National Champions! Radcliffe Lightweight Crew Wins Gold at IRA Championships

Photo courtesy of Zack Williamson
Photo courtesy of Zack Williamson

The Black and White varsity eight used a strong final push to overtake Stanford and win its first national championship since 1997.

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. – Down seven seats with 500 meters to go, Harvard-Radcliffe lightweight crew varsity eight kicked into another gear, overtaking Stanford and Bucknell to win the 2014 IRA National Championships Sunday afternoon at Mercer Lake.

"What a finish to an incredible season! This boat of women is extraordinary," said head coach Lou Berl. "They have more heart and drive than I could have asked for. It's been a phenomenal year. We have worked hard. We knew today was going to be a barnburner and that we'd have to come from behind, but I didn't know it would be that dramatic of a finish! I'll take it! Kudos to the coxswain, Erin Driscoll, for believing in it until the final stroke - we were down almost a length.

"I send out congratulations and applause to all the lightweight women's programs," Berl continued. "It may be a small field, but the competition is fierce." 

The national championship is the sixth overall for Radcliffe lights and first since 1997. The Black and White head back to Cambridge with the Camden County Freeholders Cup. 

In an incredible finish where all three crews were within one second of each other, Radcliffe crossed in 6:41.592. Stanford earned silver with a time of 6:42.278, as Bucknell finished third (6:42.584).  

Stanford came out to an early lead, as Radcliffe and Bucknell battled back and forth for a footing in second. At the 1250m mark, the Cardinal owned nearly a full length lead of the Black and White, stroked by Naomi Lang and coxed by Erin Driscoll. Radcliffe started to mount a comeback, narrowing the deficit to seven seats with 500 meters to race. Pulling together, Radcliffe registered a furious comeback to overtake Stanford by a foot just as the crews crossed the finish line.

The Black and White four registered a strong race in the grand final for a fourth-place finish after advancing to the grand final with a second-place showing in its heat yesterday. Radcliffe stopped the clock at 7:38.945, as Wisconsin, Stanford and Fordham rounded out the top three.

The varsity four came out strong, but the top-three crews distanced themselves by the halfway mark. A strong push by the Black and White put open water between the fifth-place finisher, BU.  

First Varsity
Coxswain: Erin Driscoll; Stroke: Naomi Lang; 7: Adelaide Backer; 6: Elizabeth Pate; 5:Gabrielle McNeill; 4: Claire Harmange; 3: Katherine Mallett; 2: Elizabeth Lenczowski; Bow:Olivia Henry

Varsity Four
Coxswain: Gabriella Guigliano; 4: Andrea Linares; 3: Serena Blacklow; 2: Elizabeth MacEachern; Bow: Taylor Garden