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Women’s Lightweights Defeat Radcliffe to Take First at Foot

First Boat Pulls Off Split Second Win After Difficult Season

By Megan L. Galbraith

The MIT women’s lightweight crew ended its fall season by finishing first in the lightweight eight competition at the Foot of the Charles regatta Saturday. In a race against Radcliffe College and Boston College, MIT took a 0.7 second lead, just enough to push past one of the top collegiate crews and lead them to their victory.

Beating Radcliffe was no small feat for these women. Last year at Eastern Sprints, the Radcliffe lightweights placed third overall, a mere 6.3 seconds out of first place.

Unseasonably beautiful weather set the stage for the two and a half mile race up stream from the MIT boathouse to the Harvard boathouse. Although the beginning of the season proved to be a frustrating one for this crew, Julie H. Wyatt ’01 (coxswain), Lisabeth L. Willey ’02 (stroke), Katherine E. Koch ’00, Lindsay R. Price ’03, Michelle A. Duvall ’03, Megan L. Galbraith ’01, Sarah K. Yenson ’03, Jennifer M. Elfalan ’01, and Julie E. Zeskind ’01 (bow) were mentally relaxed and unquestionably focused for this race and the rowers pulled one of their strongest races. A beautifully steered course by coxswain Wyatt coupled by a fortunate starting position between the two opposing crews gave MIT just the edge they needed to win. Their overall race time was 15:28.7, while Radcliffe came in at 15:29.4 and Boston College followed with a time of 15:57.3.

Win comes after frustrating season

The beginning of this season was not exactly ideal for the lightweights, battling what had jokingly become known as “the lightweight curse” ever since two injured rowers caused MIT to abandon its 1998-99 lightweight season. Several experienced rowers within this year’s freshman class, as well as new additions from last year’s novice squad, gave coach Susan Lindholm enough hope to put together a new lightweight eight.

Filling a boat does not automatically make a season easy, however. The crew had to persevere through several unfortunate mishaps before their victory this weekend. Their first race of the season ended quickly -- an abrupt encounter with a submerged rock at the start knocked off the boat’s skeg and ruined all hopes of steering a straight course for the race.

Then, a week before the Head of the Charles regatta, the lightweight curse struck again. One rower injured her left shoulder, and another broke a toe. The crew raced anyway and fought a strong battle in the regatta, until their oars clashed with a passing crew at the Anderson Bridge. This caused an MIT rower’s oar to get swept under the water and anchor the boat down. They finished the race, but their time was considerably slower that it should have been.

The Foot of the Charles was the last chance for the lightweights to come through before moving inside for winter training, and the women wouldn’t take no for an answer.

MIT had two other varsity boats racing in the open eights competition this weekend. They placed 17th and 21st, out of 24. Although they did not finish as well as hoped, both boats raced strongly and consistently, improving their times from the Head of the Charles two weeks ago.