Two opponents, eight races, zero victories.
Without a number of its top rowers, that was the story of the weekend for the 17th-ranked women’s rowing team against a pair of top-five squads at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in Columbus, Ohio.
The Blue Devils rowed against fourth-ranked Ohio State in the morning and fifth-ranked Michigan in the afternoon, and no Duke boat finished less than 8.5 seconds behind its counterpart.
“We were really aggressive,” sophomore First Varsity 8 member Alissa Van Arnam said. “Even though we didn’t win, we put up a really good fight.”
Captain Christine Lauro and junior Lauren Case were suffering from mononucleosis and Krista Harryman and 2004 All-America Amber Straight were not able to row.
“It is definitely hard to compete when you know that some of your top rowers can’t be there,” Van Arnam said. “But as a team, we came together really well. We were very committed to giving it our best.”
The Blue Devils’ top squad finished at least 10 seconds behind its opponent in both races.
The First Varsity 8 squad rowed the fastest Duke time of the day in the afternoon against the Wolverines, finishing in 6:45.3. Michigan eclipsed the Blue Devils’ mark by 11.4 seconds to win the race. During the morning races against the Buckeyes, Duke’s top squad clocked in at 6:48.7, more than 16 seconds behind its opponent.
The Second Varsity 8 crew fared no better for Duke, losing each of its races by a margin of at least 8.5 seconds. In its matchup with Ohio State, the squad sped its way to a 6:51.1 finish, less than three seconds slower than the First Varsity squad’s time. But the team’s effort was not as strong in the afternoon match as it slowed its time more than 15 seconds to 7:06.8.
“We’ve been really adaptable these past few weeks and are definitely improving,” Van Arnam said.
A week ago, in the team’s three victories in the Longhorn Invitational, the First Varsity 8 notched a top time of 6:50.5. Even with key rowers missing action, the squad’s times are improving.
The second squad’s best mark last week was a 6:56.3, which came in a win over Kansas State, was five seconds slower than this week’s best.
“With everything that we’ve been through in terms of injuries, we’re definitely impressed with our improving times,” Van Arnam said. “It just shows that we can come together as a team, through the adversity, be aggressive and really fight for it.”
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