The Stanford Lightweight I Eight made it back-to-back IRA national titles Saturday at the IRA Championships, capturing the crown by outlasting No. 1 Princeton by less than a second in an exciting Grand Final in Cherry Hill, N.J.
It is the second straight national title for the women's I Eight, guided by head coach Al Acosta. And for the second straight year, the Cardinal overcame the nation's No. 1 boat in the Grand Final, having defeated Wisconsin in 2010.
The Stanford women's Lightweight Four, meanwhile, turned in a runner-up effort in its Grand Final, behind Wisconsin.
"Hats off to Princeton for a phenomenal effort and one of the best races I've seen out there over the past 10 years," said Acosta. "I am very proud of the four. They improved dramatically from race to race and had their best performance of the year today. In the eight, winning this race for the second time was a lot harder than the first. The team did a great job when it mattered the most. We are all happy that we were able to send off Gretchen Stumhofer, our only senior, with another national championship."
In the I Eight championship, it quickly became a two-boat race as Stanford and Princeton battled it out. As the race closed in on the finish line, the Cardinal and Tigers had far out-distanced crews from Wisconsin, Radcliffe, Bucknell and Georgetown, and it came down to the boat with the strongest final push.
It would be Stanford in the end that grabbed the proverbial brass ring, crossing the line with a time of 6:32.392, edging out Princeton by 0.681 of a second.
In the Four Grand Final, Wisconsin asserted itself and pulled away from the field and into open water, finishing with a time of 7:26.319. Battling for second place, Stanford was able to hold off crews from Radcliffe and Loyola (Md.) to claim the silver medal.
The Cardinal's final time was 7:38.425, over two seconds ahead of Radcliffe and four seconds better than Loyola.
The Stanford men completed their rowing weekend at the IRA Championships with a fifth-place national finish from the Four, while the I Eight took eighth overall and the Frosh Eight ninth.
"After yesterday's max effort in the semis we saw the men dig deep and find their collective iron will today," said Stanford men's rowing head coach Craig Amerkhanian. "The four raced with passion to earn fifth in the nation. The men's frosh eight again raced well to finish ninth while the varsity eight ended the IRA with a number eight in the nation finish."
*Attached is a photo of the I Eight with the IRA trophy. Courtesy Madeline Davis