The No. 1 lightweight rowing team won the program’s fifth IRA national title in six years over the weekend, with victories in both the varsity eight and varsity four Grand Finals. The varsity eight got revenge over rival Harvard-Radcliffe with its three-second victory — last year, Harvard-Radcliffe overcame the Cardinal by 0.5 seconds at the finish line to snap the team’s four-year title streak.
“We knew how well we could do coming into the weekend,” said first-year head coach Derek Byrnes. “Seeing this good, hardworking group race within themselves and stay confident and composed, I don’t know how to put it. It was awesome.”
— Stanford Lights (@StanfordLwtCrew) May 31, 2015
The championship race was never in doubt, as the Cardinal took a two-seat lead on Harvard early and opened up a 6-7 seat margin by the 750-meter mark. Princeton and Harvard gained about two seats in the final 750-meter push, but Stanford rowed with the same smooth intensity it had displayed all season and crossed the finish line a near-boat length ahead of the next boat.
Stanford is the first school ever to sweep the lightweight women’s varsity eight and varsity four events at the IRAs, and the win in the varsity four is the first in program history. The varsity eight boat did not lose a race this season, finishing with a perfect 11-0 record.
“It is surreal,” said senior Mackenzie Crist, one of four seniors to have won three national titles in their four years on the Farm. “It was so exciting and a testament to all the hard work we have put in this year. It was exciting not just to win our race, but to see the four win and have it be a complete team national championship. There is nobody else I would ever want to row with. It has been a pleasure and honor to row with my teammates the last four years.”
The varsity four, which beat runner-up Wisconsin by four seconds, had only raced one time prior to the IRA National Championships, placing fourth at the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships two weeks previously.
“The four hasn’t raced much,” Byrnes said. “They were composed and never pressed, rowing their race right from the gate.”
The lightweight rowing team becomes the third Stanford team to win a national championship this season, joining women’s water polo and women’s golf.
Women’s rowing finished sixth at the NCAA Championships, one spot higher than its ranking to end the season.
The last day of racing saw the varsity eight compete in the Grand Final, placing fifth, and the varsity four and 2V8 in the Petite Final, finishing first and third, respectively. The Cardinal ended the season with their best racing of the year. It was also a great showing for the Pac-12, with three boats in the varsity eight Grand Final — two more than from any other conference.
“At the NCAAs you know you have to bring your best,” said head coach Yasmin Farooq. “I am really proud of the work our team did in the week leading up to the championship and also the improvements they made from the heat to the semifinal to the final.”
The Stanford men’s rowing varsity four got on the podium at the IRA National Championships, capturing the bronze medal. The boat had won both the heat and semifinal race prior to the Grand Final, but storied programs Washington and Cal overcame the Cardinal in the final 250 meters.
The third-place finish marks the third time in Stanford history the team has medaled in the varsity four event at the IRA National Championships. Stanford has also placed in the top 20 of the varsity eight every year since 1999 (as far back as the records go).
“Our varsity eight just never found rhythm or speed,” said head coach Craig Amerkhanian. “It was a rough regatta for those guys, but we are young and the future is bright looking at what our four was able to do this weekend.”
Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.