Early-riser Elis win on Charles

The women’s crew team woke up, warmed up, lined up and wound up on Saturday with a slew of first- and second-place finishes — all before most of the Yale community even had to think about hitting the snooze button.

The No. 4 Bulldogs successfully defended their claim to the Class of 1985 Cup in Boston this weekend, defeating No. 11 Minnesota, Dartmouth and host Boston University and retaining the prize for another year. The races began as early as 6:30 a.m. because of the likelihood of powerful headwinds later in the day, meaning the Elis had to brave pre-sunrise, below-freezing temperatures on the two-kilometer Charles River course. But that might have turned out to work in the Bulldogs’ favor, Tess Gerrand ’10 said.

“The cold weather in the morning turned out to be a non-issue for us,” she said. “And it was an advantage over our competitors because of all the cold-weather training we did over spring break.”

Gerrand, who rows in the seven seat for the varsity eight, was a member of one of Yale’s two first-place boats in Saturday’s regatta. The race was one of the varsity eight’s closest this spring — they came in at 6:52.35, just five seconds ahead of second-place Minnesota and seven ahead of Dartmouth. But the victory, however narrow, was all that was needed to secure the Cup and to continue the spring undefeated streak for the top boat.

The other first-place finish came from the freshman eight, who cruised across the finish line at a comfortable 7:18.63, almost 11 seconds ahead of Dartmouth and a staggering 31 seconds before the struggling Terriers. The victory means that they, too, remain undefeated for the spring season.

But the other boats didn’t finish at the top of the heap this time around. The second varsity eight rowed a respectable 7:06.13, but that wasn’t enough to propel them past the Golden Gophers, who took first with a time of 7:01.77. The varsity four also fell to Minnesota, coming in at 8:04.28 — only six seconds behind. The varsity four ‘B’ took the hardest Bulldog loss of the day, finishing at 8:40.29 to Boston’s 8:20.79.

“We knew Minnesota would have great depth in the lower boats, as all the Big Ten schools do,” head coach Will Porter said. “Our varsity eight showed that we can compete at the top end ­— we just need to do a better job in our lower boats, and we will. Yesterday was the beginning of us getting faster in the 2V and 3V.”

This weekend, the Elis will host their first home regatta of the spring against last year’s national champions, the Princeton Tigers. Based on recent records, these races could go either way: the Tigers beat out the Bulldogs at October’s Head of the Charles regatta, but the very next week the Elis finished ahead of their New Jersey foes in the Princeton Chase.

Princeton is currently ranked sixth in the USRowing polls, two slots behind the Bulldogs, who moved up a spot from last week’s fifth place. The Tigers are coming off a solid second-place finish in the Class of 1975 Cup race at Cornell. But the Bulldogs said they are not feeling threatened by Princeton’s impressive spring performance — or by its standings last year. To them, it’s just another race, varsity eight coxswain Emily Cleveland ’07 said.

“As far as next weekend is concerned, we’re looking to go out and row our racecourse the same way we always do — just a little Yale rowing, regardless of who’s next to us,” she said. “We’re all excited about our first home race, particularly because it means having lots of family and friends there to watch us.”

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