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Women's Crew Rows to Third NEW-8 Title

Jonathan Li--The Tech
Coxswain Tom Lee is thrown into the Charles River by his crew after their victory in varsity in the varsity fours race at the New England Women's 8 regatta.

By Andrea Jensen, Nicole Weymouth, and Sarah Vitek
Team Members

For the third year in a row, the women's crew teams rowed their way to victory in the New England Women's Eight Conference Regatta, claiming the championship and the Florence Jope Smith points trophy. MIT decisively won the Varsity Eight, JV8, Varsity Four, and First Novice Eight events against the three other New 8 schools with rowing programs - Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges. This win allows MIT to house the New 8 and Smith Cup traveling trophies for the third consecutive year in the fourth year of the regatta's existence.

The first boat to post a win for the day was the Varsity Eight. For the first time all season, they were ahead of the pack right off the start, and held their position down the entire course. At the halfway point, MIT had a boat length on both Mt. Holyoke and Wellesley, and plenty of open water on Smith.

Although they never broke from the pack, MIT rowers held a significant lead during the last half of the race. That lead was helped by a boat-stopping overhead crab in the Wellesley boat in the last 300 meters. MIT's coxswain Sherry Hsiung '95 used that circumstance to her boat's advantage, driving it on to cross the finish line 5 seconds, or nearly a boat length, ahead of the Wellesley crew.

Junior Varsity also rowed an aggressive race, ending in victory over Wellesley and Mt. Holyoke. Windy conditions delayed the start and prevented the boats from getting aligned at the start of the race, forcing the starter to call the three boats back behind the starting line after the first try.

The MIT boat stayed relaxed and pulled ahead of the competition right off the start, but sat on the lead for the first messy 1000 meters of the race. Once past the halfway point under the Massachusetts Avenue bridge, however, all eight oarsmen pulled it together and cleaned up their strokes.

Mt. Holyoke attempted to move on the MIT boat more than once, but each time MIT countered them with more power. Everyone agreed coxswain Shruti Sehra '96 called an awesome race, not allowing the boat to ease up for a second. With 500 meters to go at the boathouse the cheers of "Go Tech Go!" and Holyoke's infamous cow bell motivated the women to finish things off right with a strong sprint that gave them open water between their stern and the second place team's bow.

MIT defeats Smith

The final varsity event was a fours race between MIT and Smith. Despite the ever-present strong headwind and choppy water of the Charles, the MIT Women's Varsity Four - Diane Hodges '95, Charla Lambert '96, Shelly Sakiyama '96, and Sarah Vitek '95, with Tom Lee '97 as coxswain - blew away their opponents.

As the conditions on the river worsened into the early afternoon, the weather was a bit unpleasant at the starting line for the noon event. However, MIT overcame the conditions and steadily pulled away from the Smith four to win the race by over 30 seconds.

Although this race did not contribute any points to MIT's tally for the Smith Cup, it did help to boost the spirit and confidence of MIT's varsity crews by demonstrating the depth of ability on the team.

The First Novice Eight proudly posted their first win of the season against the three crews. When their boat passed by MIT's boat house, located at the 1500 meter mark on the 2000m course, they had open water between them and the rest of the pack, and held on to that lead as they raced down the last 500 meters. The Second Novice Eight came in second in their event, but still claimed two points towards the overall team score that allowed MIT to win the Smith Cup.

All crews will be meeting Wellesley again next week, along with Columbia University and Simmons College in MIT's last competition before the New England Championships on May 6.