On Sunday afternoon, the Yale women’s crew varsity eights nailed down the Eastern Sprints title for the first time since the opening months of the Reagan administration. In the historic victory, the Bulldogs edged out Princeton in the decisive heat, claiming first place in the Varsity Grand Final, an NCAA tournament berth and the 2005 Ivy League title in one fell swoop.

The first varsity eight boat, one of four Yale boats rowing on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J. that day, struggled off the starting line. It stood in fourth place a quarter of the way through the 2,000-meter race, yet began to pick up their pace around the halfway point. The Elis outpaced the Tiger eight with 500 meters to go, and held on to win by almost three seconds over the Princetonians. Brown and Radcliffe rounded off the top four in the expectedly tight race.

Revenge was sweet for the Bulldogs, whose perfect season was abruptly ended with a close April 16 loss to the Tigers at home on the Housatonic River. Princeton headed to Camden undefeated and ranked first in the nation, but the defending Ivy League champions’ powerful piece, clocking in at 6:18.00, was not enough to cling to the title for another year. Yale’s 6:15.60 performance was a testament to a year’s worth of hard work and brought an Ivy title home to New Haven for the first time since 1981. The eight rowers in the first boat-Charlotte Taft, Jane Moore, Maria Stevens, Claire Norsetter, Amanda Kendrick, Christine Geiser, Joanna Hess and Rachel Jeffers, anchored by cox Jehan Budak-received First Team All-Ivy honors by virtue of their victory.

A berth to the NCAA Championships, held May 27-29 in Sacramento, Calif., was all but ensured with the varsity eight’s performance Sunday. The invitation was made official with an announcement from the NCAA Tuesday morning, when the Bulldogs learned that they would be joined on the West Coast by Ancient Eight foes Brown, Radcliffe, and Princeton, as well as 12 other teams from across the nation. This marks Yale’s fourth straight ticket-fifth overall-to the national showcase, as they come off a 2004 performance where they won an unprecedented silver medal in the event, second only to Brown.

Brown won its sixth straight team sprints title Sunday, but the depth of Yale’s secondary boats gave the Bulldogs a solid fourth place team finish. The second varsity eights and varsity four boats will join the All-Ivy first squad in Sacramento after chalking up impressive second-place performances this past weekend. The second varsity eight finished second in their heat to the Tigers, and the varsity fours were edged out by Brown in their Grand Final. The novice eights, the final boat competing for the Elis, claimed first place in their final race of the year.