of the NCAA Championships since they were established in 1997. The 2012 selection to compete in Camden, N.J., marked Radcliffe’s 14th appearance in the 16-year history of the NCAA regatta. The varsity eight won the gold medal on the way to the 2003 NCAA team title and earned bronze in 2005. 

Radcliffe crew trains throughout the academic year, with two competitive seasons: fall head racing and spring sprint racing. The highlight of the fall is the Head Of The Charles Regatta, drawing over 300,000 spectators and more than 6,200 competitors from around the globe to the shores of the Charles River and the bridges surrounding Weld Boathouse for the world’s largest two-day rowing event. Other fall regattas include the Princeton Chase, the Belly of the Carnegie, the Stonehurst Regatta, the Dartmouth Invitational and the Foot of the Charles.

The winter season kicks off with the annual Weld-Newell Triathlon in December. On a daily basis, winter training includes ergometers, tanks and strength conditioning, developing the explosive power needed for spring racing. While Boston battles snow and ice in January, the team takes a training trip to Florida, generously supported by the Friends of Harvard-Radcliffe Rowing.

The heart of the spring racing season is a series of weekend dual and tri-regattas — primarily against Ivy League foes and various opponents from the 18-school Eastern Sprints league — but with an open invitation to other strong programs across the country to join us on the race course. In three years of the Charles River Challenge regatta, the Radcliffe heavyweights welcomed such opponents as Notre Dame, Southern California, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. In 2007, following a Boston tradition established by local hockey teams, Boston University, Boston College, MIT, Northeastern and Radcliffe raced for the inaugural Beanpot title.

The Radcliffe lightweights, meanwhile, have dual regattas against Georgetown, Princeton, MIT and Stanford. Regular-season racing for both squads concludes in mid-May at the Eastern Sprints regatta on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J.

In postseason competition, the heavyweights consistently earn an invitation to compete for a national title at the prestigious NCAA Championships at the end of May, while the lightweights travel to the IRA Regatta the first weekend of June for their national championship.