Women’s, lightweight crew impress over weekend

Last week, preseason polls predicted big things for the men’s lightweight and women’s crew teams.

Over the weekend, both squads showed signs of making good on those predictions in their first races of the spring season.

The men’s lightweight team swept four races from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Saturday to capture its 23rd straight Joy Cup and the inaugural home race at the new Gilder Boathouse. The lightweights, the reigning national champions, were picked first in the nation in USRowing’s Collegiate Coaches Poll and second to Columbia in the Independent Rowing News preseason college rankings.

The women’s crew first varsity boat — No. 6 in the Independent Rowing News preseason college rankings — beat Pennsylvania and Columbia, leading the squad to a win at the Connell Cup on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, also on Saturday.

“Preseason polls are not very credible. I don’t put a lot of weight in preseason polls,” said women’s coach Will Porter, adding it is still “an honor to be ranked that high.”

The performance of the women’s top boat this weekend may indicate that the Bulldogs are deserving of that ranking.

The Bulldogs’ first varsity boat downed their Quaker and Lion counterparts, posting a time of 5:55.5 on the 2000-meter course, beating Penn by eight seconds and Columbia by 10.

“We had a pretty fast start, took some seats at the very beginning, and they pretty much never caught us,” Megan Leitch ’02 said.

The Elis also won the second varsity eight race, but were less impressive in other contests. The team finished last in the first novice eight and both varsity four races.

“I don’t think there was more talent in the [opponents’] boats,” said Porter, commenting on Yale’s lackluster showing in the novice and four races. “The other crews were just much more intense.”

The team will need to summon all of its intensity Saturday when it heads to Ithaca, N.Y., to face stiffer competition in Cornell and Syracuse. The Orangemen are undefeated in three races this season.

“This is a Syracuse team with a lot of momentum,” Porter said. “I definitely think we are up to the task of racing against them.”

For the lightweight crew, the victory over MIT came as no surprise. In the 27-year history of the Joy Cup, MIT has managed only three victories, its last one coming during the Carter administration.

The Elis swept all four races on a roaring Housatonic River. The heavy rains of last week had the river running rapidly and, when combined with a tailwind, made for a very fast race, captain Andrew Morley ’01 said.

The times the boats posted reflected the fast conditions, with the Elis’ first varsity eight rowing the 2000-meter race in 5:27.2, besting its Engineer counterpart by more than 14 seconds.

“It was important to get our first race under our belt,” Morley said. “We are definitely working on the basics — it’s still early in the season.”

The Bulldogs will head to southern California next weekend to take part in the San Diego Crew Classic, where they will seek to win their fifth-straight Secretary of the Navy Cup, awarded to the top varsity lightweight eight.

The lightweight crew began defending its national title this weekend, opening the spring season with a victory over MIT in the Joy Cup. The race was the first one hosted at the new $7.5 million Gilder Boathouse.
STEPHEN MILBANK
The lightweight crew began defending its national title this weekend, opening the spring season with a victory over MIT in the Joy Cup. The race was the first one hosted at the new $7.5 million Gilder Boathouse.

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