For the fourth year in a row, the Stanford women’s lightweight crew I Eight reigned victorious at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championships.
“To be completely honest, I barely remember the 20 minutes after the race ended,” said sophomore Mackenzie Crist. “It was hard to process what had just happened, but we were all unbelievably excited. It still hasn’t sunk in, but I definitely smile every time I think about our race.”
The Cardinal’s biggest competition going into the IRAs was Harvard-Radcliffe—a team that went undefeated during the regular season and held the No. 1 seed going into the weekend. Earlier in the season, then-No. 2 Harvard-Radcliffe beat then-No. 1 Cardinal by a significant six-second margin at a race in which Stanford took second.
On Saturday, the competing boats were divided into two separate heats to determine who would advance to Sunday’s grand final. Stanford finished over five seconds ahead of the field, in front of Bucknell, Princeton and MIT. Stanford’s time was nearly identical to that of Harvard-Radcliffe after the first day of competition, edging the Crimson by about half a second.
“Going into the weekend was definitely a little nerve-wracking. I think it was after this race [on Saturday] that our potential to win became very real to me,” said Crist.
Sunday’s IRA Grand Final pitted the Cardinal against Harvard-Radcliffe, Bucknell, Princeton, Georgetown, and Wisconsin. Stanford crossed the finish line first by almost four seconds, beating Harvard-Radcliffe by almost the same margin that it had been beaten by previously.
Stanford jumped out to an early one-second lead at the 500m mark and never looked back. By the 1,000m marker the Card had increased the time gap to two and a half seconds and had pushed the lead to three seconds with 500m left in the race.
“Just a few strokes into the race, I felt pretty confident about our position,” Crist said. “Halfway into the race, we had a good lead and I realized that we were going to win. We got ahead early and continued to open water on the boats behind us.
“The second half of the race was a blur,” she continued. “We were all unbelievably exhausted but knowing that the ‘four-peat’ we had been talking about all season was about to become a reality kept us pushing towards the finish line. Crossing the finish line first was surreal.”
The Card opened up the season ranked No. 1, winning the San Diego Crew Classic for the seventh-consecutive year. The team also earned a second-place finish at the WIRA Championships this year against open-weight competition.
Contact Ashley Westhem at [email protected]