After nine straight Yale victories, the women’s crew lost the Cayuga Cup to the Big Red on Saturday at the Housatonic river, ending a decade-long streak.
During the race for the Cayuga Cup last year, Yale’s first varsity boat hit a bridge but still pulled off a victory with a 2.5-second margin. This time it fared worse, finishing four seconds behind Cornell. Nonetheless, Yale won its three other races, with the third varsity demolishing its competition by 11 seconds.
“Cornell beat us in the 1v, they were faster than us, they were excited to be in the race in the last 500 while we were disappointed with our effort at that point,” said head coach William Porter.
Cornell took an early lead in the first varsity race and held on to finish in 6:14.5, followed by the Bulldogs, who finished in 6:17.9, and Syracuse, in 6:39.5.
Porter said that Cornell’s rowing program should have been selected for the NCAA Championships last spring, but the selectors snubbed them. He described their team’s mentality as “hungry.” At the NCAAs in California last spring, Yale’s first varsity boat placed first, while the team was sixth overall.
“I think this weekend was really important for our team,” Captain Caroline Nash ’11 said. “Obviously we did not perform to the level we had hoped we would. Cornell raced very well and were a formidable opponent, and, in the varsity, the better crew that day.”
Both Porter and Nash were optimistic that the team can learn from Saturday’s defeat. Nash said that losses can benefit the team by teaching the mental toughness necessary to race with “real speed.”
Last week Porter spoke about his team’s immaturity, and his hopes for them to mature over the season. This week he said they had found some maturity after the loss.
“This is what I talked about last week. We are young and need to live through experiences like this,” Porter said. “It can be good to get knocked down; it makes you feel alive.”
Nash said that although she was disappointed to lose the Cayuga Cup, the performance of the rest of the team was heartening. The second and third varsity, as well as the varsity four, all won their races.
Eliza Hastings ’13, the stroke of the second varsity, described the race as a great learning experience.
“We know we can go faster and can’t wait for this weekend to take the next step in finding more speed,” Hastings said. “It has been said that our boat is young, but I don’t think that has hurt us in any way.”
The second varsity boat started with a lead because of the staggered starting positions, and held it throughout the race. In the end, they finished 1.5 seconds ahead of Cornell.
Porter said the weekend highlighted the physical and mental struggle of Division I athletics. The ability to learn through hard work is why the Ivy League still has a Division I athletics program, he said.
“You can’t get this stuff in a classroom,” Porter said.
He added that the team was not yet fast enough, but that he thought it could get to nationally competitive speeds by the end of the season.
Nash said she hoped that the loss would help the varsity boat reevaluate and improve. She said that while winning is fun and is a nice reward for hard work, losses are more valuable because the team learns more from them.
“I think we will look back on this weekend, as a team, and be grateful it turned out the way it did,” Nash said.