Women's Lightweights Complete Rebuilding Season With Two IRA Finals
Head coach Paul Rassam was realistic with himself prior to the 2016 women's lightweight racing season. He accepted that there would be challenging times, and that it would be one about growth and progress.
What he didn't realize, however, is how enjoyable it would also be.
"It's been way more fun than it probably looks from the outside," Rassam said after he sent both an eight and a pair to their respective grand finals at the IRA national championships, held at Mercer Lake. "Way more fun, because of the way these athletes showed up and worked."
His youthful program — there were only three seniors on the whole team this season — dealt with early injuries that put the top boat in too deep a hole to truly overcome this season. The Tigers battled hard, including a second-place effort in Saturday's repechage that let them return to the IRA final, but they weren't able to break into the top tier.
They're hopeful that will change next season.
"I think we have the spirit to fill the entire boathouse," freshman Madelynn Prendergast said. "We're motivated and ready to go into next year. Having this race is a reminder that this is where we can start, but there is a lot of room for us to grow. If we can start next year with the field, instead of having to catch up, we'll be ready to go."
Prendergast credited her senior teammates Gabriella Pezzini, Phoebe Huang and Helen Stillwell for providing the leadership for a young program, and that held true all the way until Sunday. Both Huang and Pezzini were in the eight that competed with the nation's best boats. Stanford repeated as national champion, as it topped Boston University by about three seconds. Princeton finished sixth in 7:11.58, while the double also took sixth in 8:40.61.
The four finished third in the petite final in 8:23.55.
"I'm very excited to be able to come back as an alum and see what this boat can do," Pezzini said. "This boat was very young. I'm really excited to leave the team in the hands of these girls, especially since the two captains will be my co-captains from this year [Juliette Hackett and Christina Warren]. They'll be able to take the character we developed as a team into next year, and we'll come back stronger."
VARSITY EIGHT GRAND FINAL
Boston University 6:43.420
VARSITY DOUBLE GRAND FINAL
Boston University 7:54.400
VARSITY FOUR PETITE FINAL