Women’s crew dominates at ECACs

On Sunday, women’s crew faced off in its second weekend of championship races, competing against schools from across the East at ECACs. Williams raced four women’s boats and won gold in all four races, capturing the women’s points trophy and its sixth consecutive ECAC title.
Sunday was sunny and breezy at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass., as the women prepared for the races. In the first half of the day, all four boats competed in qualifying heats. Seeded first in all four races, the four Williams boats ended up in lane one for the heats and, as a result, the women had to face swirling cross winds. Despite this potential disadvantage, all four boats finished first in their respective heats and advanced to the finals.

The third varsity eight was the first Williams boat to take the line in the afternoon finals. Coming off the start down to the Trinity and Wellesley crews, the 3V stuck with the field and, at the 400-meter mark, took a decisive move to take the lead. Wellesley managed to stick with Williams down the course, but Williams called an early sprint and in doing so managed to hold its lead, finishing first in 7:21.0. Reflecting on the race, coxswain Liz Zhou ‘11 said, “The crew’s commitment to each other allowed us to power aggressively through the constantly shifting crosshead wind. Wellesley put up a superb fight, but we were able to control the race throughout. We truly raced to see who had the most guts today.” This gold-medal performance was the last race of the year for the third varsity eight and for the boat’s two seniors, Mara Shapero ’11 and Zhou. It could be the pair’s last collegiate race, depending upon seating in the women’s 1V and 2V boats in the final races of the season.

The novice eight was the next boat to race in the afternoon’s grand finals. Coming off the line in possibly its best start of the season, the novice boat powered down the course, controlling the race from start to finish. Crossing the line with open water over second-place Trinity, the novice crew placed first and posted a time of 7:01.7. “We started even with Trinity and took advantage of the speed we gained this week to walk away to open water,” Julia May ’14 said. With its impressive performance this weekend, the novice boat, consisting of eight rookies and one sophomore, finished out the season undefeated.

Following the strong performances by the 3V and novice boats, the second varsity boat was looking to continue the trend. After a solid start, the 2V was a seat down on Bates, but after executing several moves early on, Williams was able to gain the lead and by the 1000-meter mark had open water on the field. The women finished in a time of 6:46.0. “We had an excellent race – our best yet,” 2V coxswain Fiona Wilkes ’12 said. “We can’t wait to see how we fare against the country’s fastest 1Vs in Sacramento at the NCAAs.” The second varsity eight will go on to compete in NCAAs later this month.

The first varsity eight finished out the racing day for the women in its usual dominant style. The women came of the start strong and managed to lead the field from beginning to end. They finished first with a time of 6:45.0, five seconds ahead of second-place Bates. “Our final was a strong race that allowed us to line up with a very fast field that will likely be very similar to who we race in California for NCAAs,” 1V coxswain Becca Licht ’11 said. “Bates pushed us as they continue to do, and we took seats on them, finally breaking contact with a strong move at the 1000 meter. The crews that filled in behind us continue to work hard and get faster week to week, and we are happy to take the automatic qualifying spot for Nationals, but [we] take nothing for granted and will work to get faster in the next two weeks.”

The first varsity eight and the second varsity eight will attend NCAAs on May 27-28 in Sacramento, Calif. The boats will look to defend their five consecutive national titles.

“This weekend was a great success for our team,” Head Coach Brad Hemmerly said. “As we turn our sights to the NCAA championships, which is in less than three weeks, we look to be in a good position. Although there will be a lot of stresses placed on the team in the next few weeks, it is great to know that as a group we are willing to withstand that pressure and to support one another as we pursue our final goal of the season.”

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