Stanford lightweight rows to IRA national championship


The Stanford lightweight rowing team made it three for May, winning the IRA national championship Sunday, sweeping titles in both the varsity eight and varsity four in West Windsor, N.J.

The Cardinal joined the women's water polo and women's golf teams as national champions, each earning their titles since May 10.

"We knew how well we could do coming into the weekend," Stanford coach Derek Byrnes said. "Seeing this good, hardworking group race within themselves and stay confident and composed, I don't know how to put it. It was awesome."

The national title was Stanford's fifth in the last six seasons. This was the first year a team trophy was awarded for the lightweight women. Previous national champions were awarded to the winner of the varsity eight.

Stanford became the first school to sweep the varsity eight and varsity four events at the IRA national championships. The varsity four title was the first in program history.

The senior class leaves with national titles in three of their four seasons, while Byrnes led the crew to the pinnacle of the sport in his first season on The Farm.

The championship for the varsity eight put the finishing touches on a perfect season. During the spring, the top Stanford boat went undefeated in 11 races.

"It is surreal," Cardinal senior Mackenzie Crist said. "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 also 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."

After a streak of four straight national titles came to an end by 0.5 seconds last year, the Cardinal was motivated to reclaim the top spot.

A convincing win in yesterday's semifinals set them up for a championship race that was never in doubt. They took a two-seat lead on Harvard early and by the 750 meter mark had opened up a 6-7 seat margin.

Princeton and Harvard looked to make a move with 750 meters to go and maybe gained two seats, but Stanford rowed with the same smooth rhythm they have rowed with all season long and pushed right back into a near boat length advantage.

Stanford crossed the finish line with a time of 6:32.236, nearly three seconds faster than second place Harvard and four seconds up on Boston University.

The varsity four had a similar race to the eight. Stanford got out to an early lead and by the first 500 meter mark they had stretched it out to a length. In the next 250 meters, the Cardinal kept moving and stretched the lead to open water.

With 500 meters to go, Wisconsin picked up the rate. However, Stanford had a substantial lead and kept rowing strong to finish on top by nearly four seconds.

"It was a very fun race," Stanford senior Alicia Kapjian-Pitt said. "I have a huge mixed bag of emotions. It was awesome we all won. We all are supportive and the entire team has a positive energy that really makes it fun to race and practice with each other."

Stanford's varsity four had only raced once prior to the weekend, placing fourth at the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships. The four picked up plenty of speed in the last two weeks.

"The four hasn't raced much and Sarah (Hirshorn) was in stroke seat for the first time," said Byrnes. "They were composed and never pressed, rowing their race right from the gate."

Men's rowing

The Stanford varsity four captured a bronze medal at the IRA National Championships on Sunday.

After winning both the heat and semifinal races, the Cardinal four was rowing in the Grand Final for a shot at a national championship.

Everything looked good for Stanford as they grabbed the lead early and held it the majority of the race. The

Cardinal was out in front with 500 meters to go, but Washington and Cal took advantage of an opportunity to move past the Stanford in the final 250 meters.

"We led the entire way and were in control of the race until about 30 seconds to go," Stanford coach Craig Amerkhanian said.

Washington walked through the Cardinal and won the race by three seconds. Cal nipped Stanford at the finish line to place second by 0.2 seconds. The final time for the Cardinal was 6:19.858.

It marks the third time in Stanford history they have medaled in the varsity four event at the IRA National Championships.

The varsity eight raced in the C Final and ended up placing 18th in the regatta. The Cardinal posted a time of 5:56.014 for sixth in the race.

"Our varsity eight just never found rhythm or speed," said 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."

Stanford has placed in the top 20 of the varsity eight every year since the results go back to 1999.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Stanford Athletics

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