Women's crew in season finale at Eastern Sprints
The season finale for the Big Green women's crew will come Sunday at the Eastern Sprints Championship on Lake Waramug in New Preston, Conn.
During the season, the league's coaches ranked the Big Green as high as fifth, which is a dramatic improvement over years past.
But the squad enters the weekend as the eighth seed in the varsity and second varsity event, after both boats lost to Cornell two weeks ago in Ithaca, N.Y. The third varsity four will also race at Sprints.
Coach Barb Kirch is pleased with the performance of her crews this spring and expects them to race well this weekend.
"I have so much confidence in all three boats," she said. "There's no question that people have done the work they needed to do and that they have the desire to win."
Indeed, the highlight of the season was the huge win over Radcliffe early in the season, the first since 1985.
The next week, the Big Green had a close race with Princeton, staying with the Tigers for most of the 2,000-meter course, only to watch Princeton increase the lead during the last 500 meters. The Tigers are the number-one seed at Sprints.
Boston University, seeded second, defeated the Big Green by open water the first week of the season but BU, the defending national champions, fell to number-two in the league after losing the University of Washington by a huge margin.
During the morning heats from which the first two finishers will qualify for the afternoon finals, the Big Green are in a race with BU, Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Mount Holyoke.
"They have a tough job ahead of them," Kirch said. "They can do it , but it's not going to be easy."
The Big Green have already defeated Penn during the regular season and have the chance to avenge their earlier loss to Cornell.
BU, shaken by its loss to Washington, will try to prove that it is still in contention for its third national title in a row and Sprints will be a stepping stone toward that goal.
The second varsity is in a heat with Rutgers, Radcliffe, Yale and Smith, and must also finish in the top-two to continue on toward the afternoon final.
"They've been working out with the first freshmen and improving their speed and their sprint," Kirch said. "The challenge and question is how they choose to put it together on race day."
The third varsity four will race Radcliffe, the University of Wisconsin and the Princeton "B" during the heats. The top three finishers will advance.
Kirch said she believes the fours race could go either way for the Big Green.
"They have to row well together to make it to the finals," she said. "They haven't had a consistent coxswain all spring but I believe in them as much as I believe in everyone else."
The Big Green are in a gradual turnaround of the women's crew program and this year may be the first time since the mid-1980s that the varsity boat makes it into the final.
"For a squad not as powerful as what we've had in the past, they're doing an excellent job," she said.