Yale Athletics

The Yale women’s crew team has launched into its 2017–18 with a pair of strong performances. It looks to build on last year’s impressive finish at the National Championships, in which the Bulldogs placed seventh. Last year’s result in the season finale was the team’s best since its sixth-place mark in 2010.

So far this year, the Elis have competed in two major competitions: the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational in Tennessee and Ivy-Big Ten Double Dual. The team made strong statements in both events, a clear indication of the team’s ability and aspirations. The Bulldogs have had 13 top-ten finishes in the last 16 years at nationals.

“Our season goals are the same as they are every year, to go as fast as we possibly can in every crew,” head coach Will Porter said. “It seems simple enough on the surface, but in reality, to get all 37 members of the team to perform at their absolute best on one day is a formidable challenge. We want to win the Ivy Championship, qualify for the NCAAs and finish as high as we can.”

The Bulldogs opened the season against strong foes at the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational. On the opening day’s morning session, the team faced off against national powerhouse Virginia, as well as Michigan State and Miami. The varsity eight came up just shy of first place, falling to Virginia by a narrow 2.262-second margin but finishing ahead of Michigan State and Miami. The second varsity eight won its race in an impressive fashion, finishing more than six seconds ahead of second-place Virginia. Michigan State and Miami finished in third and fourth place, respectively.

The varsity four came agonizingly close in their race, finishing less than a second behind winner Virginia, in what was the closest race of the morning. In the afternoon session, the crew raced against Michigan, Tennessee and Louisville. Yale’s varsity fours won their respective races, while the varsity eight and the second varsity eight each came second, both behind Michigan. On the second and last day of racing, the Bulldogs comfortably swept away all opposition. The crews won all five races against Wisconsin, Clemson and Tulsa. The second varsity four also completed a perfect opening weekend, capping off the trip to Tennessee in style.

The Elis then travelled to the Cooper River in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, for the Ivy-Big Ten Double Dual. An intense day of competition saw the varsity eight thrive. The team first beat a strong Ohio State crew in the morning, finishing three seconds in front. The afternoon featured an easy win against Michigan State by a margin of 11 seconds. The Buckeyes won against Yale’s second eight, however, as well as the Elis’ first and second varsity fours and the third varsity eight. Yale also swept Michigan State in the afternoon session to conclude a fierce day of racing and an intense opening two weeks into the season.

“I like the way we are racing so far, we are figuring it out on the racecourse,” Porter said. “We are getting better every time we take the track. This is a strong team, as soon as they realize it and start to use it they will go very fast.”

The crew is led by a strong group of seniors, including captain Amy Warner, Kate Flanders, Meg Galloway, Anna Heckler, Kate Horvat, Lily Lindsay, Alison Nordell, Julia Sesler and Marybeth Swords.

The team also welcomed 12 first years to the program, one fewer than last year’s crew. The new members joined the Bulldogs from as close as Massachusetts and as far as Australia. But regardless of background, all of the first years must adapt to the intense demands of collegiate competition and the lofty expectations of a year-in, year-out national contender.

“Our first-year students have had a bumpy transition as a class,” Porter said. “They are adjusting to the training load … slowly. They will figure it out. The thing is you only get four years of collegiate racing and you want to make the most of every year.”

The Bulldogs will next compete in an all-Ivy clash at Princeton on Saturday, which includes a session against Penn, Dartmouth and Columbia as well as a second meet with Cornell and Columbia.

The meet is a new event formed by the league this year with the goal of racing as many cups as possible in one day.

“The idea is to consolidate three weeks of league racing into one day and thus freeing us up to race outside competition,” Porter said. “It should be a great day. I am pumped to see it come together.”

Bill Gallagher | bill.gallagher@yale.edu