Logging one final win on Saturday, the women’s crew team wrapped up its spring season with an unbeaten varsity eight boat — a remarkable finish that is a first for all of the current Bulldogs.
The No. 4 Elis faced No. 2 Brown and No. 10 Tennessee on the Housatonic River in a regatta that put more than one undefeated record on the line. The varsity eight rose to the challenge, capping the list of teams they have beaten this spring at an admirable 12. But the freshman eight boat, which also entered the race sans a single loss this season, couldn’t quite pull out a victory. In fact, this regatta was the season’s toughest for the Bulldogs — the varsity eight was the only boat to finish first, clocking in at a blazing 6:21.0, beating out the Bears by 2.3 seconds and the Lady Volunteers by almost 17.
Coxswain Emily Cleveland ’07 said that the Bulldogs got off to a solid start and led by five seats after the first 1,000 meters. But Brown came back to within one seat in the third 500 of the race, challenging the Elis right through the final sprint, during which Yale blew past Brown to take back the Nat and Anne Case Cup.
“My boat responded really well; they stayed calm,” Cleveland said, referring to Brown’s partial comeback. “It was a great way for the seniors — all four of us are in the varsity — to end our home racing careers.”
The brilliant sunshine and calm conditions helped make things run smoothly for the boat. But much of the credit is also due to stroke Rachel Jeffers ’07, whose skill and leadership in the varsity eight has contributed substantially to the crew’s fantastic record, five seat Jamie Redman ’08 said.
“Rachel Jeffers is a very talented stroke,” she said. “When we commit to rowing with her rhythm, the boat just flies.”
The second varsity eight also turned in a sub-seven-minute time, coming in at 6:31.9 — fewer than five seconds behind the victorious Bears, who finished at 6:27.0, but just over four seconds ahead of Tennessee, which pulled in at 6:36.0. The margins were even narrower in the varsity four ‘B’ race, in which the Elis clocked in at 7:23.9, only 2.5 seconds behind Brown.
The first varsity four had a tougher time in their race, ending with a time of 7:35.9 that, although good, was about 10 seconds behind Brown’s 7:25.8 and a bit less than eight seconds behind the Lady Volunteers. And the freshman eight took a heartbreaking loss — the squad’s first this year — to the Brown boat, finishing at 6:48.7 to the Bears’ 6:35.1.
“Saturday was a good learning experience,” Redman said. “It’s very valuable to row stroke-for-stroke with an equally talented crew. Saturday also showed that we can still work toward more speed in all our boats. But, given the work ethic of our team, I’m confident that we’ll make Yale Athletics proud.”
Although their regular season is now complete, the Bulldogs aren’t going to be putting down the oars just yet. In two weeks, they will face the other members of their league in the Eastern Sprints, going up against the likes of No. 16 Radcliffe, No. 7 Princeton, and, once again, Brown. Cleveland said the Sprints will determine whether or not the Elis head to the NCAA competition at the end of May. And though they’ve faced all these crews before, racing in a group of six boats instead of two or three will be a “whole different ballgame,” Redman said.
Head coach Will Porter said the team must regroup as it heads into the challenge of Sprints.
“We are getting closer to our true speed, but I think there were a few soft spots in our race Saturday that we can work on going into the Sprints,” he said. “In second and third varsity, we need to continue to look for a combination that will race to our athletic potential.”
Regardless of what happens at Sprints, the season has still been an incredible success thanks to the squad’s determination, said Christine Glandorf ’09, bow of the varsity eight.
“We are lucky to have a hardworking, dedicated and focused team across the board — not just in the varsity,” she said. “The main focus is to have fun and make your boats go fast, and we’ve been really lucky to have the opportunity to do both those things this season.”