In its first race of the year, the Yale women’s crew team swept away the competition.

The Elis rowed in the Head of the Housatonic Regatta Saturday, winning all three events hosted by the New Haven Rowing Club in Derby. Yale finished first in the open eight, open pair and novice eight events. Other teams included Northeastern, Sacred Heart, Holy Cross and Amherst.

Although this regatta has not proved overly cutthroat in the past, teams like Northeastern added to the competition. The Huskies are members of the Eastern Sprints League — the fastest in the nation.

“The Head of the Housatonic has changed over the past couple years,” rower Meredith Garagiola ’05 said. “[The opponents] used to be smaller schools, but Northeastern is trying to be competitive in our region.”

Women’s crew head coach William Porter felt the first-place finish not only revealed the Bulldogs’ talent but also that Ivy League schools can undoubtedly compete and defeat such programs like Northeastern.

“I have great respect for the teams in our league and any time we face an [Ivy] opponent we know there will be a real challenge,” he said. “I do not think the Ivy League gets the respect we deserve. We are racing universities with 20 full ride scholarships, $250,000 travel budgets, three full-time coaches, with less than difficult admission standards and people somehow think we have an advantage!”

But the Bulldogs did not let these fiscal and personnel disadvantages get the better of them on Saturday.

The Bulldogs won the open eight event with a time of 14:29. Northeastern finished a distant second at 14:57. The open four took first in 16:54, while the open pair Eli teams battled each other to capture first and second places. The A boat finished in 18:26 while the B boat finished a second later.

“I was pleased with the effort made by the entire team,” Porter said. “This is a new year and a new team; we are no longer second in the nation — that was last year. We are currently unranked like every other team [nationally]; we are just trying to find our sense of team and begin to make a mark.”

The Head of the Housatonic is the Bulldogs’ first opportunity to race each year and provides a chance to gain valuable rowing experience.

Nearly every varsity rower was able to race twice on Saturday, allowing for extra practice.

“The team raced well on Saturday,” captain Dinah Dimalanta ’05 said. “It is very early and we have a lot of work ahead of us to reach the speed we are looking for, but Saturday was a good start to our fall racing season.”

While pleased with this weekend’s results, Garagiola now sees the Head of the Charles as the next big step in the season.

“We’re focused on the Head of the Charles,” she said. “There are a lot of expectations, but we’re trying to be focused.”

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